Former NFL Players Accuse League of Stalling Payments from Concussion Settlement

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2017

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 29:  Oakland Raiders helmets are carried by equipment staff before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 29, 2017 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Oakland 34-14. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Former NFL players and their families are accusing the NFL of preventing them from collecting their share of the "estimated $1 billion settlement over concussions by reflexively rejecting valid claims and bogging down the process with unreasonable demands," according to Ken Belson of the New York Times.

Belson continued, "The families and their lawyers describe a succession of roadblocks as they try to claim payouts, from as little as a few thousand dollars to potentially several million dollars, to help thousands of retired players left mentally infirm, in some cases severely, from years of hits and tackles on the league’s fields."

Former defensive lineman Andrew Stewart, for instance, has Parkinson’s disease and was expecting $3 million as a part of the $765 million settlement between former NFL players and the NFL in 2013. But he told Belson he's been offered a third of that amount and is appealing.

"Players will be shorted what they earned," he said. "This is not a settlement. This is about paying sick men as little as possible."

"Like an insurance company, they deny everything, and they go through a series of denials until people give up," Sheilla Dingus of Advocacy for Fairness in Sports added. "Unfortunately, the NFL has the capital to keep this going a lot longer than some of these players will live."

Per Belson's report, the league "installed so many safeguards and trapdoors into the deal, lawyers for the players said, that in the eight months since the court-approved administrator of the settlement began accepting claims, many players have been forced to spend months scrounging for paperwork they did not think they had to keep, finding new doctors to confirm established diagnoses and lodging time-consuming appeals."

The NFL has contended that the safeguards are in place to combat fraud, however, and that procedural issues like missing paperwork in submitted claims are causing the delays many players are experiencing.

Belson reported that 1,400 former players have submitted claims thus far and just 140 have been approved, which legal experts told Belson was a "startlingly low" amount. Players can seek one-time payments up to $5 million if they have "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy" stemming from their playing careers.