Yesterday, 31 former professional football players sued the National Football League in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston alleging the NFL failed to warn them about the dangers of head injuries they suffered during their playing days.
The plaintiffs in Lee Roy Jordan, et al. v. National Football League include some of the most famous men ever to wear a Dallas Cowboys star on their helmets. Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Walt Garrison, Charles Waters, Preston Pearson, Bob Lilly and Jordan all are former Cowboys who became famous playing for the team in the 1970s and now are in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor or the NFL Hall of Fame.
Matthew Matheny of Beaumont’s Provost Umphrey represents the plaintiffs. “Obviously a lot of law firms wanted them to be clients . . . and I’m sure they had spoken with many law firms,” Matheny says. But all 31 hired Provost, retaining Matheny and firm founder Walter Umphrey to represent them.
The firm believes the case is “a worthwhile cause for an outstanding group of men,” Matheny says.
Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications, says the league denies the allegations in the suit. “The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions,” McCarthy writes in a e-mail.
Numerous former NFL players have sued the league this year, also alleging they were not warned about how head injuries could affect them long term. In January, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation selected a U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to handle all of the former NFL players’ litigation.
Matheny, 34, was too young to remember most of his clients' playing days. But his father, a longtime Cowboys fan, filled him in. “Believe me, these were household names when I was growing up,” Matheny says.
-- John Council