Court settlements are by nature compromises, and compromises are often messy. The proposed settlement of the lawsuits brought by more than 4,500 former N.F.L. players who contended that the league hid from them the dangers of concussions is no exception.
The N.F.L. agreed last summer to pay $765 million for medical monitoring and potential payments to those with significant illnesses, but it wanted all 18,000 or so retired players, not just those who sued, to be included in the deal.
By expanding the number of players who could benefit, the N.F.L. would help more former players. But anyone who agrees to the settlement will give up the right to sue the league, so the N.F.L. would also largely inoculate itself from further costly and embarrassing suits.
Yet one of the consequences of this structure is that it creates two tiers of retired players: those who sued the league and must pay their lawyers a percentage of any cash awards, and those who never sued the league but are eligible to receive money without paying legal fees. In effect, the players who took the initiative to sue and helped push the league to settle will be penalized. That structure irks some retired players, like Frank Sutton, who played one season as a Giants tackle.
“I believe in equity, and I believe in being involved in something and being held to...