Former NFL players sue over disability claims, accuse league of systematic bias
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Several former National Football League players have flied a class-action lawsuit against the league’s benefits plan, its board of trustees and Commissioner Roger Goodell in federal court Thursday, alleging that the board and the benefits plan wrongfully denied benefits to former players.
The plaintiffs include Willis McGahee, Eric Smith, Jason Alford, Daniel Loper, Michael McKenzie, Jamize Olawale, Alex Parsons, Charles Sims, Joey Thomas and Lance Zeno.
The lawsuit claims that “repeated lies; material misrepresentations; active concealment; flagrant violations of” relevant statues, regulations and case law and “illogical interpretations of the terms” of the benefits plan and “reliance on conflicted advisors” have “resulted in a pattern of systemic bias” against disabled NFL players.
“Plaintiffs seek to pull back the curtain on behalf of all similarly situated former NFL Players, bringing many relevant factual and legal issues concerning the Plan to light,” the group said in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs said that the board’s behavior was “motivated by financial considerations to limit the payment of benefits” from the plan.
The players also said that the board acted hostile and used other “unscrupulous tactics” to deny claims. They also alleged that the benefits plan decisions were made by doctors who had an interest in denying benefits: Instead of being “neutral physicians,” the doctors are “selected and paid by the Board,” which does not make an effort to collect statistics and ensure that the physicians are “indeed neutral and unbiased.”
The complaint also alleged that the board has failed to review all relevant material for claims and instead supported the conclusions of its physicians. This pattern, the players said, shows a pattern of the board repeatedly breaching its fiduciary duty to players.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the NFL’s betrayal of its players once we are no longer on the field and making them money,” said Eric Smith, one of 10 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a former safety who played for seven seasons in the NFL, in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “Through this lawsuit, we are bringing these injustices to light and demanding the NFL fulfill its responsibilities to players rather than continue to try to dodge accountability every step of the way.”
The plaintiffs are represented by several legal teams. The lawsuit seeks to recover benefits that the players claim they are owed, and prohibit further violations of the terms of the plans.
The NFL has not responded to a request for comment from CBS News.