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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Healthcare for NFL Retirees Is Not About Owing

The class-action complaint presented by a group of retired players in Federal District Court in Minneapolis against the teams, the NFL, the Brady v. N.F.L. Players association, and DeMaurice Smith is not as threatening or vicious as it seems. The suit claims the current players and the association are "conspiring to depress the amounts of pension and disability benefits to be paid to former NFL players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current NFL players." This weekend Sporting News Radio host Peter Brown spoke on why retired players feel like they are owed money from current players and the league. He specifically noted that it's not the current players fault retired players didn't put money away, were to busy buying cars and houses, living the extravagant lifestyle and even compared the incomes of household Americans to NFL players salaries  Although I understand the angle Mr. Brown was taking, In my opinion it is a misrepresentation of what is really the issue.

First and foremost, I am a fan of Sporting News Radio host Peter Brown. I listen to him often and appreciate his views and opinions on the many different topics he covers. He has a vast amount of knowledge and often produces credible facts to support his opinions. In respect to Mr.Brown I think he missed the overall picture of why the suit was filed. If you do or don't know, I am a former player in the NFL of 11 years. I do consider the ramifications of the damage that has been done to my body, and I signed up for it knowing those risks. I also have no regrets about it. 

The suit was not filed by the retired players to specify they are owed something. It was filed on the premis they have been excluded from negotiations  specifically to issues dealing with them as a whole. To some degree they have validity considering the District Court combined the retired players suit with the Brady suit. I am not fully aware of all laws pertaining to this subject, however, logic would tell me that if the suits are combined then the retired players should be allowed representation at the negotiations as well. In my opinion, the retired players should be represented apart from the NFLPA by the Retired Players Association anyway. It is ridiculous to think that retired players and their well being would be at the forefront or even the middle of present collective bargaining agreements. For those of you that don't know, the NFL is a cut throat business. With the exception of a small group of people, no one really cares, no one has loyalty. It is also sensible to understand the feelings behind the suit as they watch owners and players argue over 9 billion dollars and wonder what portion if any are they to receive. 

Brown brought up the point why NFL players or profesional athletes should be any different from the average American. I couldn't agree with him more. For example, the average American can file for workers comp, NFL players can not. Average Americans are able to work in the state they live in,relocate elsewhere for a specific duty, regardless of the length of time, and are only taxed in the state which they work. In the NFL, every state a player sets foot in, even for two days, they are taxed in those states and in the state of their employer. Another example is UPS. If an employee is injured, they pay for  medical expenses for maximum recovery of the employee, lost wages, and LIFETIME medical benefits for the pertained injury. Also, if an employee is not able to return and work in the current position because of the injury, UPS will pay to retrain the employee for a different position in the company or a different field of work all together. Based on that information I would certainly think professional athletes would not want to be any different. The expected response to my points of course will always be "professional athletes make millions of dollars." Of course some do, but not as much as one would think. That's another topic for another time. 

Another point Brown expressed was the comparing of NFL player salaries to salaries of the average American in 1960. There is no one determinant of what players and the average American salary is or was, especially during that time. Data collecting and sources are no where near as accurate or as credible as now. Those numbers are skewed on both fronts because there is always a small percentage of either players or employees in corporations that change that number dramatically. Even now, if the average American salary is $70K, realistically that number is more like $35K because CEO's like Lloyd Blankfein collect salaries and bonuses of $100 million dollars in a years time. In my opinion using that as a determinate of the gap in salaries can't be fully supported. Think about this, supposedly the average player salary in the 1950's was $6000, the minimum starting in 1970 was $9000. Because of possible inaccurate  information, the number in 1960 can't be fully supported. 

In my opinion, both the retired and the current players should be united on this front. It has already been determined that money will be set aside for retired players, but what is important is the actual number itself. Whatever is decided for retired players now vastly affects the current players who will retire in the future. The healthcare system in place now has only increased for what it costs for medical care. There have been great advancements in technology and medicine, but the reality for now is it will only increase. The current players will have injuries and ailments just like myself and many other former players. For the risks players endure for this game, for families, fans, and the owners, it should definitely be addressed. If the league continues to use the likeness of players both former and present, and continue to be adamant about how players of the past fought and contributed to the growth of the NFL, then putting in place something that helps them with healthcare should not be an issue. Retired players are not owed, it was earned. 









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