Challenge to the NFLPA: Put it in writing to retired players!

NFLPA Former Player Executive Committee representative, Jim McFarland sent an email (attached below my comments) to a number of retired players. In it, he talked about what the owners did and didn’t say during the negotiations and the mediation sessions. He also asked NFL Alumni Leaders, to hold the NFL accountable for the NFL’s “alleged” promises to:

1.    Provide a new pension supplement averaging 60%, not out of the salary cap monies allocated to players, but out of their owner funds to be added to the Bert Belle Defined Benefit Plan.

2.    Provide that the “alleged” $300 Million in savings from the proposed new rookie pay system be divided equally so that $150 Million is guaranteed by the NFL owners to be allocated to fund benefits for former (retired) players.

3.    Provide that the owner contribution to the legacy fund be funded by $50 million per year for the entire 10-year term of the contract, not just $82 million for the first two years.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I have to assume that Jim McFarland supports those three proposals, since he is advocating for the owner’s to be held accountable for putting them in writing to retired players, but unfortunately he is putting words in their mouths that were never in the letter to retired players.

Nowhere in the letter did they “promise” to divide the $300 million in savings from the proposed new rookie pay system to fund benefits for former players. That was something that me and several other retired players have been recommending.

Nowhere in the letter did they “promise” to contribute $50 million per year to a Legacy Fund.

What is interesting to note, is that if the NFLPA and the active players did split the $300 million down the middle, it could provide $100 million for the pension plan and $50 million for a Legacy Fund for the entire term of the next CBA.

It is also important to know that the proposals in the April 4, 2011 letter from Jerry Richardson and Mark Murphy were not contingent upon NFL Alumni leadership support.

NFL Alumni Executive Director, George Martin does not sit at the bargaining table with the owners, but nonetheless, Mr. McFarland states in his email “NFL Alumni leaders, I am depending on you for these guarantees.” 

The NFL Alumni can’t guarantee anything and Jim McFarland and the NFLPA are well aware of that fact!

Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett are the only retired players that sit at the negotiating table with active players, but unfortunately even they can’t guarantee anything because when it comes right down to it – only the active players can vote and agree on anything that is proposed by the owners.

Regardless of what was said in the negotiation sessions, the NFL owners have now told the world – IN WRITING – what they are “proposing” to do for retired players.  We still need some clarification on some of the things they said, but it is important to know that even the NFL owners can’t “guarantee” or “promise” anything unless the active players agree to it!

The NFLPA has consistently told us that George Martin doesn’t represent retired players in CBA negotiations, so why are they now asking him for guarantees from the owners? That makes absolutely no sense at all………unless you realize what is really happening here.

The NFLPA is trying to use George Martin as a scapegoat for their failure to negotiate better pensions and benefits for retired players.

George Martin has no vote on the CBA – just like the other 13,000 retired players that are watching and hoping the NFLPA and owners do the right thing.  Nonetheless, DeMaurice Smith has done a superb job of demonizing Mr. Martin and getting his troops to believe that he is the enemy and can’t be trusted.

Yes, Mr. Martin has communicated with the owners and he has asked them on numerous occasions to assist retired players in wide variety of ways, but when it comes to the CBA, all he can do is advocate for retired players. He has done that.  He has also done a remarkable job restoring the credibility of the NFL Alumni.

I wish that the NFLPA Former Player Chapter members would give George Martin the same respect that they have given DeMaurice Smith. I personally like the fact that we have a former player heading up the NFL Alumni Association and a Lawyer heading up the active players and the NFLPA. At this critical time, it is important to have someone well versed in the law heading up the negotiations with owners. It is also important to have a former player that has “been where we have been” heading up the retired player’s organization.           

Mr. Martin clearly outlined his advocacy role in an email to all NFLPA Chapter Presidents and the NFL Alumni website has specifically indicated what the Alumni members top priorities are for retired players.

Mr. Martin has asked the NFL owners for some clarification on their recent written proposals, but he can only do so much……………Now it is time for the active players and DeMaurice Smith to step up to the plate and make decisions on what they are willing to do for former players. The football is in their court!

I don’t speak for George Martin and the NFL Alumni, but as a member of the organization I have been given the distinct honor and privilege of posting information and my own opinions on what I think is important regarding retired player concerns and issues.

I will be the first to admit that I have been more critical of the NFLPA then the NFL, but only because the NFLPA claims to represent our interests at the bargaining table.

Unfortunately, those interests sometimes clash with the interests of active players.

The owners have never claimed to be our representative in CBA talks. That is not to say that the owners have been deaf to the voices of retired players. They showed us they were listening when they set up the NFL Alliance and created the NFL Player Care Foundation and established a $17 million dollar endowment fund.

They were listening to our voices when they recently set up a Long Term Care insurance program that will cost millions of dollars and assist hundreds and hundreds of former players.

If the NFLPA and the active players put a proposal – IN WRITING – and it matched what Jim McFarland, myself and other retired players have recommended, then there is no reason why the NFLPA and the NFL owners can’t come to a final agreement on those specific issues immediately!

Well, there is one thing…..

The active players do not like what the owners have proposed for them.

So, the bottom line is this: retired players will not get what we want…….. unless active players get what they want!      

At this point, it doesn’t really matter what was said by the owners in past negotiations and what proposals they previously put on the table with regard to retired player benefits.  The important thing is that we now have a public document from the owners –  “their “promise” – to retired players which specifically talks about increasing pensions for players 55 and older by 60%.  It also talks about making $300 million in savings from a new rookie pay system available for active and retired player benefits.

I have advocated for ALL pre-1993 players to be included in the pension increases and I, along with many other former players, have advocated for the $300 million to be split down the middle and put into the Pension Plan.

I am thrilled that Jim McFarland supports that idea. Like Jim, I have asked for it to be an annual contribution for the entire term of the next CBA. That is the only way that former players will see a significant increase in our pensions. 

I challenge the NFLPA and the active players to agree to that proposal, PUT IT IN WRITING  and send it to all retired players!

Here is Mr. McFarland’s email.

To:        NFL Alumni Leaders
From:   James D. McFarland

RE:      My Personal Challenge

As a NFLPA Former Players Executive Committee Representative, who attended until the end of negotiations on March 11, 2011,  15 of the 17 FMCS mediation sessions between the NFL and NFLPA, it was very enlightening for me to receive the April 4, 2011 letter from my friends, Jerry Richardson who owns the Carolina Panthers, and Mark Murphy who is President and  CEO of the Green Bay Packers.  This letter with its promises and assurances has been praised by at least a few of the NFL Alumni Leaders.  As someone who actually attended these mediation sessions, however, and not as someone who receives most of his information from the NFL, I can state with absolute certainty that none of these promises or assurances were made in my presence at the mediation sessions by either Mr. Richardson or Mr. Murphy or any of the other NFL owners who attended only a few of these sessions in person.

Among other things this April 4, 2011 letter advertises the following claims:

1.     A new pension supplement for retired players aged 55 or above which would give an immediate increase in pension payments averaging almost 60 percent.

2.     A new rookie pay system that would re-allocate more than $300 Million per draft class to fund benefits for current and retired players.

Gosh, this sounds good to me.  The only problem is that these figures were never provided in the mediation sessions I attended nor were these figures included in the Final Written NFL Proposal dated 3/11/11 and given to our Executive Committee on Friday afternoon, March 11, on the final day of mediation.

With regard to just these two issues, the Final NFL Proposal states as follows:

2.    Phase in “owner” legacy fund payment

             2011 – $32 million
             2012 – $50 million

3.    Adjust NFL Response to NFLPA rookie compensation proposal…;  guaranteed reallocation of savings from first round to veterans and retirees.

……

13.   Implement new deferred compensation plan.

…….

20.  Term – 2011 through 2020, except 2021 draft.

Nowhere in these final proposals, you will notice, does the NFL ever specify a “new pension supplement averaging almost 60 percent.”  In fact the term “pension supplement” is never used in this March 11 Final Proposal.  Moreover, nowhere in these final proposals does the NFL ever specify a new rookie pay system that would “re-allocate more than $300 million per draft class to fund benefits for current and retired players.”

You will notice, however, while the proposed Term of the Contract is for 10 years from 2011 through 2020, the Legacy Fund contributions are only listed for 2011 and 2012.  While we were assured in negotiations that the NFL would contribute $50 million per year for the entire 10-year term of the Contract, you will notice that these amounts were dramatically reduced when the issue was finalized in writing to specify only a $32 million contribution in 2011, and $50 million in 2012, with no specification or offer to continue these contributions through 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. 

With regard to the adjustment to the rookie compensation proposal, there is clearly no mention of any $300 million to re-allocate to fund benefits for current and retired players.  There is no mention that this alleged $300 million would be contributed to the Bert Belle Defined Benefit Pension Plan.  In fact, the NFL’s general position in the mediation was apparently to go away from the Bert Belle Defined Benefit Pension Plan and instead establish at 401(k) fund which can fluctuate up or down depending on how the invested funds fluctuate.  Also, there is only a general statement that there would be a re-allocation of savings from first round to veterans and retirees.  There is definitely no specification that this savings would be “divided equally” among veterans and retirees as some Alumni members have advocated.

So here is my challenge to the NFL Alumni leaders who visit directly with the NFL owners and Commissioner Goodell and also receive most, if not all, of their information on negotiations from the NFL:

Alumni Leaders, hold the NFL accountable for their alleged promises to:

1.    Provide a new pension supplement averaging 60%, not out of the salary cap monies allocated to players, but out of their owner funds to be added to the Bert Belle Defined Benefit Plan.

2.    Provide that the alleged $300 Million in savings from the proposed new rookie pay system be divided equally so that $150 Million is guaranteed by the NFL owners to be allocated to fund benefits for former (retired) players.

3.    Provide that the owner contribution to the legacy fund be funded by $50 million per year for the entire 10-year term of the contract, not just $82 million for the first two years.

Alumni Leaders, do not be misled by the NFL owners who may try to use the NFL dodge, the NFL two-step, the NFL whipsaw argument, or any other excuse that the NFL may try to use to justify a reduction in these promised benefits and try to blame it on active players.  As Mr. Murphy and Mr. Richardson promise in their April 4 letter, demand that the NFL will make these promises “our top priorities (in) benefit improvements” for retired players.  Demand that the NFL “will not set aside your needs.”  After all, according to Mr. Murphy and Mr. Richardson, “Your voice needs to be heard, and (they) will listen.”

NFL Alumni leaders, I am depending on you for these guarantees.

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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 April 25, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Jeff – Is it true that even if retired players end up receiving an increase that it will only affect those 55 and older? And will it only affect retirees who have not taken early pension?

    • Irv:

      The NFL Alumni and George Martin have sent a letter to the owners asking for clarification on those issues. Here is the letter:

      NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION

      National Football League Alumni Association
      1 Washington Park | Newark, NJ | 07102
      Office: (973) 718-7350 | Fax: (973) 556-1202
      April 12, 2011

      Mr. Mark Murphy Mr. Jerry Richardson
      1265 Lombardi Avenue 800 S. Mint Street
      Green Bay, WI 54304 Charlotte, NC 28202

      Gentlemen,

      I want to thank both of you for sending your informative April 4 letter to me and other retired players. I have heard from many of our NFL Alumni Association members and they appreciate the fact that you took the time to contact us. There are still many questions but they appreciate you as former players reaching out to us. You ended your letter by writing that the player alumni’s “…voice needs to be heard and we will listen.” That makes us feel very good and we plan to hold you to those words.

      I know that you again this week are back with the NFLPA in Minnesota trying to work out a settlement to the labor dispute. My esteemed colleagues and I ask that you continue to keep improvements in the quality of life for NFL alumni a top priority in those discussions as you hopefully work toward labor peace and a new collective bargaining agreement that will benefit both retired and active players. I am writing a similar request to Mr. DeMaurice Smith.

      Some of the issues we would ask you to address with the NFLPA and have resolved this week include the following:
      – In your March 11 proposal which the NFLPA rejected, the owners proposed an immediate increase in pension payments averaging nearly 60 percent. Q – is that offer still on the table for the NFLPA to accept? Would that supplemental increase include those retirees who are 55 but are not yet taking their pension? I am concerned that the supplemental increase would not cover all those players who were in the league prior to 1993.

      – In your March 11 proposal, you stated that a new rookie pay system that the owners put forth – and which the NFL Alumni Association strongly supports – would re-allocate more than $300 million to retired and active players. Q: Is that one aspect of your last offer that the NFLPA agreed to at least in principle? Would the 60 percent supplemental pension increase come out of that $300 million or would it be in addition to that amount? Is there a set percentage breakdown of the savings that alumni and active players would receive?

      In your March 11 letter, you write there will be improvements in the disability plans and the 88 plan. Q: Do these improvements mean easier access to qualify, more money in the benefits themselves or hopefully both?

      These are just some of the questions surrounding the improvement of pensions and benefits that are of utmost importance to retired players and their families. Many of our retirees want to continue the dialogue specifically with you two gentlemen. You are former players who know what many of our – YOUR – former teammates are feeling.

      NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
      National Football League Alumni Association
      1 Washington Park | Newark, NJ | 07102
      Office: (973) 718-7350 | Fax: (973) 556-1202

      I hope that when this week’s meetings with the NFLPA are completed that both sides will feel good about what they have agreed to do for those NFL alumni who helped build the game. I look forward to hearing from you.
      Sincerely,
      George Martin

  2. Jeff,
    Keep advocating! But in order to help our cause all groups ie. NFLPA, NFLAA, and all other retired players groups, have to work together to get what we are trying to attain. It really makes no sense for the individual groups to fight against one another. Especially if all groups share the same goal. This will only work to the advantage of those who do not want us to achieve our goals of gaining better pension benefits etc. Please promote unity for our cause because “United we stand and divided we fall.”

    • Gene,,,
      You stress the importance of all entities fighting together in this fight. Oh if were just so easy. You said we should not be fighting among ourselves “Especially if all groups share the same goal”. We have, as NFL Retired Players, sat back and watched a major separation in Pension equity, while hoping the NFLPA “shared the same goal”. I for one, will not sit out on this one. If we dont get what thousands of us beleive to be fair, it will not be because we sat back and trusted an organization that was convicted of stealing from it’s Retired Players. I stood on picket lines, I am glad the Active Players are compensated properly. Until the NFL Retired Players are made whole, I will not sit.

  3. Hi Jeff,

    We’re getting closer.

    Your drill down on details and McFarland’s response (albeit in the form of a sophmoric “challenge”) inches the forumn on retired player’s closer to a common set of negotiating issues. As the smoke clears among this awkward three party portion of the CBA process however, it becomes increasingly evident that retired football players will come away from this next 10-year period benefits determining session with FAR WORSE BENEFITS THAN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.

    Retired players, look at your body and truly feel your pain. Assess the damage that the game imposed on your lives, and then pick up the phone, use your keypads and keyboards and tell the owners and the active players that they are framing the discussion correctly now but that both sides’ PROPOSED INCREASES ARE FAR TOO LOW.

    If allowed to stand as it now appears, the still too low level of benefit increases will keep our retired football bretheren dying under highway bridges. Messiurs McFarland, Bennett, Brees, Vrabel, Manning, Smith, Harrison (player’s side) and Richardson, Murphy, Jones, Kraft, (owner’s side) et. al., those death’s will be directly attributable to the G-R-E-E-D behind your actions.

    Bruce Jarvis
    Buffalo Bills 1971-1974

  4. Please set me straight? I get $138 per month as a pension as I write. Is the offer from the owners up to 60% increase based on what number? 60% of $138= $82.80 more each month? or are they talking about something different?

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