Retired Players Need Clarity on Proposed Pension Plan Increase
On March 22, Roger Goodell met with the NFL owners in New Orleans.
NFL Alumni Executive Director, George Martin was invited to speak to the owners and present the concerns of retired players.
After the meeting, Roger Goodell made the following statement about Mr. Martin’s message to the owners.
“This is the fourth time he’s addressed the ownership in the last year and a half or so, and he is a tremendous advocate for the men who played the game. He makes that very clear. You can hear it in the passion. You can hear it in how strongly he feels about making sure we do the right things for retired players. The ownership has heard from George four times. Mike Ditka has addressed the ownership. This is an important issue for us, and in the proposal that the ownership gave last Friday to the union, or 10 days ago, there were significant improvements in benefits for retired players, including a 60 percent increase in pension payments for pre-1993 players. So there are some real things that need to be addressed. The ownership continues to address those things outside of collective bargaining by improving some of the medical programs we have, but we need to, again, get into the negotiations and make sure we get those improvements done, and he wants to make sure that happens.”
The retired players are fortunate to have a strong leader like George Martin advocating for us, but as I mentioned in a prior posting, the owners proposal does not cover all the vested players that have at least one credited season before 1993 and it would help if Mr. Martin could get the owners to provide some clarification on exactly who would be affected by this proposed increase.
The owners say that more than 2,000 players would be getting a 60% increase, but that is a far cry from the 5,551 players that are vested and have at least one credited season before 1993.
When they eventually get back to the table, the NFL owners and the NFLPA need to make sure they are covering all the players that played before 1993, not just those that are currently receiving pension checks. That would be unfair to the former players that went on strike in 1982 and 1987 and are not yet collecting their pensions. Those player strikes accomplished more than most people realize. For the first time in the history of the NFL the Union was finally able to get full financial disclosure of all player salaries, which continues to be extremely helpful when players and their agents negotiate contracts with the owners. We set the minimum wage scale which is still being used to this day. We were finally allowed second medical opinions on our injuries and we didn’t have to have the surgery performed by the team physician. We increased the Pension plan funding and we laid the foundation for what eventually came – anti-trust lawsuits that forced the owners to give us free agency in exchange for the Salary Cap!
There are about 1,000 players age 45 to 54 that have not opted to take early retirement at age 45. There are also approximately 500 players age 55 to 64 that have deferred their retirement and are waiting to take it at age 65 – because it almost triples.
And what about players that took the Social Security election and are now receiving a monthly pension of less than $200 a month? The Pension Plan saved a lot of money when these players made the unfortunate decision to take that “benefit”.
In letter to the NFLPA and the League, Hall of Fame player, Ron Mix estimated that he has been penalized $68,000 by taking that benefit.
A source close to the talks told me that when the owners asked DeMaurice Smith what the union would like to do for these men, he said he would not commit until an entire package that includes active player benefits and salaries is agreed upon.
That’s understandable, but couldn’t he at least agree on what population of players would receive an increase?
If the NFL and NFLPA agree to increase pensions only for the players that are currently receiving a pension, it could have the unintended consequence of enticing a large number of players to file for an earlier retirement in order to be eligible.
Both Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith have told retired players that they want to increase pensions for pre-1993 players by “at least” $1,000 per month.
Many of the players that have deferred their retirement until age 65 might decide to start collecting their pensions in order to be eligible for the “proposed” $1,000 monthly increase. If these players did this, they would benefit immediately, but it would also reduce the payment they would have received if they waited until age 65.
It’s time for both the NFL and the NFLPA to clarify their statements and tell us just exactly who would receive a monthly pension increase under each of their proposals. They can work out the money later, but at this stage of the game, we should at least have a framework for who would benefit from a pension increase.
Will they do that? Probably not. That way, if a CBA is signed and it doesn’t take care of all pre-1993 players, they can still point fingers at each other and blame the other side. Retired players won’t know who is telling the truth because it will all be done behind closed doors.
It’s known as plausible deniability – and retired players are victims every time. That’s because we can never get them to go “on the record” with their true positions on the issues that affect us………. like our quest to have changes to the NFL Disability Plan.
Although retired players have pushed for specific changes in the current disability plan, no one really knows exactly what – if anything – has been proposed. The things that would make the biggest impact on retired players; things like eliminating the 15 year time frame for filing a claim for “football degenerative” benefits – hasn’t been mentioned even once in any of the press releases, bullet points, letters to the editors, or website postings that the NFL and NFLPA use to get out their message.
This is a dirty, dark secret that hangs over the NFL and NFLPA like a fog that no one wants to talk about. They see it…..they know it’s there…….but they just walk right through it like it doesn’t exist.
It reminds me of the movie “The 10 Commandments” when the fog rolls into town to take the first born of every family that doesn’t have the blood sacrifice painted on their door. But in this movie………the fog is killing those that have sacrificed their blood at the doorstep of the NFL.
Retired players need clarity. We need the sun to shine down on the truth and the wind to blow away all the rhetoric about how much the NFL and NFLPA care about the pioneer players.
It’s time for them to put their money where their mouths are.