What does the collapse of CBA negotiations mean for retired players?
As I watched and listened to the NFL and NFLPA press conferences last Friday, all I could think about was how this would impact on retired players and our calls for a better pension, disability plan reforms and other benefits.
From all the reports we were getting, it appeared that the two sides had come to some terms on the Rookie Wage Scale – with improvements to the pension plan – but we also knew that none of that really mattered if they couldn’t come to an agreement on all the other issues – the biggest one being how the 9 Billion revenue pie would be split up.
I wonder if the Union and DeMaurice Smith had any intention of negotiating a fair labor agreement – or was it their plan all along to fight this in the courts?
As a condition of extending the CBA talks, the Union demanded that the owners provide 10 years of audited financial statements by 4 pm. That was the deal killer and they knew it.
Writer David Haugh, from the Chicago Tribune said that if DeMaurice Smith “showed as much interest in making a deal as he seemed to have in making history, perhaps we would be debating who got the best of whom in the new collective bargaining agreement.” You can read his article at this link: Union chief’s ego gets in way as he overplays hand.
So what does all this mean for NFL Alumni?
The owners proposed an $82 Million annual contribution to the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan that would have provided a 60% increase in pre-1993 retired player pensions.
The proposal would have ultimately affected about 5,551 former players.
For most of the 2,674 players that are currently receiving pensions, this could have made an immediate difference in their quality of life. For a player receiving a $1,000 monthly payment, an extra $600 in their monthly benefit would have been a godsend – especially in today’s economy.
We’re not sure how the increase would have affected the 1,372 players that took early retirement, but we hope that in any final agreement, these players are not penalized again by the method of allocation that has been used in the past.
Everytime the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to increase pensions, they’ve done it on a percentage basis and so the the players that took the early retirement – at a reduced amount – received much smaller increases in their pensions.
Some players also took the social security option and as a result, they are receiving as little as $200 or less in their monthly pension. A 60% increase would only result in an additional $120 a month for those former players. Rather pathetic, wouldn’t you agree? Something must be done to correct that injustice.
Why are former players treated this way?
Jason Keidel from CBS Sports made this profound statement regarding the breakdown in CBA talks between the NFL and NFLPA “What all of them forget is that their product was birthed by the sweat of their forefathers, from Halas to Rooney to Mara to Unitas; from John Mackey to Paul and Jim Brown to Vince Lombardi. 111 million people watched the last Super Bowl – a name bestowed our greatest game by another prescient ancestor, Lamar Hunt – on the backs of crippled men with no pension and no future. John Mackey must beg for a few bucks to get health care. Have you seen Earl Campbell lately? Mike Webster died homeless and helpless, living under a bridge. Dave Duerson committed suicide, presumably because of the aggregate blows to his head after a long NFL career. Tragically, these men are ignored.” You can read the full article at this link: NFL lockout: The line between need and greed
It can’t be said any better than that!
Retired players are concerned that the longer it takes the NFL and NFLPA to reach an agreement, the less money there will be for retired player pensions.
On January 15, 2010 George Martin said “We appreciate that the owners months ago initiated a proposal to significantly increase pensions for retired players immediately in the current deal for 2010. This would get help to retired players this year even without the NFL and NFLPA agreeing to a new deal whether in spirit or in principle. I am told this increase would be $100 million starting out. This would be tremendous for retired players. I hope the union will consider this proposal, as it will benefit retired players immediately, while not impacting their task of negotiating a new long term labor agreement for active players.”
The Union did not seriously consider the owners proposal and even criticized Mr. Martin when they issued a statement from some former players – including Jean Fuggett, a past President of the NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee stating “Individual owners and teams have spent exactly nothing on retired player benefits.”
That was a flat out lie. If you want to see what the owners have spent on retired player benefits just click on this link: Retired Players Scorecard. It is amazing to me that the NFLPA could actually find retired players that would be willing to circulate some of these falsehoods.
The NFLPA currently has two (2) retired player representatives that have been at the bagaining table alongside the active player leadership. For those of you who are not familiar with them, they are Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett. I have a tremendous amount of respect for both of them, but unfortunately they are co-signing the same misinformation that previously came out of the NFLPA.
In a recent letter from DeMaurice Smith, Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett, they invite George Martin to attend the NFLPA Former Players Convention on March 22 – 24. In preparation for the meeting they ask Mr. Martin if he would be prepared to discuss the NFL Alumni Association’s stance on several issues. In question number 5 they ask if the NFL Alumni Association supports Congresswoman Linda Sanchez’s call for a Legacy Fund financed by the NFL clubs? They go on to say “As we have repeatedly brought to your attention since November 10, 2009 no NFL team contributes to a Pension.”
There they go again…..recycling the same garbage that has been circulated over and over again. Last year the owners contributed over $166.7million to the pension fund. Over $63 million was paid out to retired players currently receiving a pension. Here is a link to a copy of the NFL Player Retirement Plan. Please go to Section 3 – Contributions, and read it for yourself. It is the employers – the NFL owners – that make the contribution to the Pension Plan. It is as clear as day, but that hasn’t stopped them from making this absurd claim. The Pension Plan is collectively bargained, which means owners and the Union have to agree on how much to contribute. In the last CBA, both sides agreed that if the owners opted out of the CBA early, they would not have to make any additional contributions to the pension for current players and that is a good reason to get back to the table. Nonetheless, they still have an obligation to continue funding the plan for all players that have qualified for a pension.
By the way, George Martin has already gone on the record in support of a Legacy Fund. The owners asked the NFLPA to split the cost of the fund, but the Union said no to a $16 million contribution. One question that isn’t asked in the letter is “Do you support a Rookie Wage Scale with a $100 Million contribution to pre-1993 player pensions?” The NFL Alumni supports that proposal. Does the NFLPA?
Make no mistake – it is the NFL owners and the Retirement Board who are “liable” for making adequate contributions to the plan on an annual basis, whether we have NFL football next season or not! That’s a good reason for the owners to get back to the table too!
It would be interesting to know what Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett feel about the recent breakdown in negotiations and how they think it will effect our calls for an increase in retired player pensions, please send them an email and ask them.
Cornelius Bennett: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim McFarland: email@example.com