After enduring years of brutal contact during their NFL careers, 10 former players are suing the league over its disability plan, saying the system keeps them from getting adequate medical treatment. They filed the lawsuit three days before this year’s Super Bowl.
The players say the NFL routinely denies claims for injuries they sustained during their playing days, including severe neurological conditions caused by years of taking vicious hits. They say the league’s archaic and complex claims process is designed to deny benefits.
“Lies, concealment and flagrant violations”
Two former players involved in the lawsuit, defensive standouts Eric Smith and Michael McKenzie, allege that neuropsychologists have arbitrarily rejected claims from several players suffering from pain. The doctors work for the NFL Player Disability & Neurocognitive Benefit Plan.
Several players denied benefits accuse the league and its medical experts of violating the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which oversees private employer disability plans. The players accuse the league of lying to players repeatedly, concealing information and offering shifting and irrational interpretations.
The plaintiffs hope to enlist others to join
The NFL responded to the lawsuit, saying the disability plan is administered fairly to all current and former players. But the plaintiffs say they want their actions to spotlight the league’s history of tossing aside players after their playing days. McKenzie, Smith and others involved in the lawsuit hope to spur others to join, saying the league’s actions show a pattern of bias against NFL players with disabilities.