Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Concussion Lawsuit Against The National Hockey League (2016)

The Concussion Lawsuit Against The National Hockey League (2016)

The National Hockey League Logo
The National Hockey League was established in 1917 as the main professional hockey league in the world. Its focus has been to provide entertainment for fans, by displaying the world’s top hockey talent. The league draws many highly skilled players from all over the world and currently has players from approximately 20 different countries. Like any professional sports organization, the league thrives off this talent they put on display, and that is what has made the NHL so successful over the years.
In 2013, former National Hockey League players filed a lawsuit against the league for their neglect towards the issue of concussions in the NHL. The NHL has been fighting the validity of the case since it has been filed, but in 2016, a U.S. District judge in Minnesota refused to dismiss the case. (Dobuzinskis, 2016) This validates the case in a sense that the judge saw the actions by these former players as reason for legal recourse. For years, the NHL has tried to avoid addressing the issue of concussions in hockey. The reality is, hockey is a fast-paced, violent sport that can result in many serious injuries, concussions being the most common.        
Dr. Bennet Omalu
 We have seen concern regarding concussions emerge as years go on, especially in the National Football League, where Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered the correlation between playing football and concussions. His studies went on to show how concussions lead to a condition called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) which is a degenerative brain disease derived from multiple concussions over time. This is the concern that the former NHL players have, that concussions players receive throughout their hockey careers could lead to permanent brain damage such as CTE. The Minnesota judge confirmed these players concerns as valid by refusing to throw out the case when appealed by the NHL. The NHL’s actions towards this lawsuit are reflective of how they have treated concussions and player safety over time. There has always been a sense of neglect when it comes to how active the National Hockey League is in taking care of the overall health of their players.
 Hockey players are known as ‘tough guys’, for example, players have been known to get injuries from play such as cuts stitched up during a game and return to that same game to play. We are talking about guys who get hit with 95+ mph slap shots in the face, and only miss part of that same game before returning. As a league, the NHL likes the idea of their players being known as these ‘tough guys’ because the fans and viewers at home know that hockey is a rough and tough sport. As tough as these players are, player safety is no joke, and the players themselves have spoken out more and more over the years about the league’s neglect towards player safety.

Stakeholders are anyone who is affected by the actions of a company. The stakeholders in this NHL case are the league, the players, the players’ families, fans, and the teams. The league and the players are obviously the most directly affected by the situation, being the two who are  in the legal suit. Though, one must be mindful of all the people who branch off both the league and the players. For the league, the teams within the league are effected by concussions, losing players to injury quite often due to the length and seriousness of a head injury, teams can lose players that have a positive impact on their team’s ability. Missing these players could negatively affect team revenue, if the team is missing their star player then they could lose a percentage of fan interest. As for the player’s side, players and their families are both negatively affected by concussions, and even more-so if these concussions lead to brain damage later in life. Lastly, the fans are the ones who keep the league going, their support and opinions are what matter to the league because the fans are their source of income, this makes the fans a crucial stakeholder in this dilemma.

            Individualism focuses on maximizing profits while staying within the constraints of the law. Individualism is very relevant in this case, obviously, like any business, the NHL’s goal is to maximize profits for their organization. Yet, the second part of individualism is tricky, is putting these players at risk of serious injury within constraints of the law? This is the issue that the former players filed the suit based on. The NHL makes money off these players going out on the ice and putting their well-being on the line. Many careers of players will be cut short due to injury, such as Marc Savard, a
Marc Savard playing for the Boston Bruins
player forced into retirement due to an excessive number of head injuries in 2010. He was considered to be one of the league's top players when he played for the Boston Bruins before his career came to an abrupt end due to concussions. The NHL would make the case that the danger they expose their athletes to is not illegal. The players are required to sign contracts to play in the NHL and the league would argue that the players know what they are signing up for. The players may make a case, however, that the NHL has not done extensive enough research to present the possible risk of head injuries involved with playing pro hockey. So, although it is certain that the NHL is maximizing its profits, whether or not they are abiding by the law is, to a degree, in question.


Passionate Fans Frustrated with the 2012-13 NHL Lockout
            Utilitarianism is based on happiness of stakeholders. Basically, the idea behind utilitarianism is to make decisions that don’t necessarily always bring in the highest profit, but rather make decisions that benefit all of your stakeholders. Because the ethical dilemma is between two stakeholders in the company, it is clear that utilitarianism was not being considered by the NHL. The players are arguably the largest stakeholder in the National Hockey League. Obviously, the reason this Concussion Suit was filed is because there is a large percentage of the players who are unhappy with the league’s concern for their well-being. If the NHL is neglecting a stakeholder, then clearly they are not working to try and make them happy. When the players and the league are in disagreement, it often results in none of the stakeholders being happy. The league and the players have had disagreements before, and these disagreements do not always go well, the last issue seen was an NHL Lockout in 2012-2013 which resulted in half of the hockey season being missed due to the failure to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This situation left no stakeholders happy, so as you can see the NHL does not have the best history of keeping stakeholders happy, especially the players themselves. The players filing a lawsuit against the league is just another instance of the two disagreeing on crucial issues within the game of hockey.

            Kantianism is based around rational decision making, autonomy of individuals, and honesty and freedom (Salazar, 20). Kantianism focuses on good will, and not performing unethical actions under any circumstances, such as using people for your own personal gain. Overall, it seems that Immanuel Kant, the philosopher behind the idea of Kantianism, believed in being true to people while doing what is right.
            The NHL is not following Kantianism because of their use of their players. The players were not fully briefed on the long-term risks that come with head injuries from playing hockey. This can certainly be seen as the league using their players for their own personal gain, while the players are underinformed about the risks of injury. The league is not being true with their players and therefore they are not following the ways of Kantianism. This hinders the players’ ability to make rational decisions about playing hockey, or treating their head injuries. Often, players are more focused on getting back out and playing rather than resting when they are concussed, this is likely due to the league’s lack of informing players about the true dangers of concussions and long term brain damage.

Virtue Theory
            Virtue Theory judges a one’s character based on a variety of characteristics that are believed to make an individual virtuous. A person or entity has virtues which decide whether or not this person is succeeding or not. Such virtues can be characteristics such as intelligence, honesty, care, compassion and many more that contribute to a virtuous person. The reason these four characteristics are important in the disagreement between the NHL and its players are because these are characteristics that the league is not displaying by conducting themselves in the manner that they have been for years. They have not been intelligent about how to handle concussions and researching how to prevent concussions, they have not been honest with their players about the risk of concussions, and of course, this dishonestly leads to lack of care and compassion for their players, a major stakeholder in the organization.

Justified Ethics Evaluation
I personally believe the NHL is acting unethically in their lack of attention towards concussions and the risks that they include. Player safety seems to be a real issue within the league at the moment, and it seems as though instead of working with the players to achieve a safer environment, they are denying that concussions are even an issue. If there enough players stepping up to file a lawsuit against the league, it is clear that concussions are in issue that the NHL needs to address.


Dobuzinskis, Alex. "Concussion Lawsuit against NHL Can Proceed: U.S. Judge in
Minnesota." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 18 May 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

"NHL Concussion Litigation: Alleging National Hockey League Concealed Risks of   
Concussions." NHL Concussion Litigation: Alleging National Hockey League Concealed Risks of Concussions. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLC. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

Salazar, Heather. "The Business Ethics Case Manual." The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to
Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business (2014) Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

Active NHL Players Totals by Nationality ‑ 2011‑12 Stats." QuantHockey. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

Wheeler, Scott. "Marc Savard on Health and Life after Hockey." Stanley Cup of Chowder.
Stanley Cup of Chowder, 26 Aug. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

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