Retired Players Also Coming After NFLPA Over Concussions

The NFL has faced a number of lawsuits over the years from retired players for various reasons, primarily pertaining to matters concerning concussions and the league’s responsibility for their employees’ long-term health.

Recently, a settlement agreement was reached and at long last given preliminary approval, which uncaps the funds that the NFL is obligated to spend on the health and well-being of its retired players suffering from the various neurocognitive diseases that stem from frequent concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Recently, however, the NFL Players Association has now come under fire from two former players over their role in protecting players from concussions. It is the first such suit brought against the NFLPA.

The suit alleges that the Players Association is guilty of and culpable in many of the same practices that the league is accused of in its various lawsuits brought forth from and on behalf of retired players over the years.

For its part, the NFLPA naturally has stated that the lawsuit has no merit and that the association will aggressively defend itself.

This is, however, an interesting matter, as the suit includes as its evidence several choice quotes from NFLPA executive directors past and present, including current director DeMaurice Smith, whose previous statements seem essentially to indict the association in its past dealings with matters pertaining to concussions.

In the suit, Smith is quoted as saying before Congress the following in 2009:

There is simply no justification for the NFL to have previously ignored or discredited Dr. [Bennet] Omalu and others with relevant, valid research. For far too long, our former players were left adrift; as I emphasized at the last hearing, we were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability, but that ends now.  I am here again to make it clear that our commitment is unwavering.

We were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability” sounds like a pretty straightforward statement to me. While Smith was striving to prop up his own new regime by differentiating himself from past servitors of his post, in the process, he took down the whole association in acknowledging their role in what the league itself is frequently accused of.

That accusation is the systematic concealment, disregarding, or hindrance of concussion studies and research over the years. The report on the suit from Pro Football Talk highlights some of these cases.

In 1994, for example, the suit accuses the NFLPA of concealing the results of a National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety report that suggested further study on the frequent occurrence of ALS in retired players to establish a possible connection with the workplace environment.

It’s also worth pointing out that the objection submitted by seven retired players, including former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Alan Faneca, to the recent league settlement agreement alleges that the plaintiffs’ counsel did not work in their best interests, which includes not raising any concerns over the NFL’s history of stifling connections between the sport and brain trauma through the decades.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.


    The NFLPA should’ve been under fire a long time ago…I’m not sure about the concussion angle, but when 70% of your dues paying members are broke after their playing days are over, you’re not doing enough in the career and life planning area for these young men.

    Not to absolve the players, but making money as a player and knowing how to keep it require entirely different skill sets.

    Concussions…maybe there is more to than I realize, but that seems to points at the employer.

  • Steve

    Sounds like Smith is trying to COYA and make a good name for himself. Needs to come to bat for the players.

  • Lil Smitty

    I think I remember another aspect of the law suit filled by Faneca and others was the claim the lawyers representing the retired players did not bargain or work in the best interest of their clients. They just let the league change the wording to make it even more difficult for retired players to receive benefits, and take their percentage of the settlement. Wouldn’t that also show collusion and lack of representation of the people they are supposed to be fighting to represent and protect.

  • Steelers58

    If 70 percent of the paying dues players are broke after retirement. Perhaps they should have went to class and got there degree.
    Then Nflpa is not your daddy. Grown men should be able to make decisions on their own. Must we have to hold the millionaires hands.
    Let’s have a pity party for a guy who made 20 million dollars and now is broke. Give me a break. Time to take responsibility for your own actions


    What you post is mostly true…and as mentioned, I don’t absolve the players, but it’s not reality. I think we both know the majority of the players are not in school to get a degree and the NFLPA knows this also. Is that the NFLPA’s fault? Of course not.

    The ignorant part of your post is the $20 million comment…I have zero empathy for the VY’s of the NFL, you squander a multi-million dollar contract, you deserve to be broke, but that’s a small fraction of the 70%.

    The guys making league minimum playing ST that basically get one NFL contract and league cycles through them every 3 years or so. That’s the lionshare of the players that go broke.

  • Steelers58

    Nothing I say is ignorant. It’s just common sense. If a player goes to school to major in football. That’s on him or her. I have to feel for someone who had a free ride to college and didn’t take advantage of it. Please. I had to pay for my education.
    I don’t care if a player plays St for three years and is out of the league and goes broke.
    Let’s do some math
    3 yr career. $550 k 600 k 700 k for three yrs.
    1.85 million in three years. I very been working for 20 yrs and still haven’t made that amount.
    Maybe I should call the nfl if I can’t make my mortgage pymt


    Maybe ignorant was too strong, certainly not implying that you were…in short, I agree 100% about education as it should be the foundation for life after football, but it ain’t free it and that’s a different topic.

    In short…the bottom rung players make about million dollars after agent/taxes, etc on a 3 yr deal. Buy a nice car, a condo/home, maybe a car for mom…$7-$8k a mo living expenses…nothing extravagant for $480k a yr income (league min in ’13) That’s a lot of money, agreed and most of us working people will make that in about 30 yrs, they make it in 3 yrs.

    Career over and the big pay checks stop, the $7-8k a month doesn’t stop…even if they have some savings, in 5 yrs that money is gone…and there you have it…broke. That circles back to the education thing, but again, different topic.

    I don’t feel sorry for them, but at the same time we’re not talking about the guys that we hear about blowing millions. I know I blew most of my 1st big bonus check from corp job, but I was 26 y/o…imagine a 22/23 y/o getting 16 game checks at about $20k each…if you could manage that well with your degree in tow, then you’re a special guy. My point is the union should stress more about finances after football.

  • Steelers58

    The most important thing in this world is education. That should come first . You don’t start your education after football. Education will give u the skills to have a job long after football.
    I don’t care how old these kids are. 22 yr old gets a lot of money and blows it on a house a car etc.
    My daddy taught me to save for a rainy day. Put aside some $ in case of an emergency.
    Why is thus concept so gard for a football player to understand.
    Should u not be responsible for your own actions.
    The nfl does more than enough for players. I e. Do u know that the nfl has a 415 k plan. They double what t he player puts in. But less than 17 percent take advantage of this. Shot I wish my boss would double my contributions. I’d be rich.
    How bout we tell the players to man up and stop being a bunch of babies.
    Lastly. If your lifestyle costs 7 to 8 a month. And you cannot afford it anymore u r supposed to readjust your lifestyle


    Education…we agree.

    If you think having a lot of money at a young age is easy to deal with just look at people outside of sports…childhood actors, Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, etc…not saying those 2 named are broke, but a lot of them do go broke.

    Daddy…mine did too…a lot of these players which they knew their daddy.

    To close this out…if the % were not so shockingly high…I think you could look at this more at a player to player level…as it stands…there is a disconnect somewhere and I think the player union ( not the NFL ) should do more to educate these guys on long term finances even going back to school, etc.

    You don’t agree…I enjoyed the debate Steeler58….

    Go Steelers!