Hundreds of former players claim in a new lawsuit against the NFL that the league's 32 teams, trainers and medical staffs received painkillers through illegal means and intentionally peddled them to players without any regard for their safety or long-term wellbeing, reports the Associated Press.
The new lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Northern District of Maryland on Thursday, naming each NFL team individually as a defendant.
Thirteen plaintiffs are listed in the lawsuit, including Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Renfro of the Dallas Cowboys and the widow of former Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens running back Charles Evans, who retired after the 2000 season.
Evans died of heart failure in a Georgia prison at age 41 in October 2008, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says that Evans was in jail for failure to pay child support. “He had spent his money on painkillers instead,” the lawsuit says.
"This lawsuit alleges intentional activity by the teams, not negligence," said plaintiffs' attorney Steve Silverman. "It's another part of a unified effort to provide health care and compensation to the thousands of former players who have been permanently injured or died as a result of playing professional football."
The lawsuit is similar to the one filed in May 2014 in U.S. Northern District in California by 1,300 former players when they claimed that the league obtained and administered the drugs illegally without prescriptions and failed to warn players about potential side effects, all in order to expedite the return of injured players to the field and generate the highest possible profits.
That lawsuit was thrown out out by Judge William Alsup in December, who ruled that the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association needed to resolve those claims. That decision is being appealed.
“This is not a situation in which the NFL has stood by and done nothing,” Alsup wrote in that judgment. “The union and the league have bargained extensively over the subject of player medical care for decades.”
The new lawsuit alleges that several former head coaches and assistants, including Hall of Famer Don Shula, Howard Schnellenberger, Wayne Fontes, Mike Holmgren and Mike Tice, told players they would be released if they did not take painkillers and return to the field.
- Scooby Axson