NFL accused of putting business before safety
The National Football Leagues faces a lawsuit claiming the NFL put its business relationship with official helmet maker Riddell before the safety of its players. The lawsuit also accuses the helmet company of making inadequate football helmets for years, despite improvements in their latest line.
More than 4,000 former professional football players and their families are suing the National Football League, claiming the NFL covered up long-term brain damage players suffered.
The lawsuit also accuses the NFL's official helmet maker, Riddell, of making inadequate helmets.
Dan Golden, editor-at-large for Bloomberg News, says the NFL rejected designs from other headgear makers in favor of cotinuing to use Riddell's models.
Another helmet proposal was the ProCap, a modification of the helmet that can be worn over a player's helmet and shown to reduce concussions. Bert Straus invented the ProCap as a soft pillow-like cover to be put on top of the helmet to reduce the number of concussions.
Though tests showed the ProCap was effective, Golden said, when Straus brought ProCap to the NFL, the NFL's concussion committee rejected it. The NFL issued a memo warning teams the ProCap could lead to injury and possibly death.
"One school of thought on this is that Riddell squelched this because essentially it was embarrassed that it was a sign that it's own helmets weren't good enough if this protective covering needed to be put on top of them," Golden said.
Riddell's responded to the criticism regarding the safety of its helmets by pointing to its newer lines of helmets, including the Revolution, which has received better safety results, Golden said.
But when Riddell was questioned about the competition, company officials stated they're open to sharing their helmet technology with other manufacturers, Golden said.
"(Riddell) had a deal where NFL teams would get big discounts on Riddell helmets and there was a close relationship. The concussion committee that the NFL formed, a lot of the members on it were team doctors whose teams wore Riddell helmets. Some of the research that the concussion committee sponsored was also funded by Riddell, so there was a close working relationship between the league and the company," he said.
The NFL has since revamped its concussion committee, Golden said. And with criticism from Congress and brain safety researchers, the NFL has been more receptive to the ProCap and other alternative forms of head protection.
Recently, the NFL announced it is considering rule changes, including prohibting runners from lowering their heads to initiate contact. And last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell proposed eliminating the kickoff.
A judge will hear motions in the players' lawuit in early April. Golden says the NFL will likely move toward a substantial settlement for the players.
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