Transcript for NFL Settles Concussion Lawsuits
You know, in my days covering sports, one of the most sobering moments came at an nfl hall of fame weekend entering a hall filled with retired legends in obvious pain. It is stunning to see these demigods shake hands with fingers and gimpy knees, but back then, many of them were behind these famous faces, with the nfl expected to pay out over 3 quarters of a billion dollars to brain-damaged players. But is it enough? And is the toll hidden by this deal? Here is abc's dan harris. Reporter: Well, tonight, people are feverishly debating the settlement of a case that could have threatened the very existence of america's secular religion. People believe this is a win for the nfl owners. And arguing about whether attorneys for the former players made a big mistake by settling for "a pittance." Let's set aside the analysis for a moment and get to the heart of the manner. REMEMBER jim McMan, the brash quarterback who took them to the super bowl? He had spiky hair, and even once mooned a news camera in a helicopter flying over practice. I was just scratching myself. Reporter: This is jim mcmann today. IN THE 50s, HE HAS EARLY STAGE Dementia. Guys will leave me messages, and I erase it, thinking i called them right back. I forget who just called me. Reporter: Mcmann is one of a series of players who sued the nfl saying they have on-field concussions. Looking at this film, big blows could be the same as taking a sledge hammer to the head. Also involved in this lawsuit, families of players like junior seau, who was alleged to have had a brain concussion. He changed dramatically, his family said, towards the end of his life. A lot of things in his life, patterns that we saw, it worried us. His decision-making, his ambition decreased. He would sometimes lose his temper, get angry over very small things. Kind of go off the grid for a couple of weeks. The man lived for family. That love was so important to him. So for him to take his own life. I can't imagine how severe his anguish was. Reporter: Attorneys for the former players argue the league, which markets its hard hits to avid fans, deliberately covered up the dangers to keep the players on the field and protect their image. A CHARGE jim McMann agrees with. They knew about it, and they didn't tell us. It is just like flat out lying to you, looking in the face and lying to you. Reporter: And that allegation is a big reason why today's settlement is so controversial. The nfl, which is admitting no wrongdoing here, will not have to open its files and won't be forced to explain things like the so-called mild traumatic brain committee, which was led not by a brain doctor, but by a rheumatogist. It is a win for the league, because they don't have to face the prospect of really getting down and dirty in court and dealing with documents and what they knew and when they knew it. Reporter: Earlier, I sat down with the attorney who settled the case. In your document, you wrote they glorifi glorifed it, and by settling, did you think you let them off the hook? No, if somebody thinks that 60 million is letting them off the hook, the money will be used for the players, and to get medical testing and treatment for the large percentage of the group. So we think we did something pretty amazing. Reporter: The size of the settlement is part of why it is so controversial. You're talking about $765 million, when you split that among the teams, you end up with about $24 million a team. This is a $10 billion industry. Would you have settled more, potentially? I don't think so I think we got all we could have had with the litigation. Look, I sued ge, and I didn't get any of their profits. It is not always the case, we got the money we needed and are satisfied by it. Reporter: Here is how the settlement works, the league's 19,000 former players will all be eligible for a medical exam. Those with cognitive impairment will get further testing and treatment. And those with serious illnesses will get up to $5 million, a godsend, says kevin turner, a 44-year-old hobbled by mls. You can go on with your treatment and not worry about the money. Reporter: Late today, we CAUGHT UP WITH jim McMann, who agrees, saying getting the money now the players is worth the trade off of not forcing the nfl to open their files. These guys have been suffering for a long time, both financially and mentally, and it is relief for their families. Reporter: There is another important issue raised today. Today, the nfl has not been forced to make changes, to make any new changes going forward, at a time when the players keep getting bigger and the hits keep getting harder. This is maybe a soul-searching moment for every man. I think it is a social issue. We like violence. That is the bottom line, we pay for violence. We like the ufc and boxing, we like really rough sports, football passed baseball and basketball because of the hitting. Reporter: While some are declaring a clear win for the nfl, experts we spoke to said the settlement raised awareness about a long-term issue that is not going away. For the nfl and for the group, they will pause a moment and reflect on the real price of the hits that so many of us love. For "nightline," this is dan harris, in new york. Thank you, dan. And you who wins in this settlement? What do you think, tweet us your thoughts at "nightline" or @billweir. And now, we have a look at
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