By Ken Reed
More than 10 months after a settlement between the NFL and retired players, the vast majority of retired players have yet to receive a monetary award.
“The current administrative structure of the claims process is flawed, cumbersome and moves at a glacial pace,” according to attorney Thomas Girardi, who represents more than 500 former players.
Meanwhile, Christopher Seeger, the New York-based attorney who serves as co-lead counsel for the class of former NFL players and is credited as the principle architect of the settlement, made a court filing last month for attorney compensation. He requested $70 million for himself and his firm and $42.5 million to be split among two dozen other attorneys. He also wants 5 percent of every claimant’s award to compensate for future legal work in the case.
Seeger’s request was met with a flurry of objections from players and their representatives who believe the attorneys in the case should not be compensated before the players involved.
Steve Yerrid, a Tampa attorney who has filed nearly 200 claims on behalf of clients, wrote an angry filing to the court about the flawed process. Not one of his clients has received a monetary award yet. Yerrid wrote:
“The public perception is that Class Counsel are now asking for millions of dollars in compensation while brain damaged players continue to deteriorate and even die while awaiting payment of their claims as the process is being ‘slow played’ and unnecessarily delayed.”
The NFL is placing the blame for the slow payment process on a third-party company that the court appointed to administer the claims. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league hasn’t done anything to delay the process.
That may or may not be the case, but the NFL certainly doesn’t appear to have done anything to expedite the process either. In fact, some evidence points to just the opposite.
Many players (usually via family members) have seen their claims kicked back by the NFL because they are “deficient” and require more documentation.
One neurologist who is among those approved by the NFL and class counsel to offer diagnoses related to the settlement questions the ethical nature of the process. He said he has an “uneasy feeling” because his reports are being questioned.
“It’s happening to everybody I speak to,” said Debra Fellows, who has filed a claim on behalf of her husband, former NFL player Ron Fellows, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “They’re being asked for information that they’ve already been given multiple times. It’s all a delay gimmick.”
Mary Brooks, the daughter of George Andrie, a former defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys who suffers from dementia and requires a full-time caregiver, filed a claim on behalf of her father. She is fed up with the award system.
“The people in this lawsuit, they’re brain-damaged,” she said.
“If you don’t have an advocate, a wife or a daughter, how are you supposed to do this? Look, if they can beat you down and exhaust you — and your loved one is sick and suffering — you will eventually succumb.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.