In a nationally distributed sports alert, Bob Wallace, the chair of Thompson Coburn's Sports Law group, weighed in on the increased scrutiny over on-field violence in professional sports, particularly in the National Football League.
As the plaintiffs in a widespread injury case against the NFL consolidate their claims, Wallace analyzed the issue from the different perspectives of players, league officials and sports fans. His article appears in the June 2012 Sports Litigation Alert, a publication of Professional Sports and the Law. The article is titled, “The Gladiators Must Perform.”
“A number of the NFL lawsuits allege the league withheld information regarding the severity of concussions and their lingering effects they may have had on players,” Wallace wrote. “Given the violent nature of their sport, it’s worth considering whether NHL players will be the next group of plaintiffs coming forward against their league.”
In the same article, partner Mike Minton tapped his extensive litigation knowledge to probe the viability of the plaintiffs’ claims against the NFL. His conclusion: The players have an uphill battle.
Chief among their legal hurdles are Daubert-based challenges to scientific evidence attempting to link concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Even if the Daubert hurdles are cleared, Minton wrote, the plaintiffs face various factual challenges.
“First and foremost is that the players choose to play what they know is a risky sport,” Minton wrote in the article, with assistance from partner and fellow tobacco litigator Liz Blackwell. “Football and hockey are prototypical contact sports and players have been getting their ‘bell rung’ from the day they began playing the sport. Very few amateur participants make it to the professional level, and those who do are well aware that they have chosen an occupation that is dangerous and poses risks to nearly all of their body parts, not just their brains.
“Hard hits are an inherent aspect of the sport, and the players get paid handsomely for their skill and willingness to play.