Did Concussion Lawsuits Deal a Fatal Blow to Helmet Manufacturer’s Deal with the NFL?
Riddell, Inc. was contractually granted the rights to be the official helmet supplier of the NFL in perpetuity in 1989, over 20 years ago. However, on Thursday, October 24, 2013, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed that the NFL had negotiated to end its business relationship with the helmet manufacturer at the end of the 2013 NFL season.
Riddell initially resisted the NFL’s withdrawal from their contractual relationship, but was ultimately unsuccessful in thwarting the NFL’s designs. A statement made by Roger Goodell at a youth league event earlier this year indicated that the league “had to use quite a bit of leverage” in order to wrap up the agreement.
Riddell released an official statement, noting, “We are proud of our relationship with the NFL . . . . While it is accurate that our current NFL agreement will expire next year, we look forward to a continued positive and productive relationship with the NFL in the future. We are confident that we will continue to be the helmet of choice for our nation’s elite football players.” Approximately two-thirds of all current NFL players use Riddell helmets.
One can’t help but speculate that the move is related to the ongoing concussion litigation against Riddell. In that case, several thousand NFL alumni are suing the manufacturer for downplaying the risks of concussions on long-term cognitive health and overemphasizing how Riddell helmets could help to prevent brain injuries. The NFL was previously a party to the litigation before reaching a $765 million settlement with the former players and dropping out of the case. With regards to the concussion litigation, Riddell’s parent company, Easton-Bell Sports, noted “We believe these complaints are without merit and we are vigorously defending against them.”