Retired Players Need A Bullet Point!

In a March 19, 2011 letter to Roger Goodell, the former Executive Director of the NFL Players Association,  DeMaurice Smith responded to the owner’s final proposal to the active players.

That’s right, I said former NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, because he – and the now defunct NFL Players Association – no longer represent active players.   As he states in the letter, class counsel in the Brady litigation now represent the players, with the NFLPA and its Executive Committee serving as advisors to any settlement discussions.

Shouldn’t DeMaurice Smith be saying that the NFL Players Trade Association is serving as an adviser, and shouldn’t he be writing his letter on NFL Players Trade Association letterhead, instead of using the NFLPA letterhead?

I guess the urge to continue representing the active players will be a difficult habit to break.

You may have noticed that the letter says nothing about representing retired players.  In fact, there is not one mention about retired players in any of 14 bullet point statements he makes in his letter to Roger Goodell.

For the past two years, DeMaurice Smith has been telling us that he represents us at the bargaining table, so why wouldn’t he give us at least one bullet.

Goodell and the owners gave a simplified version of their final proposal to the NFLPA and one of their bullet points said:

  • Owner funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2,000 former players by nearly 60 percent.

Last Friday, DeMaurice said “…do you have a deal if you don’t like half the points that have been presented to you? You don’t.   It’s not even probably, you don’t.”

DeMaurice Smith does not like the owners overall economic proposal, but shouldn’t he at least say what he DOES LIKE about the NFL’s proposal – if anything?  Is there something he DOESN’T LIKE about the NFL’s proposal to boost retired player pensions?

There are some things I don’t like about it.

I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t cover all pre-1993 vested players – something that both the Union and the Owners said they were committed to doing.  The proposal said that more than 2,000 former players would be covered by the increase. That is far short of the 5,551 vested players that have at least one credited season before 1993.

When the retired players hold their NFLPA sponsored convention in Florida this week, they need to ask DeMaurice Smith if he will honor the retired player resolution that stated the following:

RESOLVED, that the NFLPA Former Player membership expresses its full support for the active NFLPA membership in their demand during their CBA negotiations that the NFL and its member Clubs establish a Legacy Fund for Former Players to be funded by 2% of the profits generated by the NFL and its member clubs each year; and that the Legacy Fund be used to increase the pensions of all Former Players who have a credited season before 1993 and who are currently receiving a pension by an additional $2,000 per month.

For many retired players, the wording of the resolution made it sound like the pension increase would only be given to retired players “currently” receiving pensions.

I was assured by Ray Schoenke – the retired player who proposed the original motion for the resolution – that the intent of the resolution was to provide increases for all pre-1993 vested players.  In an email to me, Mr. Shoenke said that “Prior to attending the Convention, I did a fair amount of research on this subject, having discussions with DeMaurice, NFLPA staff, and league officials. The motion was unanimously supported. As the process moved forward the minutes of the Convention were published, along with the Legacy Resolution. The qualification criterion was different than what was proposed. The motion qualification criterion that I made was for “pre ’93 vested players”.  At my insistence, follow up conference calls with Chapter Presidents were held to clarify the motion as well as to discuss follow up steps for the Resolution. “

I posted this information in a Fourth and Goal article that can be read at this link: NFL Legacy Fund Resolution is “Resolved”.

After clarifying that issue, I conducted some research and found that there were 5,510 vested players that had at least one credited season before 1993. Here is a link to the article where I discuss this issue: How many former NFL players would receive the proposed increase in Pensions?

So why does the owner’s proposal only cover 2,674 players?  What about the other 2,877 retired players who have at least one credited season before 1993? Did DeMaurice Smith tell the owners that this was unacceptable?

The big question for retired players is this:  Will DeMaurice Smith fight as hard for our benefits as he will for active player benefits?

I certainly hope so.

I would probably have more faith in him if – during the convention – he made a public statement supporting a $2,000 increase in all pre 1993 retired player pensions.

Unfortunately, the last time he said something about this, it was not even close to what the retired players asked for in the resolution.

In an interview with SB Nation Mr. Smith said “I’ve said every team should make a contribution of at least a million dollars a year for a total of $32 million a year for what I would call the legacy fund. That legacy fund should go to all the player’s pensions who played prior to 1993 and that would increase all their pensions by, get this, $1,000 per month.”

That is only half of what was called for in the resolution.  Needless to say, that statement did not sit well with a lot of retired players.

As I mentioned before, DeMaurice Smith did not mention retired players even once in his letter……. but he did talk about rookies and said “As our player leadership told you and the owners time and again during the negotiations, the current players would not sell out their future teammates who will be veterans in a few short years.”

I hope the NFL and the active players don’t sell out the retired players either……..especially since we have already donated our blood, sweat and tears to a game and a business that has brought both of them considerable wealth and prosperity.


About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on March 20, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Keep up the good work Jeff. Your voice is much appreciated by the “former” players and we all support the call for clarification and substantial increased pension benefits for those that paved the way for the current owners, players, and their respective leadership. It is not only morally proper but imperative that the “current” group remembers who paid the price and put them in the position they now enjoy. Looking forward to a cooperative effort by NFL management and the players leadership.

  2. I don’t think any one would be that stupid to take an increase ONLY for the pre ’93 guys that are collecting. That leaves alot of guys flat under the bus. This is completely insane. Where do I start collecting then.

  3. Jeff, are you guys not saying that Bernie’s “match MLB,” that started us all down this path,really should include all of our unvested men now? If so, welcome aboard.


    • Bob:

      I have always advocated for equality in the pension plan. At the very least, ALL retired players should be vested after three credited seasons not just guys that played from 1993 and forward. It would be great if the NFL and NFLPA would mimic what baseball has done and include all players from 1982 and forward in a plan that gives them a pension after only 43 games. In reality, there’s enough money to give everyone that ever played a down in the NFL a least some type of pension.

  4. Now we are talking about something substantive!!! We cannot allow the NFLPA to exclude us any longer. They’ve forgotten the players who went on strike in 87 and 82, many of us received nothing from those debacles. But from that came free agency and a huge escalation in compensation for the players. Yet many of us who walked the picket lines have not received anything!!! No gratitude for our sacrifices that culminated in huge windfalls for both the owners and players and of course for the union presidents (past and present),who receive annual compensation that exceeds the total career earnings of most of the players in our era. We have a pension that is pitiful at best, for the retired players of the highest grossing, most popular sports entity in the world, the NFL. Both the NFL owners and the NFLPA should be ashamed that this situation exists for those who paved the road for what the league has become today.

  5. $2000 increase for the pre-93ers sounds like a good starting point. But for all, not just the ones who are presently collecting. With the cash in this league it should be $5 grand increase. Even that wouldn’t touch baseball. We’ll get the shaft again. No doubt.

  6. Jeff,

    I, too, read Mr. Smith’s letter wondering, as I turned from page one to page two and finally to page three, reading bullet point after bullet point, just where the pre-1993 retiree points were. After all, Mr. Smith signed his email in caps “ONE TEAM”. And there was mention of THE AGENT’S TEAM, you know, those guys still in college who haven’t played a down like Mr. Smith.

    Well we didn’t merit a bullet point. No mention of even a dime of pension increase. Not a word about finally creating a legal disability plan including John Hogan’s necessary improvements such as where those players who have been declared disabled by Social Security after taking the puny NFL pension can now qualify even though they didn’t qualify before the month of the tiny “window”.

    And how about lifetime medical benefits for us? I guess that’s only for Drew and the young fellas.

    Reading this letter on the old union stationary, it’s difficult not to observe the apparent cynicism. “One Team” Mr. Smith? The fact that you didn’t include one word about us says it all.

    We are not going away, and any CBA that doesn’t include better than MLB pensions for all who played and are paying the physical toll, a legal and fair disability plan and some provision for medical will be an invitation to major litigation from the part of your “ONE TEAM” that you and the NFL owners appear to once again be shafting.

    Bruce Jarvis

  7. Now that the PA is no longer the PA, by what authority now does Robert Smith serve on the NFL Disability Board? And who is in charge now of the Bert Bell Pension Plan? I’m just wondering…

    • Good question! The Retirement Board is still operated by the people appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA. They have independent jurisdiction over the Plan and it will continue to operate.

      This raises another question. Who replaces Dave Duerson?

  8. There are so many of us out there that have had bad experiences during our playing days and to have the senior years be physically and financially devastating as well, is a travesty. Where is their humanity? Owners, Current Players and their Representatives the NFLPA, I would say OUR Representatives, but hell we don’t even rate a Bullet Point.
    It certainly is disappointing to say the least when you think of the energy that went into getting the NFL so far as 9 billion dollars of revenue. All of the guys that put their lives on the line yesterday so that the players of today and tomorrow can experience WEALTH. The OWNERS can take care of Generation of their families, Rookies can walk into multi million dollar contracts not play a down – and be millionaires AND NEVER PLAY. Agents can reap the rewards and never have played a down… AND THE REAL PLAYERS THE RETIRED PLAYERS, THEIR HEARTS AND SOULS AND BODIES ARE BROKEN DOWN…..BUT NOT WE’RE OUT..WE AINT GOIN NOWHERE…WE’RE GOING TO BE IN YOUR FACE AND YOU’LL HERE FROM ALL OF US!!!!!

  9. How do we elect Jeff Nixon to represent us?

  10. I am sure this is a stretch. But, if I was a rookie and association leadership agreed to a wage scale that reduced my earnings and freedom – why would I vote to retain that leadership once I was in the trade/union?

    All those rookies have a memory and will be voting one day. Someone needs to keep them on One Team. Wouldn’t take many years to have a majority of unhappy ex-rookies determining the next non-player leadership team.

    Will the juniors that declared for the NFL early get any condideration if there is no 2011 season? They too could be unhappy voters in the system in a few years.

    We have bigger fish to fry.

    The key issue for me is fighting for everyone who played to get pension!


    • Rick,
      The only way there will be money available for pensions for everyone – without the owners paying the entire cost (aint gonna happen)- is if they can stop the crazy practice of paying untested rookies outragesous sums of money. They might not get a fortune up front, but the money will be there when they prove themselves as veterans, and perhaps more importantly, the pension money will be there to provide for their lifetime security.

  11. I don t hear much if any about retirement dollars for men who only played one year. Many because of injuries.

  12. I don’t know Duersens replacement’s first name but I think that his last is McCoullough, or something like that.

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