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NFL Ends Deal with Riddell, Players Have More Choices When It Comes to Helmet Protection

The 2013-14 season will be the last to feature Riddell as the official helmet of the NFL. As the league has become increasingly focused on concussions over the last few years, NFL officials have been concerned about the implication of selling exclusive branding rights to one helmet company over another. (ESPN.com, NFL, Riddell ending helmet deal, October 25, 2013)

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league agreed in 1989 to give Riddell rights to be the official helmet of the NFL. Players can wear any helmet they want as long as it complies with prescribed standards, but Riddell is the only company name that can appear on the helmet’s nose bumper. Roughly one-third of the league’s players who don’t use a Riddell helmet must black-out the nose bumper plate. Riddell currently pays for this privilege as part of their partnership with the league. *

“We are proud of our relationship with the NFL,” Riddell said in a statement to ESPN.com, acknowledging for the first time publicly that the deal would end. “We are also very proud of the fact that year after year a majority of NFL players choose to wear Riddell helmets — a true testament to our relentless efforts to protect athletes. 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 of our nation’s elite football players.” McCarthy also said that, “In 2014, no helmet maker will have exclusive right to display a name on NFL helmets.” (The Morning Journal, Riddell name coming off NFL helmets, October 28, 2013)

The decision was largely based on the heat the NFL has experienced in recent years regarding concussions. While the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with former players on its concussion litigation earlier this year, many former players are still suing Riddell. Those players claim the helmet manufacturer overemphasized how much the helmet could prevent brain injury.

“Giving exclusive rights to one helmet company over another makes the NFL more vulnerable and opens them up to even greater liability. Even if they allowed players to wear another manufacturer’s helmet, such as Schutt, Xenith, or Rawlings, they were still endorsing Riddell and its products. There’s a reason that two-thirds of players chose that brand of helmets,” says Frank Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.

“The players and the NFL are finally paying attention to the importance of protecting players against concussions and a host of other injuries that can cause long-term damage. Players need to protect themselves – through the helmets they choose and investing in private disability insurance to protect their financial future and earning potential.”

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