The past few months have not treated the NFL very well. The League recently posted record low ratings for Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football ratings have sunk to a 5-year low. Despite this ratings slump, the NFL’s most recent problem is of even more economic significance. On October 24th, Justice Jeffrey Oing of the New York Supreme Court issued an order forcing the NFL to disclose potentially damaging information that it has attempted to keep secret for over the past two decades. According to The New York Times, the order “will let insurance companies that wrote policies for the NFL determine if the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions and deliberately concealed them from players.” The NFL is likely to appeal the decision. The verdict could decide who will pay for a class-action settlement reached in August 2013, brought by retired NFL players who claim that the NFL committed fraud and negligence by not disclosing to them the risks of repetitive head collisions. Why is this issue so much more impactful than declining ratings, which are likely costing the NFL a pretty penny? The answer is that the cost of the settlement in question could reach $1 billion.
An interesting twist would be if insurance companies would be permitted to proceed with discovery while the NFL appeals. If so, the NFL might simply settle with the insurance company to pay for some or all of the settlement in the hopes of staving off what could be a public relations nightmare for the League.
Nick Aquart is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).
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