The NFL is no stranger to negative media attention. In recent years, America’s favorite sports organization has come under fire for murder trials, dog abuse, and deadly concussions. Now, hundreds of players are putting aside their team loyalties and banding together in a lawsuit against the NFL. The suit alleges NFL officials illegally forced powerful painkillers onto its players, placing profits and a “good game” over health and safety.
39-Year-Old Suffers Partial Renal Failure
It’s understood that football is a brutal sport. Tanks of muscle weighing hundreds of pounds collide into each other at full speed. Ligaments tear, bones snap in half, lacerations slice open. Every time a player is seriously hurt, they must be taken off the field and treated. It’s seldom certain when, or even if, they will be able to return to the game. And the longer these injured players are in recovery and out of action, the more money bleeds from the NFL. The faster a player can return to the field, the better.
At least, from the NFL’s perspective.
“The first thing people ask is, knowing what happened, would you do it again?” says Marcellus Wiley. “No,” he answers himself. “No, I wouldn’t.”
A strong statement, considering Wiley’s impressive career. He spent time playing for the Bills, the Chargers, the Cowboys, and the Jaguars.
But today, Wiley is retired. He is 39 years old, and his kidneys have already begun to fail. Yet there is no history of renal failure in Wiley’s family. He says it’s a direct result of the NFL prescribing him powerful painkillers, along with hundreds of other players — often without their knowledge or consent.
“I Became a Junkie in the NFL.”
Wiley is just one of 750 plaintiffs in a massive lawsuit against the NFL. He is part of the recent second wave of litigants to join the case, which includes 250 athletes. Others named in the suit include Jim McMahon, Jeremy Newberry, and Richard Dent. The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in California in May.
The unsafe, profit-driven overuse of painkillers alleged by the suit is not restricted to recent years: the claims span across four decades of football, extending from 1968 through 2008.
Receiver J.D. Hill, who played with the Bills and the Lions from 1971 through 1977, states he was “provided uppers, downers, painkillers — you name it — while in the NFL. I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL.”
Attorney Steven Silverman is representing the plaintiffs. According to Silverman, “The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players’ long-term health in its obsession to return them to play.”
Chargers Doctor Commits Medical Malpractice
Unsurprisingly, team doctors have come under heavy fire, including Dr. David Chao of the San Diego Chargers. Former doctor, rather. Chao left the team in June of 2013 after the NFL Players Association filed a complaint against him. The Medical Board of California subsequently placed Chao on probation. The year before that, he was found guilty of medical malpractice — not related to football or professional athletes. The verdict was $5.2 million.
(A quick online search of Chao’s name brings up telling results. Headlines include “The Chargers’ Doctor is a Drunk Quack. Why Haven’t They Fired Him?” and “Fans Rejoice Over Resignation of Chargers Doctor David Chao.”)
Drugs named by the suit include Percocet and Vicodin — both notorious for being so strong that people use them for recreational purposes. Other medications cited include Ambien, Toradol, and Percodan.
But the effects of these medications on the athletes have been anything but fun. Players cite ailments including organ damage, nerve damage, chronic issues with bones and muscles, and substance addiction. According to attorney Silverman, drugs were often recklessly mixed and matched together, and were “handed out like candy at Halloween.” (Could it be mere coincidence that painkillers are notorious for being tough on the kidneys — particularly when taken in combination?)
“You can’t walk into a doctor’s office and say, ‘Give me this, give me that, just to get through the day.’ Somebody would shut the place down,” says Wiley. “But that’s what was going on in the NFL.”
What about personal accountability? Where does responsibility for what we put into our bodies begin and end? Wiley has given the matter some thought. “I’m not a medical doctor,” he says, “but I did take the word of a medical doctor who took an oath to get me through not just one game, or one season, but a lifetime. Meanwhile, he’s getting paid by how many bodies he gets out on the field.”
On the other side of the field, NFL officials are keeping their mouths shut. According to spokesman Brian McCarthy, no comment from the defendants.
Perhaps the league is just distracted with its many other legal problems. After all, a Philadelphia judge ruled in January that the NFL’s offer of $765 million to settle the recent concussion class-action suit was too low.
The painkiller suit is seeking an unspecified amount.
Pharmaceutical drugs are immensely powerful. They can cure, but they can also kill, and they must be prescribed with foresight and care — not with greedy, reckless abandon. If you or someone you love has been hurt by medical negligence or malpractice, you may be entitled to significant compensation. To schedule your free legal consultation, call the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online.
You only have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim in the state of Pennsylvania, so don’t wait until it’s too late: call us today to start exploring your options. We won’t charge a fee unless we win.