The NFL Disability Plan: A Case of Betrayal

A federal judge in Maryland recently ruled that a lawsuit accusing the NFL’s disability plan of violating its duty to retired players can proceed to trial on most counts. The lawsuit, filed last year, points the finger at officials overseeing the program, accusing them of bad faith and flagrant violations of federal law. While the suit can move forward against the board, commissioner Roger Goodell and trustees have been let off the hook as they were not individually accused of any wrongdoing. This is a significant blow to the retired players who are fighting against what they call a “systemic injustice.”

A David vs. Goliath Battle

For the 10 retired players who signed onto the potential class action lawsuit, this ruling is seen as a huge win. Lawyers representing the players, Chris Seeger and Sam Katz, believe that it is crucial to shine a light on the betrayal by the NFL. They are determined to hold the plan fully accountable for its actions and work towards correcting a broken system that is unfair to players who have dedicated their lives to the sport.

The disability plan, which was initiated as part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the players and the union, was supposed to provide assistance to ailing former players. However, the reality seems far from the promised goal. While successful claims can result in payments ranging from $65,000 to $265,000, many retirees struggle to see the maximum amount. The former players assert that despite suffering physical or cognitive injuries during their time in the league, they have been unjustly denied benefits, making their lives difficult and sometimes excruciating.

The lawsuit also highlights some questionable practices within the program, such as the alleged bias of doctors who examine players. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, doctors are more likely to receive repeat referrals if they deny claims. One striking example is a neuropsychologist who was paid over $800,000 to examine 29 former players, denying their claims in every single case. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of the evaluation process and the motivations behind claim denials.

Among the plaintiffs are prominent former players like Willis McGahee, Eric Smith, and Mike McKenzie, who have all shared their struggles with injuries sustained during their careers. These players, along with others, continue to fight for the justice they believe they deserve. Their stories shed light on the unseen challenges faced by retired athletes and the ongoing battle for fair treatment and recognition of their sacrifices.

The lawsuit against the NFL’s disability plan represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing conversation about the treatment of retired players. As the case moves forward to discovery, the focus remains on uncovering the truth behind the alleged injustices and holding those responsible accountable. The fight for justice and fairness in professional sports is far from over, but the voices of the players involved in this lawsuit serve as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of athletic excellence.


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