(Adds details from lawsuit, background)
By Carey Gillam and Dan Whitcomb
May 20 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
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
"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.
The suit seeks unspecified compensation for long-term
injuries suffered by players as well as financial losses, pain
and suffering and monitoring of future medical issues, as well
as punitive damages.
More than 4,500 former pro football players sued the NFL in
2012, claiming the league hid the dangers of brain injury from
players while profiting from the sport's sometimes violent
In January, a judge rejected the proposed $760 million
settlement reached between the two sides, saying it might not be
enough to pay up to 20,000 former players who might be eligible
Attorneys for both sides have said they believe the judge
will approve the settlement after they submit further
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri and Dan
Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Eric