Bit late to the party here, but I am no expert on either sports or law, so: Does the settlement really mean the NFL can “lock away” the research on head trauma, as Mr. Pierce says?
… Keeping the truth to yourself is not really lying. This is the way American industries, including the industry of mass entertainment known as the National Football League, work these days. There is nothing you can do to make them change the way they do business unless you hit them so hard that they bleed from the teeth for six months and their leading executives face the imminent probability of an extended survey of institutional dining within the federal penal system. And since that almost never happens, there is no crime against the public safety that ever really gets solved. And that was what the NFL was counting on when it bought its way out of the massive lawsuit brought by thousands of damaged human beings who once had worked for an industry that didn’t care how they lived or, for that matter, how they died. The $765 million that the NFL has agreed to pony up is boutonniere money to these people; they must have had to go through the cushions on the sofa twice.
I understand fully why the players settled. A little money up front is better than the possibility of no money ever, especially if you’re dealing with the kind of staggering medical bills that come with Alzheimer’s or other NFL-related dementias, and the staggered nature of the settlement payouts seems to indicate that the most severely damaged of the retired players will get the most money to help with their care. (There also were some formidable legal hurdles to be overcome regarding the number of plaintiffs, and how the NFL could hide behind … er … seek the protection of collective bargaining agreements that it had negotiated down through the years.)
But the NFL didn’t agree to this settlement to pay anyone’s hospital bills. That $765 million was to buy silence. It was to abort an embarrassing discovery process. It was to bury the evidence of how little the NFL ever has cared about the health of the people who work for it. As part of the settlement, all the files about what the NFL knew, and how it knew it, and even the results of its own research into what the game does to the people who play it (which might have had significant public health benefits far beyond the NFL itself) will remain locked away. The NFL is now a fertilizer plant that doesn’t want the inspectors on the property. ESPN, which owns Grantland, has apparently even conspicuously bowed out on a deal with PBS’s Frontline on the concussion crisis. For the moment, at least, pending other possible lawsuits, the game itself is the ammonium nitrate, building up to another explosion, far from prying eyes…