Former NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae sounded off Thursday shortly after the settlement between a group of 4,500 players and the NFL was announced regarding the concussion lawsuit.
Mawae, who retired after the 2009 season, stuck around as NFLPA president until the lockout was resolved in 2011 before stepping aside in his duties. He said the decision that pays players a total of $765 million over a 20-year period is a clear victory for the NFL and amounts to the players not being able to stand their ground on the matter.
“I don’t know all the details of it, but to me it’s not even about the money, but it’s about a small price to pay when the NFL is going to make $27 billion (estimated) in the next 15 to 20 years.”
Half of the $765 million sum is to be paid out over the first three years with the remainder paid out over the final 17 years.
Mawae said the biggest victory in the matter for the league is not that the money paid is what he considers to be a drop in the bucket to what the NFL will rake in over that time. But it is the fact that in large part, he says, the concussion issue goes away for the league and without them having to reveal any information that might have been learned regarding the dangers of football and head trauma that might have come out in a court trial.
“$765 million. That’s what they’re willing to pay now not to have to go all the way to court,” Mawae said. “The biggest win for them is they don’t have to disclose anything, any of the information that they may have had since the late '80s or early '90s on concussions.”
Mawae went on to say that, the league will likely be under no obligation to reveal any of the findings that might have been presented to them on the dangers, and that having information is a power play that the league retains.
“They may have had information back in 1994 that the players could have at least known all these years, but they paid to keep those that closed. That’s what it amounts to. There’s no disclosure anymore,” Mawae said. “There's no disclosure of any information they may or may not have had. Information is power and when they didn’t have to give that up (in court), you retain that power.”
Mawae understands why some players who needed the money would accept the settlement, and he said he hopes it goes to the most needy players in the lawsuit. He said he purposely did not join in on the lawsuit. Mawae has taken care of his money and would rather his portion, if he were to get a share, go to someone who needs it more.
“There are guys who need money now and I understand why they couldn't wait. I hope they get the most of the money,” Mawae said. “I didn't join in the lawsuit. That's a personal decision I made. Even if I were to get some of that, whether it was $250,000 or whatever, it changes my lifestyle zero. It doesn't affect my lifestyle or my kids' lives or family's lives. I would rather see my portion go to a player from the '50s, '60s or '70s who needs it more. Give it to a guy like John Mackey or somebody who may be on a path like Mike Webster was on.”
The only thing Mawae said he would wish for, has nothing to do with money, but rather going back to information that might not now be readily available.
“I don't need the money, but if I needed medical services 10 years from now or 20 years from now, I would want the services to be in place so I could cut through the red tape and get the help I need. Will my wife know that I will get the help I need, if I might ever need that sort of help?”
The money will be divided up among players – even though who are not currently a part of the lawsuit – but Mawae hopes the most deserving players get their fair share.
“I looked at some of the names in the lawsuit, and I'd never heard of some of them. For some guys it's just a money grab. Maybe they went to one training camp or didn't even make a practice squad, and they're in the lawsuit. That's the disappointing thing to me,” Mawae said. “There are former players that need money now, and I hope they get whatever they can, because those guys need that. But there are guys who didn't even get much more than a sip of tea with a team that are part of this too. It'll be interesting to see how that money is divided up.”
Mawae added that the other reason he stayed out of the lawsuit was that he always figured that playing professional football was an assumed risk for any player.
“If you're a hockey player, you know there's a chance you're gonna hit your head on the ice. A baseball player knows there's a risk of a beanball. A race car driver knows going in that he could hit a wall and lose his life. Football is the same way,” Mawae said. “It's hard for me to believe that you don’t know all the inherent risks. It's part of the knowledge of knowing that that's what you do for a living.”
Mawae reiterated overall that it is still a decided win for the NFL.
“It's a win for the NFL because they will never have to worrya gain about players suing them because of head trauma,” Mawae said.