2013-10-07 15:12:58 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 7, 2013): The much criticized proposed settlement of concussion-injury law suits, brought by some 4,000 former players against the NFL, may be further undercut by a PBS expose’ airing Tuesday, and by an equally devastating but more detailed book expose’ scheduled for release on the same day.
Former NFL players who have already said they plan to opt out of the $765 million class action concussion settlement told me they are eagerly awaiting both events since the book and TV program will help them convince other retired players to likewise reject the proposed settlement, says Prof. John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf is a public interest law professor who has begun to be contacted by former NFL players after he was mentioned in a Chicago Tribune editorial suggesting that some of the included players should reject the proposed settlement, and opt out, so that concussion law suits can be used to force the league to reveal still-secret information it is believed to have about concussion-related medical problems.
The PBS Frontline
program, entitled "League of Denial, The NFL's Concussion Crisis" – airing Tuesday on PBS at 9 ET – will both publicize and help humanize the devastating injuries NFL players suffer from concussions, and the efforts by the league to keep information about the dangers of concussions from the players and from the public, arguably even going so far as to deceive and actually lie. In one chilling segment, for example, quarterback Troy Aikman sat in a hospital with the lights dimmed, unable to process complete thoughts.
The book, scheduled for release on the same day, is entitled "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth." It compares the NFL to "another powerful industry, the tobacco industry, which had responded to its own existential threat by underwriting questionable science through the creation of its own scientific research council and trying to silence anyone who contradicted it.”
This sounds exactly like what cigarette companies were convicted of doing in a RICO law suit, says Banzhaf, who helped bring it, and has been called "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars," "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and the "Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials."
The book also helps expose the alleged ineffectiveness – if not outright deceptiveness – of a committee formed by the NFL in 1994, allegedly to study concussion damage. The committee, according to the book, was made up mostly of NFL insiders, such as team doctors, trainers, and others connected to the league, often with little if any expertise in concussions.
This is a tactic the NFL apparently followed directly out of the tobacco industry’s playbook, says Banzhaf. Cigarette manufacturers formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee – later called the Council for Tobacco Research – which ruthlessly attacked any studies linking tobacco to medical conditions, while trying to assure the public that smoking didn’t lead to any health problems.
Many players are afraid they will get little or nothing out of the proposed $765 million settlement because the total amount is grossly inadequate; they can’t prove that their injuries are “severe”; the money will be gone before younger players become eligible to file, and that lots will be eaten up by contingency agreements.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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