DITKA: Asking the $765 million questions
BY MIKE DITKA August 31, 2013 12:22AM
Mike Ditka testifies in 2007 on Capitol Hill about the NFL’s system of compensation for retired players. | AP
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:31AM
The NFL agreed this week to pay $765 million to settle concussion-related lawsuits by thousands of former players.
Mike Ditka, who has advocated for retired NFL players in need through the Gridiron Greats program, shared these thoughts on the settlement:
It’s a great gesture on behalf of the National Football League. If this money gets to the players who really need it, then they did the right thing. There’s no question about that.
They had to do something. Over the years, they have ignored the situation too long. There was a problem here. And you can say it was because of this or that. Well, concussions had a lot to do with it.
Now, if you go back 40 or 50 years ago when I played, I don’t think anybody really understood head injuries. I don’t think anybody was trying to hide anything back then. And I don’t think anybody was trying to hide anything lately. They just didn’t understand what the ramifications could be.
You know, football is a dangerous sport. If you play it long enough, you have a good chance of getting hurt. In saying that, if you legislate hitting out of football, you don’t have football anymore. I understand what the league is doing, but it’s hard.
I think they have a problem. People watch it because it is a physical sport. And when you take that physicality out of the sport, you don’t have football anymore. You have something else.
The game of football is a little different than everyday jobs. There’s a lot of money being made. That’s why they can make a settlement of $765 million. That’s a lot of money. Is it enough money? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. But it is what it is.
It bothers me that there have been a lot of guys out there who have needed help for years and didn’t get it. Now, there were guys who needed help and got it. Was it enough? It probably wasn’t, but we gave them help.
Football doesn’t owe me anything. I owe my whole life to football. I have no regrets, and I don’t feel like I’ve been cheated by anybody. I’ve been fortunate enough to play the game, be involved with the game for more than 50 years. I’ve enjoyed every doggone moment.
When things happen like this, everybody looks for a simple solution. There is NO simple solution!
Now that they have put the money out there, you have to ask, ‘‘Will this money get in the hands of the people who really deserve it?’’ That’s the big question. And who’s going to administrate it.
Our Gridiron Greats have done this for years, and we’ve done a good job. But we don’t have the money. It’s hard to raise the money. It really is. It’s a constant thing.
Now, the money is there from this settlement. Let’s see if it gets in the hands of the people who really need it. That’s all.