NFL does the right thing in settling with ex-players

The National Football League, unquestioned behemoth among American pro sports collectives, does nothing without considering the financial effects. And this is not mutually exclusive from doing something like the right thing.

That's what the NFL did in agreeing to pay more than $765 million to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related brain disorders.

One could argue that a $9 billion annual industry could have afforded more; others say these former players knew the game's risks and took them anyway. And before we go too mushy on NFL altruism, let's be clear that the league did not want these lawsuits chipping away at publicity with a new season about to kick off.

No number would have satisfied everyone, boosters and critics alike. But beyond the bottom line, the NFL, without admitting wrongdoing, did make the more important statement of settling with all 18,000 former players, with the vast majority of the cash going to compensate athletes with certain neurological ailments. It also set aside $75 million for medical exams and $10 million for research.

And, important, the NFL's settlement money will go to the former players, not attorneys litigating what could have been a long and drawn-out court fight. "There wasn't a 'who's right' or 'who's wrong' here," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was involved in some of the settlement talks. "It's just that the money will go to the ones that need that."

He knows, as we all should, that the NFL rose to phenomenal popularity - and profit - through the hard-hitting efforts of these retired players, who did their jobs when we all understood far less about head injuries and their long-term effects.

An admission of NFL liability, to these players, isn't the point. What's important is that the league is finally putting some of its bounty of today into a place it can do the most good.

--The Dallas Morning News, Sept. 3


Lawmakers should approve military strike against Assad regime

Now that President Obama has decided to seek congressional approval for military action against Syria - finally - lawmakers have their work cut out for them: Ask the right questions, obtain more public disclosure regarding the Syrian regime's responsibility, and pass a resolution that stops short of giving the Pentagon a blank check.

For decades, going back to the turbulent Vietnam era, critics have complained that ambitious presidents have ignored Congress' war-making powers under the U.S. Constitution. Lawmakers have often been ignored when it comes to deploying U.S. military power abroad.

For those who don't like this notion of an "imperial presidency" - that includes us - the decision on Syria is a welcome chance for legislators to show that they deserve to be consulted.

Formal declarations of war may be considered obsolete, but Congress still has a significant role to play in deciding when the United States should exercise military force - and should always insist on being heard. That requires avoiding the partisan gridlock that has made a mess of Washington.

In this case, fortunately, lawmakers have gotten off on the right foot, with Republican House Speaker John Boehner joining Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in supporting military action.

The administration has a big hurdle to overcome: convincing Congress - and the American public - that the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is indeed to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of civilians last month, using banned chemical weapons like sarin gas.

As Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Wednesday, a military strike would hold the Assad regime accountable. Failure to act, on the other hand, would be "a grant of impunity."

Lawmakers can't micromanage a war, but they should embrace this moment to show that they can play a responsible role in decisions involving war. In a democracy, an "imperial presidency" should have limits.

--The Miami Herald, Sept. 5