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Why has Denver Broncos linebacker Aaron Patrick sued the NFL, the Rams, the Chargers and ESPN?

In a move that may seem like overkill, Denver Broncos linebacker has filed a lawsuit naming everyone conceivable in an effort to get just compensation

SoFi Stadium le ganó a su rival de ciudad, el Rose Bowl Stadium.
Katelyn MulcahyAFP

It is a scene that is all-too-familiar and sad in the NFL. A play goes to the sideline, tangling with the equipment that borders the playing field, and in the melée, a player comes up injured. In this case, it was a season-ending ACL tear suffered by Denver Broncos linebacker Aaron Patrick during their overtime loss against the Los Angeles Chargers last month.

As Patrick chased Chargers punt returner DeAndre Carter to the sideline, his momentum carried him out of bounds where, in danger of colliding with the NFL’s “green hat” TV liaison, he rolled his foot on a mat that covered up the cables.

The problem is that because of the byzantine, and frankly immoral, “split contract” that limits his compensation if placed on injured reserve, Patrick’s injury means that he has missed out on half of his yearly salary and lost out on performance bonuses that he may have been able to achieve.

While the NFL is the most obvious organization that should be on the hook, and were it any other industry, their workman’s compensation would certainly come into play, the nature of the league’s fracturing of responsibility and their Collective Bargaining Agreement that is in place with the players means that when the dust is settled, Patrick would still be out of pocket.

Taking the scattergun approach, Patrick has opted to sue not only the league, but everyone within earshot. The Chargers get it because it was their home game. The Rams get it because they actually own SoFi Stadium. Denver, naturally, because they are the team with whom he has a contract, and the league because, well, it is ultimately the responsible party. ESPN gets a jab as well because they operate the television equipment that was covered by the mat which Patrick slipped on.

Patrick’s attorney, William M. Berman, issued a statement saying, “Player safety should be the foremost of importance to the NFL and its owners. The NFL is a multi-billion-dollar sports enterprise and business, and it needs to do everything possible to protect its players from non-contact game injuries. As for Patrick’s injuries, Sofi Stadium was built at a $5,000,000,000 expense; the stadium should have the state-of-the-art equipment to protect for player safety, and not use the type of $100 mats that you would expect to see in a restaurant kitchen.”

The concept that the mat covering the cables is to blame for this injury is clearly a non-starter, and will certainly see ESPN off the hook if this ever makes it to court. But that isn’t really what Patrick is angling for. He doesn’t want this to go to court at all.

The endgame for this is to get the NFL and more to the point, the NFL players association to re-asses their handling of split contracts. A filthy concept, they should be recognized as a violation of nearly every labor law on the books, including anti-slavery legislation.

Patrick is hoping, as should every player in the league, that this will lead to a new direction for dealing with injury payment in the NFL. If this does wind up in court, California worker’s compensation will trump all other concerns and he will likely win a judgement against the Broncos and the NFL, even if all other defendants are absolved.

But nobody wants to see that happen. With the legal teams at everyone’s disposal, it is not at all certain that Aaron Patrick would live long enough to see the end of it.


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