Retired players in Eller v NFL to submit settlement proposal

Former NFL player representatives meet to discuss the Carl Eller vs. NFL lawsuit (left to right) Jeff Nixon, Tony Davis, Dr. Patricio Reyes - neuropathologist and Carl Eller

At the May 25, 2011 meeting of retired players’ representatives in the Carl Eller v NFL case, the representatives came to a consensus and finalized a comprehensive retirement plan that was to be submitted to the NFL.

Carl Eller did a masterful job of pulling all of the various advocacy groups together to get this accomplished. He explained the rationale for the lawsuit in a recent article by Patrick Donnelly of Fox Sports North.

Due to confidentiality agreements that were signed by myself and other retired player reps, I cannot divulge the specifics of the proposal, but I can tell you that we took into consideration all of the comments and recommendations that were solicited from former players. 

In a May 26 press release we said it was time for the owners to listen to the voice of retired players. 

Now that they have heard our voice…….it is time for them to act.

Roger Goodell and the owners said that everyone needs to “focus on negotiations” because “there is a deal to be made.” 

NFL Counsel, Jeff Pash said The chief judge is doing an excellent job in terms of pushing the parties to think about their positions and think about the broader issues that are at stake here.” 

The fact is, retired players would not even be at the table discussing the broader issues like retired player pensions, vesting, medical services and disability plan reforms, if it weren’t for the Carl Eller lawsuit and the work of the litigation team headed by Mike Hausfeld, Dan Mason and the law firms of Zelle Hoffman and Hausfeld LPP. 

I know the League has told us that litigation is not the answer, but does anyone really think that the lawsuits are not the motivating factor in getting everyone back to the negotiating table? 

The owners have the upper hand right now, but they also understand that the antitrust lawsuits will not go away and they will lose those battles in the long run. The only thing that allows them to violate the law is a Collective Bargaining Agreement – one that should require the union to recertify. 

We have heard DeMaurice Smith say that he may not re-certify the Union, but that is just a strategic move designed to increase negotiating leverage and convince the courts that the decertification was not a sham. 

The active players should never go down that road, because even though they would probably win the battle, they would lose the war.

Roger Goodell said it best; “Is this the NFL that players want? A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?”

There is no way that the NFL owners will agree to a new CBA without requiring the active players to end their antitrust litigation. 

So what happens if DeMaurice Smith and the active players agree to a new CBA and then – as part of the agreement – are asked to drop their antitrust litigation? 

They can’t do it……not without the court’s permission. 

Why? Because the Carl Eller retired player lawsuit was combined with the active player lawsuit! 

We are joined at the hip, or as DeMaurice Smith likes to say we are “One Team, One Locker Room, One Voice™. ”

The only problem with that trademarked saying, is that I don’t think DeMaurice Smith really believes that we are one team. His rhetoric is not backed up by his actions. 

From the very beginning, DeMaurice Smith has wanted the owners to deal with retired players separately and pay for our benefits “outside of the salary cap” so that it would not reduce the overall pot of money that was available to active players. 

Has the Carl Eller litigation changed DeMaurice Smith’s strategy in negotiations? Although he has talked about sharing league revenue with retired players under a new rookie pay system, he may see our lawsuit as an opportunity to focus exclusively on getting what he can for the active players and letting us fend for ourselves through our own litigation. 

I hope the NFL owners do not let that happen. Roger Goodell has consistently told former players that he will not sign a CBA that does not increase retired player’s pensions.  

In an April 4, 2011 letter to retired players, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy – both former NFL players and members of the NFL’s negotiating team said We do not know what the NFLPA may seek for current players, but we will not set aside your needs. Your voice needs to be heard, and we will listen.”  

A majority of former players have supported the active players in their lawsuit. I hope they show the same level of commitment to our lawsuit. 

Right now, retired players have a certain amount of leverage being combined with the active player case. 

When a CBA is finally reached, will the NFLPA (trade association) ask the court to sever the active player and retired player cases and drop us like a bad habit? 

Will the active players abandon us? 

I guess we will find out if we really are One Team, One Locker Room, One Voice…… or if we will be a voice in the wilderness.



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 June 10, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. don’t ever forget that without legal leverage we have nothing it is our only tool and now that we have a legal standing with eller’s foot in the door he should stand on demaurice smith’s desk….no more upshaw style power plays with our money. the league will put up a fair share of the revenues….the retired just need to make sure they get their fair share, now and in all future negotiations.

  2. What do former /retired players that are not registered or have a current membership have to do to be a part of any law suites that have been filed or any part of litigation to possibly receive compensation ?

    • Chuck: You don’t have to do anything at this point. All retired players will be covered in the EA sports (Madden Football), NFL Films and Carl Eller lawsuits if they are “certified” as Class Action lawsuits.

      I’ll keep you posted. Jeff Nixon

  3. It’s gratifying to know that the past “good ole boy” mutual admiration alliance between the NFL(Tagliabue)and NFLPA(Upshaw)and their alienation of retired players will no longer affect our demands for increased benefits and pension improvements. I firmly believe both entities will do the right thing and enhance our benefits fairly and equitably. It’s time for those who made the game what it is today to share in the billions the league rakes in yearly. We all earned our share of the pie!!!

  4. i sure hope the active player relize they will be retired some day , the only problem is they make so much money they might not care, my fingers are crossed for my dad, thanks jack sutton

  5. Can anybody say, Baseball.

  6. Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

    Long live the One player one locker room and one voice…
    As a former player of 11 seasons, I support The active players completly..As the active players say they support the former player completly..Keep your word, Because we keep our word of support.
    Bless us all.
    Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

  7. Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

    To complete my thought…..
    Thank you Carl Eller, et al. Men we are standing on new ground where new law may be written.

    To diveide “Us” {Former Players) & Present Active players is evident!
    To sever the Law suit is not a good thing, It must go through as a whole, Former & Active players combined.

    Antitrust is the keystone that holds all NFL business in place. To lose or lessen these Antitrus violations the NFL holds near & dear to their hearts, we all lose..And in a way we all have lost over our careers to these violations because “We” allowed it. Reason is.. This was the only way to get CBA’s done and keeping the NFL in business via tacit approval this kept the Union as we knew it in business…That was then, this is now. We as a whole must reconize times are anew, Of all the history of The NFLPA & NFL this CBA will be the most important and far reaching in all of our lives. If we don’t get it this time, It may never come around again.

    Again, I echo all the posted coments as well as former players, That say the time is now! We have made great strides in the past months, All groups representing retired players intrest are now compliant and acting as one staying united to reach our common goals to acheive Fairness in increased Benefits, pension and health care etc,
    All these things we have earned all these things …We can have as we stay united and support each other and keep the actice players in view to let them know we support thm and to hold tight on all issues…
    Because we all know, They are on play, one GM decision or one injury from being retired.

    Some one said the active players make too much money to care for us as retired players.. I think differently, as a player rep during my 11 year carrer, I saw that day coming back in 1982 that players salaries were going to skyrocket..I just smile and say..I helped all that along. as we all did…However I have had talks with active players, I like what they stand for especially the fact they are versed on all issues and what’s at stake. Also I have a running dialog with Many active players here in Arizonia where hundreds come here to train..So I feel good on the level of their committment.

    To decertify the union was the right move…To Keep the NFLPA decertified is even better..This is the key to all our answers, needs, benefits earned and move to up graded benefits, persions and all that entails in these areas.
    Bless us all.
    Mike Davis Raiders 1977-87

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