There are approximately 1,700 former players who have sued the NFL related to concussiion injuries. Their cases continue to work their way through the judicial system.
As the game has continued to be played over the years, arguments have been made and testimony has been taken. Players talk about being sent back into the game despite losing consciousness or having memory loss. The suicides of several former players are still being discussed. Yet, the games go on and so do the legal battles.
In the meantime, to minimize potential legal exposure, the league continues to make more on-field changes. Fines and suspensions have increased, and hard hits are even more limited. The violence of football, the main reason so many people watch, is dramatically reduced. It is rumored that football is losing its edge as the top sport in America.
So as more players sue, more judgments are handed down. A few million dollars in one suit, is followed by a few million dollars in another. By the year 2020, the legal losses will be astronomical, perhaps in the billions.
By then the damage will be done. The NFL's primary concern is not the lawsuits bankrupting the league. Of course, it's a concern, but the bigger concern is that the lawsuits cause such negative publicity and damage to the brand that networks flee, advertisers bail and the most popular sport in the country since baseball's heyday loses its significance.
The NFL is in a very difficult position. In order to maintain its existence, it may have to significantly lower the level of violence, but many fans are drawn by that level of intense violence.
At the core of this issue, which will undoubtedly be discussed repeatedly, is that all players – retired and current – have differing opinions on how much violence is too much, or too little. There are just as many players who say NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made the sport soft as there are ones claiming there's too much violence in football.
For several months now, the NFL has been planning its legal strategy against these lawsuits. Part of the league's defense will be that players were given all the relevant information needed about concussions. Attorneys representing the players will argue there was a concussion cover-up.
In what could become a nightmare for the NFL, all of the various elements of this issue will continue to be discussed and perhaps litigated. Let's hope it doesn't cause the NFL to become extinct.