The NFLPA’s Spin Doctor – Nolan Harrison III
Nolan Harrison III recently sent an email to NFLPA Former Players chapter presidents, designated representatives, Board of Directors, DeMaurice Smith and his staff. He said that “In the spirit of keeping things in our locker room, I would appreciate maintaining the privacy of this correspondence.”
Why wouldn’t he want to disclose his opinions on the meeting that George Martin attended at the NFLPA Former Player Convention? The NFLPA wants transparency…so let’s have it!
He didn’t send the email to me, but did he really expect his correspondence to stay in the locker room? What would he say about the member that released the information. Have they “crossed the line of player loyalty.”
As you know, those were the exact words that DeMaurice Smith used in a letter to describe George Martin. Mr. Smith implied that any player or organization that doesn’t fall exactly in line with the Union’s position is a scab. That took a lot of nerve coming from someone that never played a down of professional football and was never involved in a player strike.
Mr. Harrison stated in his email that “Our intention was to focus on the issues that could bring us together and not the personal issues that can divide us.”
Give me a break! From the very first day that George Martin took office, the NFLPA has made this personal. In an email to Mr. Martin, the NFLPA Assistant Director, Clark Gaines said “I know you have taken this position having been selected by the Owners as the head of the NFL Alumni.”
As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, George Martin was hired by the NFL Alumni members using the same process that the NFLPA used in its process to hire DeMaurice Smith. The only difference was that “former players” hired Mr. Martin and “active players” hired Mr. Smith.
With all of the NFLPA’s past rhetoric, I can understand why Mr. Martin may have felt a little defensive when the line of questioning turned to his “positions” on retired player issues. Instead of allowing Mr. Martin to explain and elaborate on some of the positions of the NFL Alumni, he was told that a simple yes or no would suffice.
In his email, Mr. Harrison III says that the meeting was in the same format as the NFL Alumni Chapter Presidents meeting that he, Cornelius Bennett and Jim McFarland attended. The only difference, he says, is that DeMaurice Smith was in attendance.
Just for everyone’s information, DeMaurice Smith was also invited to the NFL Alumni Chapter President’s meeting, but did not attend – and why is that? Was he afraid to stand before the NFL Alumni and explain why he believes that Mr. Martin has crossed the line of player loyalty? Was he afraid that George would break his damn neck?
If you remember, that is exactly what the previous NFLPA director said he would do to Joe DeLamielleure, because Joe wouldn’t fall in line with the Union and had the nerve to speak out against the injustices he saw being perpetrated on former players.
I don’t condone violence, but football is a violent sport, and I would pay anything to see George Martin and DeMaurice Smith put on the pads and go head-to-head. The game would be over before the coin toss.
George, to his credit, has taken the high road and has acted with dignity and honor in spite of the repeated attacks on his “loyalty” to retried players.
When George was questioned about the NFL Alumni’s financial ties to the NFL, I’m sure it started to raise his temperature, especially when the NFLPA has already told retired players the unadulterated lie that he was “hired” by the NFL. That would also imply that the owners also have the power to “fire” him. Just so everyone is clear on this issue, the owners do not have any authority whatsoever to hire or fire George Martin. In fact, that would be a violation of the laws that govern organizations like the NFL Alumni and the NFLPA that have Boards that make those decisions.
In his email, Nolan Harrison said that George Martin “surprisingly” said that the NFL Alumni received a 1.6 million dollar loan from the NFL. Who did that surprise? That’s common knowledge. Mr. Martin has never tried to hide what the NFL owners have done to assist the NFL Alumni, so obviously there is a financial tie. In fact, the NFLPA and DeMaurice Smith in particular, have continually told everyone that the NFL Alumni are “shills” of the owners because they receive money from the NFL.
What amazes me is that in Nolan Harrison’s very next statement he says that Mr. Martin repeatedly said the NFL Alumni has no financial ties with the NFL or NFL Properties.
Why would George Martin say that the owners gave the NFL Alumni 1.6 million and then turn around and say that the NFL has no financial ties to the NFL? That doesn’t make any sense…….unless you take it out of context and spin it the way Mr. Harrison did in his email.
What Mr. Martin was trying to convey to everyone at the meeting, is that the money the NFL Alumni receives from the NFL does not, and will not affect his decision making and his advocacy for retired players. Some retired players don’t believe that and they have been convinced by DeMaurice Smith and other NFLPA former player members that he would never say anything that would be contrary to, or detrimental to the wishes of the owners…..and especially their pocketbooks.
As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding.”
So let’s take a look at what George Martin and the NFL Alumni Board members have advocated for on behalf of retired players.
At the NFL Alumni Chapter Presidents winter meeting, George Martin and the NFL Alumni Board adopted two resolutions. One, calling on the NFL and the NFLPA to adopt a Rookie Wage Scale proposal that would increase alumni pensions by $100 million annually and the other, calling on the NFL and the NFLPA to adopt a Long Term Care Insurance benefit for NFL Alumni. Both of those proposals would cost the owners hundreds of millions of dollars.
When Jim McFarland, Cornellius Bennett and Nolan Harrison came to the NFL Alumni meeting where these “positions” were formally adopted, we didn’t ask them to tell us if they agreed with our position and then demand a yes or no answer.
In their presentation, they told us what the NFLPA and the Former Player membership were doing for retired players and they updated us on the status of the collective bargaining talks. After their presentation, we asked them some questions.
Before I asked my first question, I prefaced it by thanking them for coming and said we were pleased that we were finally opening up a dialogue between the two organizations. Before I could get out my first question, the room erupted in applause for Jim, Cornelius and Nolan because they took the time and effort to come and speak with us.
Now contrast that to the NFLPA meeting where George Martin was grilled for two hours and when he finally left the meeting room, they had a security detail waiting to escort him off the property!
After the NFLPA presented at the NFL Alumni Winter Meetings, Nolan, Cornelius and Jim were personally escorted by George Martin to lunch. George specifically requested that ‘work’ not be discussed because he wanted to spend time getting to know each other as men, husbands, fathers and former football players – not as representatives of their respective organizations. If Mr. Smith had the courage to come to the meeting, I’m sure George would have met with him face-to-face and even treated him to lunch. The NFL Alumni members have always encouraged this type of meeting.
So what do some of the NFLPA Former Player members feel about a meeting between George and DeMaurice?
George Martin has been told by numerous NFLPA Chapter Presidents in attendance at the meeting that George has not “‘earned the right” to meet directly with DeMaurice Smith. You can’t get any more disrespectful than that.
When you look at George’s past accomplishments (14 year NFL career, NFLPA President, Bryon Whizzer White Award – highest award given to player by the NFLPA), etc., it truly begs the question – Who has earned the right to meet directly with DeMaurice Smith?
In his email, Nolan Harrison III said they “pressed” George Martin to “name a benefit financed by the owners that was not fought for by current players to benefit former players.”
George was probably shocked to hear the NFLPA finally admit that retired players receive benefits from the owners!
For over two years now we have heard DeMaurice Smith publicly say that “individual owners and teams have spent exactly nothing on retired player benefits”. In a letter to George Martin, that was signed by Nolan Harrison and nine other NLPA Former Player members they said “We want to know why the teams contribute nothing to retired players and why $31[M] profit per club isn’t enough.”
DeMaurice Smith just recently made the following statement on WFAN radio “How much money do the NFL teams provide to the former player pensions? The answer is zero.”
Those are all direct quotes……and they are all lies! Lies that have been repeatedly told to the retired players, the fans, the media and the United States Congress. Well, maybe it’s time to have another hearing and have them say the same things….under oath!
When George Martin was the President of the NFLPA he fought for the benefits Mr. Harrison spoke about in his email. George Martin stood up for an entire generation of players that never received a pension and he brought home the bacon for all pre-1959 players!
As I already mentioned, George Martin also advocated for a Long Term Care insurance program for retired players – and we got it!
That benefit was not part of any Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NFLPA said they would not agree to split the cost of that benefit program because it didn’t cover every retired player. Well, what alternative plan did the NFLPA present? As DeMaurice Smith would say – the answer is zero!
Obviously, we would like to see all players covered under that benefit – and if the NFLPA had agreed to share the cost – we might have been able to do it. The good news is, there are now thousands of retired players that will receive that benefit and George Martin deserves more than a golf clap for his role in bringing that benefit to retired players.
George Martin has also advocated for reforms to the NFL Disability Plan, but in the letters that the NFLPA have sent to him asking for his support on numerous issues, not once have they mentioned anything about reforms to the Disability plan.
The specific proposal that Mr. Martin has advocated for – eliminating the 15 year deadline for filing a disability claim for football degenerative benefits – if implemented, could cost the NFL owners more than anything that has been proposed by the NFLPA.
The NFLPA and DeMaurice Smith are fighting hard to maintain benefits for current players – benefits that cost the owners approximately $400 Million annually – but when they were asked to share in the relatively small cost of the Long Term Care Insurance benefit for retired players, we got a goose egg. I want everyone to remember that – the next time Nolan Harrison asks the question “name a benefit financed by the owners that was not fought for by current players to benefit former players.”
That’s not the only benefit that retired players receive which are financed by the owners and were not fought for by current players in previous collective bargaining agreements.
In fact, a very close friend of Mr. Martin’s was instrumental in helping us get some of those benefits. His name is Harry Carson. As you all know, Harry was the first Hall of Fame player in the history of the induction ceremony in Canton to use a part of his speech to appeal to the NFLPA and the NFL to do more to help retired players.
His work on the “NFL Alliance” has helped provide other benefits to retired players that are not part of any collective bargaining agreement and are not required to be funded by the owners.
They include the following:
Joint Replacement Program: 167 former players were reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses associated with joint replacement surgery. Last year the NFL owner cost of this benefit was $309,968.
Medicare Supplement Program: 410 former players currently receive a $100 per month subsidy for an annual NFL contribution of $450,000.
Discount Prescription Drug Program: Under this benefit retired players had 40,094 prescriptions filled at a discounted price.
There are several other programs like the Spine Treatment Program and the Neurological Care Program that are financed by the owners. Players can apply for charitable grants provided through the NFL Player Care Foundation to pay for those services. Last year the Foundation paid out $2,340,000 to former players.
Again, active players didn’t fight for these benefits for retired players in their collective bargaining agreements.
In his email, Nolan Harrison also mentions my name and refers to a December 30, 2010 article I posted on the Fourth and Goal website entitled – NFL Alumni “Logo Trust Agreement” and the “Licensing Agent Agreement”. He says the agreement shows the NFL Alumni’s financial ties to the NFL.
As I mentioned before, no one has tried to hide the fact that the NFL Alumni receives funding from the NFL. The NFL Alumni has provided the kind of financial “transparency” that the NFLPA has asked from the owners.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Nolan and the NFLPA did the same thing for retired players?
How many of you have seen the Agreements that the NFLPA has with the NFL, NFL Properties or NFL Ventures?
Mr. Harrison III believes that the NFL controls the use of the NFL Alumni logo because the NFL Alumni have to get permission for certain uses of the logo. In many ways, this is no different than the NFLPA. The NFLPA cannot sign a sponsorship or licensing deal with a competing sponsor of the NFL (e.g. Coke, Ford). Part of the agreement between NFL Properties and NFL Players is that NFL Players will not leverage its logo and brand with interests that compete with the NFL; moreover, in exchange, NFL Properties pays the NFLPA a percentage of NFL sponsorship deals! The NFL directly supports NFL Players. No different than the NFL Alumni, except NFL Players gets millions of dollars.
NFL Properties also directly supports NFL Players because when the NFL signs a sponsorship deal, the sponsor must put money in a “NFL merchandise credit fund”. The sponsor must use this fund in a specific time period. The use of the monies is specifically for player activations (e.g. commercials, print advertising, autograph signings). Sponsors (by contract with the NFL) have to use NFL Players Inc. to get the players. And, of course, NFL Players Inc. pays millions (from NFL sponsors) to mostly active NFL players.
Mr. Harrison III is also convinced the NFL Alumni creates revenue for NFL owners through some aspect of the Logo Trust Agreement.
Even though the NFL Alumni Assistant Director, Ron George explained to Nolan and the entire body present at the NFLPA Retired Players Convention that there is no royalty or revenue-share component back to the NFL, his statements were dismissed. Ron George has offered to show Nolan the Logo Trust Agreement, but he has not taken him up on the offer, because then he could no longer make such absurd claims.
During the NFLPA Former Player meeting, Ron George also explained the history of the law suits between the NFL and NFL Alumni that led to the Logo Trust Agreement. That’s right folks the NFL Alumni had to sue the NFL owners to get the Logo Trust Agreement!
Before I close, I just want to say that I am not the self-proclaimed expert that Mr. Harrison says that I am in his email. I am just one, out of thousands of retired players, that want to see something substantial done for the players that helped build the NFL into the 9 Billion dollar enterprise we see today.
I personally enjoy the fact that we have two organizations that are competing for the hearts and minds……. and “benefits” for retired players. It would be nice to see both organizations come to a “complete consensus” on the issues, but let’s face it, that is never going to happen. We can agree to disagree, but even so, I sincerely believe that both the NFLPA and the NFL Alumni want to do what is best for retired players.
Both organizations have a somewhat different role to play in the retired player movement.
George Martin will ultimately be judged by what types of additional programs, services, marketing opportunities and yes – money – he can pry from the owners and business community to assist retired players. The NFL Alumni Board will ultimately judge his performance.
DeMaurice Smith will be judged by those same things…… and for what he can do to increase active player salaries and benefits. If he doesn’t bring home the bacon for them, the NFLPA active player Executive Committee will hand him his walking papers.
Make no mistake about it, Mr. Smith’s number one priority will be getting the active players what they want first….. and George Martin’s number one priority will be getting what retired players want first.
I think people should be judged – not by what they say – but what they do!
George Martin has already proved his mettle by getting the pre-1959 players a pension. He has also helped in securing the Long Term Care Insurance for former players.
The score is 2 to 0.
If you want to look at it in football terminology, DeMaurice Smith was sacked in the endzone for a safety by George Martin because he got slick and tried to do an “end around” to convince everyone that he has no loyalty to retired players.
As I said before, the proof is in the pudding!
To this point in the game, DeMaurice Smith has done absolutely nothing to increase retired player pensions, reform the disability plan, or provide any additional benefit for retired players.
Until he does…..the jury is still out.
Let’s see Nolan Harrison III “Spin” that.