The Real — And More Important — NFL Scandal
With the opening of the regular 2018 NFL season upon us, there is a scandal surrounding the NFL that is far more egregious than whether protesting players kneel during the national anthem.
I am referring to the NFL’s systematic failure to live up to the terms of their January 2017 settlement with brain-injured players in the NFL Concussion Class Action Lawsuit. The NFL’s liability is estimated to be between $1.5 and $2 billion.
In fact, the NFL is probably happy to have players kneel during our national anthem because it distracts from their duplicitous strategy: to have retired players die off or give up on trying to collect on the promises the NFL made when they settled the lawsuit against the multi-billion-dollar league.
That 80 percent of the injured players are Black and 82 percent of their claims remain unpaid are facts the NFL does not want you to know.
“Promises made. Promises kept,” is not a popular phrase in the NFL.
For many years, the NFL used tobacco industry tactics to deny any link between football and degenerative brain diseases, even going so far as to create phony medical panels and publish fake scientific papers to mislead players and the public.
So when the deal was struck between the NFL and the class of retired players, it was touted as a watershed event.
Suffering retired players with debilitating diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and varying levels of dementia believed they would finally be compensated. And the families of those who had already died of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, too, believed they would finally have justice.
Headlines sang the praises of the NFL. The NFL PR juggernaut was in overdrive lauding the settlement. Well, I am here to tell you folks, it was all FAKE NEWS!
This case was crooked from the outset and players are living and dying without treatment because of this corruption.
Corrupt Co-Lead Class Counsel?
Co-lead class counsel Chris Seeger’s cozy relationship with the NFL has left many wondering whose side he is on.
Some have accused him of having the case settled before it was even brought. After all, he never demanded the NFL produce a single document, there was no discovery in the case.
Seeger also held town halls with players across the country encouraging them not to hire their own lawyers, telling players filing a claim is a simple process. This is pure evil! Not only are there thousands of pages of legal documents guiding the process; it is a moving target with the NFL using every legal maneuver along the way to deny the legitimate claims of brain-injured players.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys spend countless hours working on individual claims, and most to date are unsuccessful. A pro se plaintiff has a better chance in hell with a gas can.
When many players hired their own counsel, realizing this was something they could not handle by themselves, Seeger had another trick up his sleeve. He petitioned the court to cap individual plaintiffs attorneys’ fees, discouraging attorneys from taking players cases. And it worked. Due to fees being slashed by more the 40 percent in some cases, many firms stopped taking the cases.
But guess whose fees weren’t cut? You guessed it: Seeger’s. His firm has already been paid over $52 million for “negotiating” the settlement with the NFL.
The NFL has used every dirty trick in the book to stall and evade paying claims.
First, it went on the offensive, saying an overwhelming amount of claims filed were fraudulent accusing former employees, mostly African-Americans, of being a bunch of fraudsters and tricksters — classic projection.
The NFL would have us believe that retired players conspired with board-certified doctors of neurology, whom they also convinced to falsify a diagnosis signed under penalty of perjury. The accusation is patently absurd!
And Then The Audits Started
In the “negotiated” settlement agreement the NFL, claims administrator, and co-lead class counsel Chris Seeger have broad audit power. And they wield that power often.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys refer to them as the three-headed monster. The subject of an audit isn’t told which entity originated the audit, and some speculate the three-headed monster is working hand-in-glove — together.
As of August 27, 2018, over 55 percent of claims have been audited. Some plaintiffs have been audited and cleared, only to have their claims placed back in audit a few months later — all a dirty trick to delay and frustrate players to give up or, better for the NFL, just die.
The NFL is a pro at setting up benefit programs for injured players, then systematically denying those benefits when they are sought. It has been doing it for years.
Many believed that this time, it would be different, since it would be overseen by a federal judge. But that hasn’t been the case.
As of August 27, 2018, only 18 percent of submitted claims have been paid. The numbers are for worse when we drill down. The bulk of the claims are for dementia, making up 69 percent of submitted claims with a qualifying diagnosis. Of those claims, only 5.5 percent have been paid. Yes, that’s right — 94.5 percent of dementia claims are unpaid!
This is a pattern the NFL has used for years: delay, deny, wait for players to die!
Taxpayers Left Holding The Bag
When we think of professional football players, an image of spoiled, pampered millionaires pops to mind. Yes, the NFL is happy for you to believe that as well, and it works hard to demonize players with this image. But for the majority of players, especially older players covered by this settlement, it is simply not the case.
Except for a handful of superstars, on average, NFL football players are the lowest-paid professionals of all the popular American sports; even lower than NHL hockey players.
The typical player involved in this settlement didn’t make millions of dollars: They had a three-year career that ended with an orthopedic injury and were then cast out by the league. Their brain injuries manifested later, leaving them unable to support themselves. And who is left paying the tab when the NFL is allowed to shirk its responsibility? The American taxpayer!
When many of these brain-injured players need medical care, they use the Medicare and Medicaid systems. By denying these retired players the settlement the NFL agreed to pay, they are not only stealing from the players themselves, but every American taxpayer.
This cannot be allowed to stand.
Where Is The Judge?
One might ask, how could this happen? Isn’t our legal system fair? Would this be happening if 80 percent of the claims weren’t filed by African-Americans?
Many involved in the case believe several factors may be at work: Massive corruption and collusion on the part of the NFL and co-lead class counsel Chris Seeger. And either extreme incompetence by 83-year Federal Judge Anita Brody or the reality that, based in her conduct on the bench, she may be suffering from dementia herself and is being manipulated by co-lead class counsel Chris Seeger.
While she is effectively semi-retired, she has a lifetime appointment. Justice be damned.
In audio recordings of proceedings two years into the case, she can be heard asking class counsel Seeger, “What is TBI?” The answer: Only what the entire case is about: traumatic brain injury.
She also seems to dote on Seeger during proceedings, as if he were a grandson, over to her house for cookies. Not once since the settlement has been in effect has Judge Brody ruled in favor of an individual plaintiff’s attorney, rather always siding with the NFL and Seeger, who seem to be in lock-step.
And there have been hundreds of filings with Brody’s court, yet stunningly, not once has a plaintiff prevailed. What are the odds of that?
Don’t Take The Bait
As we ready for another season of NFL football, there will undoubtedly be reports of kneeling players protesting for social justice, and the fake news media will fan the flames, knowing the NFL could have stopped this two years ago.
Ever wonder why no one is kneeling in other professional sports? Because it is all a ruse, propagated by the NFL, to distract from the fact that they are stealing money from brain-injured former employees.
Instead of focusing on the kneeling controversy, the president should be tweeting about this racist scam by the NFL.
Roger Stone is a legendary Republican political consultant and a veteran of many national Republican presidential campaigns. He’s also the men’s fashion correspondent for The Daily Caller and editor of Stonezone.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.