NFL owners to retired players: “We will not set aside your needs”
By Jeff Nixon – posted June 17, 2011
In their 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.”
Nonetheless, there is a lot of concern among the ranks of retired players that the owners and the active players will come to an agreement that does not sufficiently take care of the needs of retired players.
Even though the Carl Eller retired player lawsuit was joined with the Tom Brady active player lawsuit, the big question is: What happens to our lawsuit if the owners and the active players reach an agreement?
It is almost certain that the active players will be asked by the owners to drop their lawsuit if a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, but they cannot do that unless the cases are severed by the court. The active players would have to petition the court to have the cases separated and in all likelihood the court would agree with them.
So where would that leave retired players?
If we don’t like what is offered through the CBA, we could be involved in our own litigation against the League long after active players and the owners are back to playing football, making obscene amounts of money and enjoying the spoils of war – one that ultimately ended in a truce, but left some terrible casualties in its wake – retired players.
I hope that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees remember what DeMaurice Smith said when he was selected by them. “We have a moral obligation to the retired players, we have a fiduciary obligation to the retired players. That obligation has to be both in words and deeds. If you fail in either one, you fail.”
If they don’t include substantial increases in the NFL Retirement Plan…….they have failed!
If they don’t have significant reforms to the NFL Disability Plan……… they have failed!
If they don’t have additional medical services in the CBA…………..they have failed!
Drew Brees said this about retired players “They shaped the game for us. Because of those guys, we have an opportunity to play this game, to make the money that we make, to get the benefits we get. We will always, always, always reach back to give to those guys. But there’s a way to do it.”
Yes, there is a way to do it!
In their last proposal to the active players, the owners put $300 Million on the table – money that would come from a new rookie pay system that would re-allocate more than $300 million “per draft class” to fund benefits for current and retired players.
With that kind of money, there is no reason why the two sides can’t make some big increases to the pension plan in the CBA. We shouldn’t have to continue a separate fight against the NFL. Will the active players move to sever our cases? Will they set aside our needs? They sure haven’t set aside their own.
Based on their current number of credited seasons, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will receive the following monthly pension payments at age 55 or if they wait until age 65:
Peyton Manning – 13 credited seasons: $6,110 monthly at age 55 and $16,000 monthly at age 65 or $192,000 annually.
Tom Brady – 11 credited seasons: $5,170 monthly at age 55 and $13,540 monthly at age 65 or $162,480 annually.
Drew Brees – 10 credited seasons: $4,700 monthly at age 55 and $12,309 monthly at age 65 or $147,708 annually.
For every additional season they play, they will receive an additional $470 a month. Barring injury, they will all play a few more years, so those amounts will probably go up. As noted, their monthly amounts will more than double if they wait until age 65 to collect their retirement.
With all the money they have made – and will make, it is very likely that they will not need to tap their pension benefits until age 65.
Unfortunately the same could not be said for the pioneers of the NFL that made very little in the way of salaries and benefits.
Many former players (including more than half of all Hall of Fame players) took early retirement and the social security election and many are now receiving pension payments that are less than $200 a month or $2,400 annually.
Many former players elected to take the early retirement out of necessity, not because they needed the extra cash to purchase a second or third vacation home. Some took it because they were told that NFL players were dying at an earlier age then the normal population, so they did what they thought was best for their families.
To my knowledge, DeMaurice Smith and the active players have said nothing publicly about trying to assist the players that took early retirement. Hopefully they have discussed this at the bargaining table.
In 1993, the NFLPA eliminated the early retirement benefit – and for good reason. Former players were being devastated by this so called “benefit.”
In addition to generous pension benefits, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will also have some other amazing benefits when they retire. Here is an example of what one of the other class reps, Mike Vrabel will get when he retires. Keep in mind that all of these amounts will increase for every additional year that Mike plays.
- $600,000 in his Second Career Savings Plan
- $580,000 in his NFL Annuity Plan
- $300,000 in his Health Reimbursement Account
- $157,000 in his Severance Pay Account
- $45,000 in his Tuition Assistance Account
- $77,700 annually in his NFL Pension – $6,475 monthly at 55.
- 5 Free years of medical insurance coverage for him and his family after retirement
Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will have similar benefits waiting for them when they retire too!
Some of the money that went into those benefits could have gone into the Pension Plan to help ALL retired players – but it didn’t – and maybe that’s one of the reasons our Pension Plan was classified by the IRS as being in Endangered Status in 2010.
Some people – including sports writers, TV and Cable reporters and even some retired players – say that we should be thankful for anything we get, because legally the owners are not required to increase the pensions of former Union members. Legally speaking, they are right! But morally speaking they are dead wrong.
Let me remind everyone that most retired players had no NFL Disability Plan, no Severance Pay Plan, no Health Reimbursement Account, no Tuition Assistance Reimbursement, no Player Performance Pool, no Minimum Salary Benefit, No Player Annuity Program, no Second Career Savings Plan, no five years of free medical coverage, no second medical opinion, no rules that protected players, no special helmets or special protective equipment, no right to our own images that were used by the NFLPA and the NFL and no Pension for pre-1993 players with less than 4 years of service. We played on crappy artificial turf that shortened our careers. We endured primitive surgical techniques and became the unintentional guinea pigs for today’s players. We were given drugs and treatments by team physicians that are now outlawed by the NFL and the American Medical Association. We practiced without water and some players died of heat stroke. We had team physicians that were ordered to get us back on the field even though they knew we were injured. We were blackballed by the League for our union activities.
This is why the NFL owners and the active players should do the right thing and include money in this new CBA to substantially increase in our pensions, reform the disability plan and provide additional medical services.
We shouldn’t have to fight a separate battle for these things…….. but we will if we have to!
Trust me when I say this – if they don’t assist the players that helped make this game great, the owners and the active players are going to see why we were once warriors, why we played in pain and why we never gave up.
We will fight this battle in the halls of Congress, in the Courts and in the court of public opinion.
We do not want to run this route, but if we are forced to, we will not be as gracious as we have been in the past. We will do everything in our power to embarrass the billionaire owners and the millionaire players.
Please do not set aside our needs!