NFL Retirees Go to Washington: Now What is Next ??

(Philadelphia, Pa) —Well the retired players took their fight to Congress, but we will have to wait and see who comes out the winner from the festivities. Several aging NFL retirees told Congress that playing professional football had left them with broken bodies, brain damage and empty bank accounts. Curt Marsh, an Oakland Raider from 1981-87, was one of the more compelling speakers talking about his leg amputation, more than 30 surgeries and multiple doctor visits before he was approved for disability payments. The retired players wanted everyone to know that the NFL and the NFLPA were not doing the right thing in terms of getting older retirees funds for disability from the league’s $1.1 billion pension fund. The lawmakers harped on the fact that the NFLPA only represents active players (no retiree representation) and that the union and NFL owners decide who sits on the panels that scrutinizes which retired players get disability payments. Congressmen took in all of the data and said they may get involved if a better pension and disability system isn’t created, which leaves a big ambiguous hole in the whole proceedings. But lets hope it does not get to that point. I am in agreement with NFL senior vice president Dennis Curran who said at the proceeding, “I don’t think a law change is necessary (for this problem)”

I believe the answer to this entire mess lies within the fractured family of current NFL players, NFL Retirees, NFL Officials, and the NFLPA. These entities need to figure out a better way for the large pension that is out there to be distributed equitably. When a past NFL great like Mike Ditka stands up and says “It’s right versus wrong,” and “It’s do the ethical thing or do the wrong thing. The NFL and NFLPA reported that $126 million a year goes into pension and post-career disability benefits for retired players and their families. They showed that their accounts pay out $60 million a year to those players, $20 million of it for disability payments. The big problem though is only 317 out of more than 10,000 eligible players are getting disability payments out of that fund, officials said. In order to make everyone whole, I am sure that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players President Troy Vincent, and NFLPA head Gene Upshaw will find a new way of spreading the pie out, so everyone can be fulfilled and the NFL can continue their joyride as the #1 sports entity in the world. For starters last week agreed to allow any former player who qualified as disabled under the Social Security system to be considered as disabled under the NFL-NFLPA system Another big hurdle will be the next time a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached between the NFL and it players, because disability benefits and pension systems are set during CBA negotiations. In the most recent collective bargaining agreement (2006), payments from the pension fund were raised by 25 percent for players who retired before 1982 and 10 percent for those who retired after 1982.

The main thing is that in 2011when the current CBA expires, younger players will need to realize that one day they too will be retirees. Instead of going for all current $$$ they will need to pressure their union (NFLPA) to stuff the coffers for their own future while aiding the players that built this game as well. We all know that the NFL and the Commish will help clean up their own house and not keep their head in the sand ala baseball. I like that the system has been investigated and that in the next few years this fight will most likely become more quiet and we can then concentrate on the play on the field.

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