NFL Legacy Benefit leaves widows and beneficiaries on the sidelines
A November 11, 2011 letter from the NFL Commissioner stated that “Current benefit payments to retirees and their beneficiaries/former family members will be increased to no less than $600 per month……”
It goes on to say that “In addition to the floor of $600 per month, the new Legacy Benefit will be added to your current monthly pension payment.”
Based on that wording, many people were under the impression that all widows and beneficiaries would receive survivor benefits under the new Legacy Fund.
Unfortunately, we have been informed that this is not the case.
Widows and beneficiaries are not eligible for the Legacy Fund survivor benefits if their husband died before August 4, 2011. The benefit is only available to the wives and beneficiaries of players that die after August 3, 2011.
John Mackey must be looking down from heaven and wondering WTF is going on. He died on July 6, 2011 - just 28 days too soon for his wife, Sylvia Mackey to receive the Legacy survivor benefit.
Excluding the wives and children of players that died before August 4, 2012 is a travesty.
In a January 23. 2012 email to NFLPA ExecutiveDirector DeMaurice Smith, Sylvia said “Not one single person to whom I have spoken can give me any logical reason why this is right. Am I missing something here? Why can’t anyone come up with a logical answer.” She went on to ask him “Who is going to go broke, suffer, or be deprived of anything if the RIGHT thing is done. I can see why years of service (vested) could be a reason, but the date of death of a Legend should not be a reason for elected benefits to be denied to their loved ones who suffered the agony of seeing them die before August 4, 2011.”
Together, Sylvia and John Mackey pressured the NFL to investigate the connection between player concussions and the onset of dementia. After the “88 Plan” became reality, Sylvia Mackey said, “I told John he has become the poster child for a solution to this problem. His greatness on the football field is always going to be his biggest legacy. But this is No. 2.”
After his death, DeMaurice Smith said “ John Mackey has inspired me and will continue to inspire our players and define our institution. His unwavering loyalty to our mission and his exemplary courage will never be forgotten.”
Commissioner Goodell said, “John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field. He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined his position. John was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association.”
I thought the children and families that helped many of these players with the debilitating injuries they suffered during their pro football careers would also benefit from their Legacy.
I thought wrong.
It’s just my opinion, but I think the NFL and the NFL Players Association need to review their decision to deny this benefit to surviving widows and beneficiaries of players that died before August 4, 2011. None of the retired player advocates that sat in the meeting with Roger Goodell knew that this was in the “fine print” of the Legacy Benefit.
In reference to this issue, NFL Alumni Executive Director George Martin said “I am appalled and dismayed regarding the Legacy Fund survivors benefit omission. Currently we are pursuing measures to address this gross inequity with full Board support. The Board is willing to make this one of our key cornerstone issues during this year’s 2012 engagement with both the League as well as the NFLPA. I have asked Sylvia Mackey to join me on the podium during my Super Bowl press conference to emphasize the point.”
For the record, I’m not suggesting that the $620 Million in funding for the Legacy Benefit be further diluted to fund the cost of grandfathering in all of the widows and beneficiaries, but I am suggesting that they find additional funding to help them in some other way.
The additional money could come from the 22 million – plus 5% annual increase ($250 million over 10 years) that the NFLPA has at its discretion for retired player benefits, but I would prefer to see it come from a new source of revenue.
It may be impossible at this point to build this survivor benefit into the existing Legacy Benefit, so the only other option would be a lump sum payment or some other form of payment that recognizes the contributions of the wives of these pioneer players.
The NFLPA discretionary funding should go to whatever benefit, or benefits a majority of former players feel it should go to……. and it should be done in an open, transparent, democratic way that allows for the input of all former players.
I just hope that when it’s all said and done, we haven’t forgotten the wives and children of the former players who laid the foundations of the NFL.