A lawsuit filed Tuesday by a group of retired NFL players claims that the league illegally supplied them with painkillers and narcotics in order to numb their injuries that led to medical problems down the road.
The suit alleges the league administered drugs in order to mask the players’ pain and speed the return of injured athletes to the field. Some participants in the lawsuit claim that they became addicted to painkillers upon their retirement in the league following years of abuse. The complaint contains eight players, including three from the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears in Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and Keith Van Horne. The lawyers representing the group seeks class-action status, stating that 400 other players have signed onto the lawsuit.
According to the group’s attorney Steven Silverman, “The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players’ long-term health in its obsession to return them to play.”
Former quarterback Jim McMahon says in the lawsuit that he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his career, but rather than sitting out, he received medications and was pushed back in the game. Team doctors and trainers never told him about the injuries, according to McMahon. This lawsuit comes after the case that accused the NFL of concealing known risks from players about concussions, in which the league settled for $765 million. The NFL has yet to comment.
The sincerity and accuracy of this lawsuit remains to be seen, but this continues an alarming trend of former players claiming that their health and well-being were needlessly put at risk for profit. The NFL got off pretty cheap with that $765 million settlement, and one wonders how much will be needed to put this issue to bed. Odds are the league won’t risk this thing going to trial and will settle outside of court. Commissioner Roger Goodell is tasked with handling the ever-growing concerns of long-term debilitating injuries for retired players, and this certainly doesn’t help.
This lawsuit does offer room for skepticism, however. McMahon really didn’t know he had a broken neck? That seems doubtful. It feels like this group is grasping at straws and trying to take advantage of the negative public opinion of how the NFL treats its players. But regardless, this is the last thing Goodell needs at this point. And if more players come out with anecdotes about being given drugs with dangerous long-term effects, Goodell may be cutting another hefty check.