clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Clinton Portis and 82 other retired NFL pros sue league over concussions

New, 55 comments
Clinton Portis via Keith Allison on Flickr
Clinton Portis via Keith Allison on Flickr

Retired star running back Clinton Portis and a group of 82 other ex-pro-football players have sued the National Football League (NFL), arguing that it failed to protect them from concussions and other head injuries. Portis, who spent six of his nine seasons in the league with the Washington Redskins, is listed as the lead plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in the US District Court of Souther Florida on Tuesday. Other notable plaintiffs include three-time pro-bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper, best known for his time with the Minnesota Vikings, and standout Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

The suit, obtained by The Verge, says the NFL has mythologized violence through the media and glorified dangerous playing conditions in its NFL Films documentary business. The retired players also accuse the NFL in court documents of ignoring evidence of concussions and neurological damage and failing to make the game safer despite knowing of the consequences and risks of repetitive head impact. The complaint calls for a declaration that the NFL is liable for the concussions and head injuries the players have incurred, and that the league pay for "medical monitoring, and financial compensation for long-term chronic injuries, financial losses, expenses," and other intangible losses.

Concussions, depression, dementia

"For decades, the NFL has been aware that multiple blows to the head can lead to long-term brain injury, including but not limited to memory loss, dementia, depression, and CTE and its related symptoms," the lawsuit says. "While the NFL knew for decades of the harmful effects of sub-concussive and concussive injuries on a player’s brain, it actively concealed these facts from coaches, players, and the public." In an interview with CBS Sports earlier this year, Portis said that believes he had more than 10 concussions in his NFL career, but that he eventually stopped counting because they were so frequent. "It was just the way things were at the time," he said. "I'd get hit hard and would be woozy. I'd be dizzy. I'd take a play off and then go back in. Sometimes when I went back into the game, I still couldn't see straight. This happened all the time."

The NFL did not respond to a request for comment by press time, but for years the league has said that it's both making the game safer, while also denying that it hasn't done all it can to protect players in the past or that it is in anyway at fault for injuries suffered in the past. According to The Washington Times, which first reported on the Portis suit, more than 4,500 players have sued the NFL for concussions — this group of 83 players merely being the latest.