Comparative League Evaluation

2.- Ensuring Independence and Disclosure of Conflicts –

A Comparative League Overview

Federico DaFranca citing Glenn Cohen Et Al.

Attorney At Law

All Rights Reserved – 2018


General Background


The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Football League (“NFL”) and the NFLPA set aside funds for medical research. From these the NFLPA in turn, directed a portion of those funds to create the Football Players Health Study (from here forth ‘The Report’). The Report is part of the Law and Ethics Initiative for Football Players at Harvard University. One primary goal of The Report was to conduct estimations across comparative leagues. Thus, a specific objective is recurrently to evaluate governance and stakeholder duties across professional sports.  Additionally, it was a central purpose of The Report to  identify  best practices  and  situate  an  ethics  framework  for professional football,  among these including the examination of  influences in health  behaviours of players and team policies pertaining player health.[1]


As a conclusion from The Report,  it’s possible to infer that applicable stakeholders constitute:  The National Football League,  Major League Baseball, the  National Basketball Association,  the National Hockey League, the Canadian Football League and  Major League Soccer.  The Report states error identification is preliminary to applicable stakeholders and has the objective of raising suggestions or objections.


Executive Summary


The primary Objective of The Report  is to learn from the  policies and practices of other  elite  professional  sports  leagues  and how player health  can be  protected  and  promoted.  This is the Fundamental hypothesis formulated at the time of inquiry during the construction of comparative results. Thus, leagues share considerable similarities. They are organisations that coordinate elite-level Athletic competitions for mass audiences. Therefore, as is defined by the research, leagues  are “competitors” within the professional Sports Industry.[2]


As a result, a secondary goal is to identify and understand different policies and practices that have the possibility to affect player health. This stimulates inter-league coordination. The purpose of such-stated motivation is the development of a consolidated learning cycle. Therefore, It is a general conclusion that the policies in place by the National Football League appear superior but in practice need to be further elucidated.


Consequently, four functions arise:

  • First, an identification of the various policies that can or do influence the health of players in the various leagues
  • Second, a description of the policies and their relation to protecting and promoting player health
  • Third, an evaluation of the capacity of such-said policies to protect and promote player health
  • Fourth, a recommendation of the changes to policies that affect NFL players grounded in the evaluation of approaches initiated by other leagues


The Leagues


As per The Report a formal definition for each of the institutions is conducted:


  • The National Football League – The world’s “premier” professional football league comprised of 32 member clubs with yearly revenues of $14 Billion USD
  • Major League Baseball – The world’s “premier” professional baseball organization, consisting of 30 member clubs and approximately $10 Billion USD / year
  • National Basketball Association – The world’s “premier” professional basketball institution, made up of 30 member clubs and a revenue of circa eight Billion dollars per year
  • National Hockey League: The world’s leading hockey league organised by 30 member clubs with revenues close to $4.1B USD / calendar year
  • The Canadian Football League: A professional soccer league consisted of 9 clubs with estimated yearly revenues of $200 million USD
  • Major League Soccer: A professional soccer League made up of 20 clubs with calculated revenues nearing $200 million dollars per calendar year


As per The Report, these leagues are coherent as per “Sampieri” in the sense that there is a relational structural and legal similarity.[3]


The Unions


As a result, it can be conveyed from the conceptual perspective of the authors that:

  1. Leagues are constructs of individual clubs
  2. Leagues are forged to protect and advance the rights of the clubs
  3. Unions protect the rights, interests and responsibilities of players within the scope of federal union laws

The authors henceforth classify player institutions as:

  • National Football League Players Association
  • Major League Baseball Players Association
  • National Basketball Players Association
  • National Hockey Players Association
  • Canadian Football League Players Association
  • Major League Soccer Player’s Union


Areas for Improvement


NFL player health provisions, as per The Report can be defined as: “A group of protectionist

measures created to promote athlete wellness among relevant comparative metrics.”


Then, it can be inferred that player health can be potentially improved through the evaluation

of the parameters stated herein:


  • The CFL / CBA, requires pre-season physical examinations “to determine the status of any pre-existing condition” be performed by a neutral physician
  • The standard of care articulated in the NHL and MLS, Collective Bargaining Agreements; require Club physicians to subjugate their duties to the club. The NFL CBA does not
  • Major League Baseball has a concussion-specific short-term injury list. The NFL does not
  • The MLB, NHL and CFL injury reporting policies do not require disclosure of the body  location of a player’s injury, the NFL does
  • The MLB, NBA and NHL offer term health insurance for life to players, the NFL does not
  • The NFL’s retirement plan scores lowest among the Big Four Leagues
  • The NBA and CFL offer treatment to players who have breached

performance-enhancing substance-policies, the NFL doesn’t

  • The amount of player compensation is substantially lower in the NFL than in the other Big Four Leagues
  • The NFL has the most prohibitive eligibility rule of the leagues


In conclusion, it’s possible to infer from the results of the study that, quantitatively and qualitatively, the NFL is lagging behind among the Big Four for the matter under review.



[1] “Comparing Health Related Policies & Practices in Sports.“ Deubert R.C., Cohen G.I., Lynch F.H. Harvard Law School. May 2017.

[2] Ibid. Pp. 13

[3] Sampieri, H.R. “Method of Legal Research.” Sixth Edition. McGraw-Hill Company. Madrid, Spain. 2014

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