Sunday, November 16, 2014

NFL: Concussion Lawsuit (2014)

NFL logo

The National Football League (NFL) is arguably the most popular professional sports league in North America. It is the most profitable by far with revenues last year around $9.2 billion. It consists of 32 teams each with 53 players on their active roster and 10 practice squad players. They play the sport of football each Sunday for 17 weeks starting in the fall. A number of former football players have committed suicide in the recent years. All that committed suicide were found to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Two former players that killed themselves Jovan Belcher and Paul Oliver were both proved to have this disease. It is a degenerative brain disease said to be caused by repeated blows to the head. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
Paul Oliver was a defensive back for the San Diego Chargers and before that, he played at the University of Georgia. He was a standout player in both college and the NFL. In 2012, Oliver got into an argument with his wife, Chelsea Oliver, so she took her kids on a walk to let him cool down.
When she returned they continued to argue. That is when he went upstairs and returned with a handgun. Shortly after he returned with the handgun he shot himself in the head. His wife said that he was depressed in the time before the shooting and that they had talked of a divorce. In April of this year, he was diagnosed with CTE. He only played professional football for four years but it had obviously taken its toll on him and his brain.
Jovan Belcher was a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs and on December 1, 2012, he killed himself and his girlfriend. It all started at his home where he lived with his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, he killed her while his mother was caring for his one-year-old child in a nearby room. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and shot himself in front of the current general manger and current head coach of the time. In the past couple of days, it just came out that there were signs consistent with CTE that were found in his brain.
The issue is that for many years is that the NFL hid the effects of head injuries and concussions. They downplayed them and said that they had no real long term affect on players and that they were relatively harmless. Many players suffer from injuries sustained during their playing time. In 2011, a lawsuit was filed by former players suing over concussions. In 2013, the NFL attempted to settle with the players for $675 million. The lawsuit was turned down by the judge as he said it was unfair to the players. In the summer of 2014 they resettled for the same amount but this time there was no cap on what the players could be paid for the injuries they sustained.

The stakeholders in the NFL are the players, all the employees who work for the NFL, all the fans, the sponsors of the NFL, the TV providers, the TV networks, the communities in the cities around the stadiums, and everyone that plays the games. The producers of all NFL apparel and any equipment the NFL uses are also stakeholder since they have a role in keeping players safe. The key players are Paul Oliver, Jovan Belcher, and other former players that committed suicide and are affected by the lawsuit for injuries sustained playing football.

Paul Oliver, former defensive back for the San Diego Chargers

According to Individualism, “Business actions should maximize profits for h owners and stakeholders of the business but do so within the law”. The NFL has grown in revenues from $6.5 billion in 2006 to $9.2 billion last year. They also just negotiated new TV deals for next season in which they will receive about $6.5 billion in TV revenue alone. They are a very profit driven league and always looking for new ways to make money. Two years ago they negotiated a new deal on uniforms with Nike which doubled the amount they would be paid to have their teams wear Nike clothing. They also signed a four-year $720 million deal with Verizon for Verizon to be the official wireless provider of the NFL. The NFL is a profit machine with TV deals worth no less than $622 million a year. In terms of maximizing profits, the NFL does very well and will only continue to keep growing. The NFL does all of this legally and within the restraints of the law. All of the practices in which they gain their money is legal. In the sense of Individualism, the NFL is ethical because it makes all its money in legal ways.

According to Utilitarianism, “Business actions should aim to maximize the happiness in the long run for all conscious beings that are affected by the business action.” The NFL does cause happiness for its players as they achieve the level of satisfaction of making it to the highest possible point in the game of football that they can. However, the happiness is usually short lived as the average career of an NFL player is 3.5 which is the lowest of any major sports league in America by almost a year. So although short term happiness is achieved long-term happiness is not, as many players are met with severe injuries after their playing careers are over. The lawsuit which outlines some serious medical issues such as ALS, dementia, and CTE. All serious injuries that affect you greatly. In ALS you are usually dead in between 2-5years and dementia slowly makes you lose your memory. And if you can’t remember all the great times that you played for a can is it worth it and can it still cause you happiness? CTE can cause many problems such as anger and depression. Those prevent happiness. So the NFL might be good at causing you initial happiness it will most likely lead to sadness. In the cases of Paul Oliver and Jovan Belcher, the game that they loved ended up killing them.

Permanent brain trauma on NFL players' brains vs normal brains

Kantianism is “Always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Don’t lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get our way. Rather, use informed and rational consent from all parties.” The NFL has a history of downplaying concussions and head injuries telling players that they have very little effect on the players in the long term and that serious injury from head injuries was rare. Obviously, this is not the case and the NFL lied and manipulated players for years. Part of the culture is to man up and just play through injuries. So many saw the head injury as an injury that was very playable through so they just played through it thinking they would be fine. Many players were under this false assumption and maybe if they knew what injuries could mean in the long run they could either stop playing or try and get help for their injuries. Paul Oliver was suffering from depression and anger which are symptoms of CTE. Maybe if he knew what the symptoms were he could’ve gotten help. Also, a part of Kantianism is “’the formulation of humanity,’ which states that it is wrong to use people as a mere means to get what you want.” The NFL clearly was wrong in using players to simply make money and not properly warn them about the dangers of the game. They saw players a mean to profit and knew that if one gets hurt they have another player just like him to replace him. The players are basically soldiers and they go out and make the NFL money and if one gets hurt then it is just a casualty of war.

Virtue Theory 
According to Virtue Theory, you should, “Act so as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits and so as to avoid vicious or bad characteristics.” The four virtue characteristics are courage, honesty, temperance and justice. Courage is the willingness to take chances and to stand up for what is right. The NFL knew that the head injuries would affect the players in the long term but they hid it for as long as they could until it came out that they are dangerous. They still, however, refuse to say that they are at fault for the injuries. The honesty represents being truthful with the stakeholders of the business. The NFL was not honest with its players about the effects of their head injuries. Temperance represents the ability of the entity to set realistic expectations. The players realistically expect to be told the truth about their injuries and not have them hidden from themselves. Justice represents being fair to all parties. It is not a fair by the NFL to hid or lie about the long term affects of the injuries to their players.

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