Clarifying “my” position on retired players

Mike Florio recently wrote an article entitled “Clarifying our position on retired players

My first question for Mr. Florio is this: Who are you referring to when you say you are clarifying “OUR” position?  Who else is involved in clarifying your position?  Could it be the folks at GE and their subsidiary NBC (your boss) as I suggested in my article?  The multinational corporations and TV Networks have a lot lose if the season is delayed our cancelled.  GE has over 751 Billion in assets!   

Mr. Florio wrote his article in response to my article entitled “NBC’s Mike Florio “floors” retired NFL players” where I took at aim at his recommendation that the Brady lawsuit be amended to include retired players – now that Mike Vrabel has indicated he will be retiring. 

He suggests that Mike Vrabel would be the spokesperson on behalf of retired players, although it is clear that this would be nothing more than a legal maneuver on behalf of the Brady litigants and the NFLPA* to get the Eller lawsuit out of the way.

In the article Mr. Florio says “the Brady class can settle all claims without having to worry about the Eller plaintiffs screwing up the process.”

That got me a little ticked off to say the least.  At the end of my article I suggested that if Mr. Florio is around any former players he might want to wear a helmet………….

Mike responded to that comment by saying it was a not-so-subtle attempt to incite a former player or two to whoop his ass.  

Mr. Florio has no sense of humor if he really believes that was my intention.  The problem with his assertion is that he intentionally forgot to include my entire statement about him wearing a helmet, where I concluded by saying……..“and not the flimsy kind that we wore that didn’t do much to protect us from the blows of the opposition.”  It was my “subtle” way of bringing more attention to the fact that the pioneers of the NFL were playing under unsafe conditions.

I think my statement “in jest” was quite timid compared to what the late Gene Upshaw said when he told the Charlotte Observer that he didn’t work for ex-players and threatened to break the neck of Buffalo Bills’ guard Joe DeLamielleure.  That statement did more to separate retired players from the Union than anything.  It also created a movement to reorganize the NFL Alumni and hire a former NFL player George Martin who can at least understand what retired players are going through.

Mr Martin has been working both publicly and behind the scenes to push for substantial pension increases, reforms to the disability plan and additional medical services.  Over 750 retired players have been approved for Long Term Care Insurance that George Martin advocated for and received from the NFL – totally outside of the collective bargaining process.  

Yes, the organization receives money from the NFL.  The NFLPA and the active players receive over $43 million annually from the NFL, but no one is calling DeMaurice Smith a shill of the owners – but maybe we should.  Remember, his contract bonuses are tied to the amount of money he brings into the marketing arm of the Union– NFL Players Inc.  That money is being held up by the Lockout.  No season – no bonus.  

Mr. Florio goes on to say “The fact that Nixon has strong ties to the George Martin-led (and NFL-supported) NFL Alumni Association (indeed, his blog appears on the NFL Alumni website) suggests that Martin’s group endorses the efforts of the Eller plaintiffs…”  he also says  “there currently are too many voices purporting to advocate on behalf of the retired players.  At some point, the retired players need to identify — and defer to — one and only one voice.”

First of all, I don’t speak for George Martin and the NFL Alumni, but I am honored and privileged to have been afforded the opportunity by George Martin’s “group” – as Florio puts it – of 3,000 members to write “MY” opinions about what “I” think about the issues affecting retired players.

Yes, it would be nice if all players could unite behind one “voice”, but just because we have several groups that are advocating for retired players like the NFL Alumni, Fourth and Goal, Gridiron Greats, Hall of Fame, Dave Pear, Dignity After Football, Retired Football Players Association and NFLPA retired player reps Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett, doesn’t mean we are divided in what we are asking the League and the Union to do for us.   

In fact, these groups have strengthened the overall “voice” of the retired player movement.  There has never been more “press” coverage about the plight of retired players because these groups have “hit them hard” with a passionate intellectual argument – not physical force.   

One last thing. 

Mike Florio said “We realize that football players often have a very linear approach to reality, and that problems typically are confronted by dropping a shoulder and running at them, full speed.  In many situations, however, a more careful and reasoned approach is required.”

Mr. Florio is suggesting that retired players are nothing more than Neanderthals that resort to violence to get their way. I admit that some of us have been brain damaged due to numerous concussions sustained in the NFL and AFL.  Researchers have shown a clear link in abnormally aggressive behavior in the victims of head trauma.

Fortunately, there are many that escaped that damage and have taken our “careful and reasoned approach” to the halls of Congress, the courts, the media, the public, the NFL and NFLPA.

Mike Florio owes all retired players an apology for using such a stereotypical description of the men that gave their blood, sweat and tears………. for the amusement of the masses. 

Florio talks a good game – telling everyone that the League and the Union have a moral obligation to retired players, but not a legal one.  He reminds me of DeMaurice Smith when he said “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 there’s a moral obligation and a fiduciary obligation………..then both the NFL and the NFLPA need to do the right thing and meet that obligation – even if it holds up a CBA agreement.

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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 July 12, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Until Jeff’s article, I had totally missed Smith’s comment – stated for and reported by the press – in which he said, “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.” Florio had also said “the Union (has) a moral obligation to retired players, but not a legal one.”

    There’s a big-ass “Whoops” to hang around the necks of both Smith and Florio given Smith’s statement if it was accurately quoted above. When stating “We” (meaning the union) have a FIDUICARY obligation to the retired players, Smith (in my opinion) articulated a VERBAL CONTRACT to them. A fiduciary obligation is not rhetorical; it is not a platitude. A fiduciary obligation is tangible. A fiduciary obligation is actionable.

    I would strongly encourage the Eller, et.al. counsel to carefully review this quote and consider the degree to which Smith can be made to choke on his words.

  2. Jeff- With profound sadness I learned of the passing of my old Bronco teammate and friend, Pete Duranko, on July 11th. Words cannot describe what a giant of a man Pete was both on and off the field. Unfortunately, Pete left us much too soon as he succumbed to ALS. As retired NFL brothers we are well aware of the alleged link between this insidious disease and head trauma. Hopefully Pete’s passing will give the current labor negotiators another reason why improved pre 93′ retiree medical and pension benefits is essential to our well being. Rest in peace Pete. You will never be forgotten.

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