Former NFL players file suit against NFL saying NFL supplied drugs

Former NFL players file suit against NFL saying NFL supplied drugs

by Jordan Kobriz

You can file this one under “inevitable.”

On May 20, eight former NFL players filed a class action lawsuit against the league alleging that teams provided them and the five hundred other players who have joined the suit with illegal drugs.

According to the complaint, players were given the medications without prescriptions in order to permit them to play through injuries suffered on the field of play. Such conduct allegedly led to addiction and long-term medical complications, a number of which were detailed in the complaint.

The suit is the second major condemnation of the NFL’s treatment of its players during a period when the popularity of professional football rose from an afterthought to become the most popular sport in the country, a $9 billion a year juggernaut. The filing comes on the heels of a preliminary settlement of a class action concussion lawsuit, which includes a number of the same plaintiffs. That agreement between former players and the league is currently in limbo as the federal judge overseeing the suit has asked the parties for more information to determine whether the proposed settlement of $765 million will be sufficient to compensate all the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the new suit charge the league with “intentionally, recklessly and negligently creating and maintaining a culture of drug misuse” which prioritized profit over the health of its players. While those allegations may be difficult to prove in a courtroom, the conduct described in the 85-page complaint is both frightening and sickening. Furthermore, if true, it was clearly unethical and illegal, a violation of federal drug laws.

Players say they were given white envelopes – some marked for sleep, others for pain – from team personnel without appropriate prescriptions. The medications were designed to reduce inflammation, kill pain, and allow the players to sleep the night before games. The players also allege that the drugs were addictive, were administered in illegal doses, without proper medical oversight, and with very little or no explanation of the risks and dangers associated with taking them. When their playing careers ended, their pain and drug dependence continued. Without access to free drugs, many of the players resorted to street sources, with some players ending up broke and homeless.

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon says he became addicted to painkillers, at one point downing more than 100 Percocet tablets per month. He claims neither team doctors nor trainers got prescriptions for the pills, kept records of their use or explained the side effects to him. McMahon, who suffered a broken neck and ankle during his 15-year playing career, says he was repeatedly “pushed back on the field” with the aid of illegal medications.

Ex-San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry suffers from severe kidney failure – his kidneys operate at 30 percent of normal – as a result of the painkillers and anti-inflammatories, including the drug Toradol, he received from team doctors and trainers. Toradol is banned in a number of European countries and can only be used in England in a hospital. Yet Newberry told a San Francisco TV station that on game days, “The line (outside the training room) was crazy…It’s almost like a cattle call when you have 20 to 25 guys standing with their pants half down waiting in line for a doctor who’s got a hundred different syringes lined up and you walk through, they’re sticking you one at a time…” Newberry, now 38 and retired for five years, has been told he is likely facing a kidney transplant.

While the suit portrays a culture in the NFL that differs from what one might expect outside the sport, the players’ allegations aren’t that difficult to believe. When we see players carried off the field after a crushing blow and then miraculously return within minutes, it’s not because they’re super human. They just have better access to pain medications than the rest of us.

People who make illegal drugs available on the street are called “dealers.” Those who engage in similar activity in the NFL go by the name “doctor” or “trainer.” Which name is more accurate in this instance may ultimately be answered in a court of law. If the allegations in the complaint are proven, the players may not be the only ones who are feeling the pain.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: Jordan can be reached at


© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed