Ex-football players sue NFL, claiming 'culture of drug misuse'

Tue May 20, 2014 5:26pm EDT
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By Carey Gillam and Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) - A group of retired pro football players sued the National Football League on Tuesday, saying they were illegally fed painkillers and told to play while injured to keep massive profits flowing to the league for three decades.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, could turn into another black eye for the NFL, which last year agreed to pay $760 million to thousands of former players who filed suit claiming the league downplayed the risk of concussions.

An NFL spokesman declined to comment on the new lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of eight NFL players who were active between 1969 and 2008 and seeks class action status on behalf of 500 others.

"In contravention of federal criminal laws, the NFL has intentionally, recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players health for profit," the plaintiffs say in court documents.

The suit claims that as players have gotten bigger and the season longer, injuries have become more common and serious, prompting the NFL to rely on pain medication to keep the players on the field and revenues coming in.

Among the named plaintiffs are Keith Van Horne, an offensive tackle with the Chicago Bears from 1981 to 1993 who according to the lawsuit played an entire season on a broken leg, wearing a special boot to reduce swelling in the limb.

"He was not told about the broken leg for five years, during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain," the lawsuit says.

Also named is former star quarterback Jim McMahon, who according to the lawsuit was given "hundreds, if not thousands" of injections from team trainers over the course of his career and ultimately became dependent on painkillers.   Continued...

The NFL logo appears on an entrance door to the football stadium at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona February 2, 2008.