The recent Bountygate scandal in the NFL could hurt the league in more ways than one. Four former players sued the football league on Apr. 16 in an Atlanta court and cited the bounty system used by the New Orleans Saints as evidence and proof that the NFL didn’t protect its players properly.
The legal action was initiated by Lomas Brown, who retired in 2002 after 17 years in the league; Myron Guyton, a member of the New England Patriots and New York Giants in the1980s and 90s; Willie Whitehead, a member of the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers between 1995 and 2006 and Jessie Small, a member of three different teams from 1989 to 1993.
Several trial attorneys and legal experts feel this could just be the tip of the iceberg as they expect more lawsuits to be launched in the future. The most recent lawsuit said the bounty system shows that the league relied on violence and its players weren’t properly educated regarding the dangers of concussions.
After holding an investigation, the NFL concluded that Gregg Williams, a former defensive coordinator with the saints, offered his players thousands of dollars for violent hits on opposing players during the last three seasons. The players who filed the suit aren’t claiming to be victims of the bounty scheme, but said this type of behavior has led to other ex-players and themselves dealing with debilitating conditions.
The complaint said the NFL has always glorified violent hits as the league encourage players to think of themselves as and to act as modern-day gladiators. However, it added, that the league failed to let its players know what the consequences of their actions could be.
Brian McCarthy, a spokesman with the NFL the league never intentionally misled players and the lawsuit doesn’t have any merit. He said the league prides itself on protecting its players and educating them about injuries such as concussions.
The lawsuit was filed for the players by NFL agent and Atlanta lawyer Von DuBose. He claimed that the men now suffer from headaches, memory loss, depression and several other symptoms of brain injury. According to the lawyers involved in the case, there are over 1,000 former players who are suing the NFL.
Gabe Feldman, who is a sports law professor, said the bounty system shows that the league was possibly unnecessarily violent, but doesn’t think the new claim by the ex players will make much of a difference in the lawsuit even though it could persuade some jury members.
The complaint also said the league sold films and videos that glorified some of the most spectacular hits. It’s trying to force the NFL to properly educate players right after the NFL draft when it comes to the dangers of head injuries. The league said that Williams offered players $1,500 to knock an opposing player out of a game and $1,000 if a player had to be helped off the field after being hit. It’s believed that as many as 27 members of the Saints were involved in the bounty scheme.
Williams, who now works with the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and has apologized for his actions. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year for trying to cover up the scheme and league commissioner Roger Goodell recently turned down his appeal.