Very Little, Very Late

Very Little, Very Late

Yesterday, the NFL settled a concussion claim with the players’ association for $765M. This settlement is a joke. Not only is it literally billions of dollars short, it was engineered by a league so brilliant that, when you break it down, it truly boggles the mind.

There is a legal term known as “assumption of risk.” Let’s say you do something that turns out to be really dangerous. Let’s say this thing was run by someone else, they knew it was dangerous but you didn’t. In that case, you haven’t knowingly assumed the risk of the activity. But let’s say you’re doing this very dangerous thing, the person running it knows it’s dangerous, now you know and pretty much the entire world knows. You’ve assumed the risk and what happens to you now is your problem.

This settlement legally proves what we knew all along. The product that is National Football League football is inherently dangerous. If you choose to participate, by your own free will, you will get concussed, your lifespan will decrease, your quality of life may greatly diminish, you might kill yourself or others in a variety of gruesome and creative ways.

So, post-settlement, if a player continues to play, present and future blame is entirely theirs. There won’t be another payout. Trust me on this.

Speaking of the current sub-1B payout, who’s paying? The NFL? No. It’s you. The NFL already has a business model canvas drawn up for this. They’ll get all of the $765M back through adding what will be a de facto concussion tax to TV contracts, merchandising, and ticket price increases.

Let’s look more closely at the payout itself. It is a small fraction of a highly leveraged money pool. See, for decades, the league made many billions off the macerated brains and souls of thousands of players. This was essentially banked money, quadrupled and fiftyooopled through a disruptive reimagining of how fans would consume games and game content. That’s where we are today and in concert with my earlier point of simply getting it all back through their channel partners and end users, it’s a penalty fee that has, in essence, already been collected by the league many times over. The current transfer is akin to giving your indentured farm workers an extra apple (which they harvested) on the holidays.

The game is more dangerous than ever. The current settlement does virtually nothing for those athletes slowly killing themselves now and does a big sack of nothing for young players (who already began to kill themselves in high school and college) entering the league now.

While the argument can and has been made that $765M is a lot better than nothing, taking the long view, we’ve added quicksand where we should have been laying cement. This settlement is very little, very late.


Aron Solomon is a global strategist, planting things at the intersection of education and innovation. He likes ice-cold light American beer, catching foul balls in his Rawlings, and can be followed on Twitter @aronsolomon


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Aron Solomon

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