The CBA’s impact on retired players….. we still need some answers!

Dear Alumni Brothers: 

The NFL Alumni Association has been receiving numerous requests about the new CBA agreement and how it will affect retired players. 

First of all, the owners and the active players have agreed to establish a “Legacy Fund” that will provide $620 million ($62 million annually for 10 years) for pre-1993 players. As I understand it, the money will come equally from the NFL and the NFLPA’s share of revenues. The amount of money is substantially more than what was originally being proposed by the NFL and the NFLPA.

In addition to the Pension Plan increases, approximately $300 million in other improvements will be made to post-career medical options, the disability plan, the 88 Plan, career transition and degree completion programs and the NFL Player Care Foundation programs and services. 

In his letters, communications and meetings with League representatives, George Martin pushed hard for the NFL to make all the aforementioned improvements in retired player benefits. Although the CBA falls short of some of the things that Mr. Martin and the NFL Alumni Association Board proposed, the members of the organization are not going to stop fighting for additional assistance through our new mission of advocacy. I can assure everyone…it will never be one and done! We still have a long way to go.

Unfortunately, the NFL Alumni Association is coming under attack “again” by the NFL Player’s Association. In a recent email from NFLPA retired player rep Cornelius Bennett, he states: “The NFL Alumni Association (NFLA) attempted to convince former players that the Brady settlement would not provide any assistance to former players, and that the NFL was willing on its own to provide significant new contributions to retired player welfare.”  

The NFL Alumni did not attempt to convince former players that the active players would not provide “any” assistance to former players, and I challenge Cornelius Bennett to find one quote where Mr. Martin makes that claim.  The former players were obviously disappointed that the NFLPA did nothing when the owners initially proposed a $100 million “immediate” increase in retired player pensions. We were also disappointed that the NFLPA was asking the owners to foot the entire bill for the Legacy Fund – with none of it coming from the active players share of the revenues – which is the way all benefits had previously been allocated.  It’s good to see the NFLPA decided to split the cost of the fund, especially since the Union has also been profiting from the “Legacy” of retired players.    

As to Mr. Bennett’s statement that “The NFL Alumni said the NFL was willing on its own to provide significant new contributions to retired player welfare.”  The owners allocated $31 Million annually – outside the active player Salary Cap.  “The first time in History” – as NFLPA retired player rep Jim McFarland said in a recent email to NFLPA Chapter Presidents.

By getting the NFL to agree to that, the active players were able to keep additional money in their pockets.  

Cornelius also said “The NFLA went on record not supporting the active players during the lockout.” 

I’m not sure what “record” Mr. Bennett is talking about, but as you can see, I make sure I include the actual statements that he and other NFLPA reps have made – on the record.  Obviously Mr. Martin did not agree with everything they wanted or did. When Mr. Martin was invited to the NFLPA Player’s convention in Florida, he was asked by Nolan Harrison to support the active players by agreeing to everything in a seven question prerequisite letter that was presented at the meeting. This “pledge of allegiance” was insulting. 

When George Martin was the President of the NFLPA and he insisted on the inclusion of pre 59ers in their CBA demands, he did not have the audacity to demand the Alumni’s loyalty in “everything” he was advocating.  He never presented a position paper saying “If you don’t agree with everything in this letter then you don’t support the active players!” 

Mr. Martin spent 57 days on strike in 1982, and as the President of the NFLPA he was instrumental in establishing the benefits that current players now enjoy. I think that speaks volumes about his support for NFL players.   

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that “now” George Martin’s number one job is to support retired players!  That’s his only job…… and that’s what he’s been doing. He doesn’t answer to DeMaurice Smith or the active players…..but, as you all know, he has tried to meet with DeMaurice Smith and has been repeatedly denied and rebuffed. 

As we all know, DeMaurice Smith’s number one job is to support and represent active players. He will always serve them first and foremost.  You can see the basic terms of the CBA at this link: New CBA   

They haven’t negotiated the “final” terms of the active and retired player benefits, but I can assure you that Mr. Smith will not only bring home the bacon for active players, he will bring home the whole hog!  Mr. Smith got the active players approximately $620 million in annual benefits. That ’s 10 TIMES the amount they agreed to put in the Legacy Fund! 

Cornelius also said “The NFLA and other groups said the active players would never help former players in the Brady settlement.” 

That’s not true either.  The NFL Alumni did not say the active players would “never” help former players in the Brady settlement. Again, I challenge Cornelius Bennett to find one quote from George Martin where he says that. 

During the past year and a half, George Martin and the NFL Alumni have asked both the NFL and the NFLPA to do the right thing for former players. The NFL Alumni encouraged active players, cajoled them, shamed them, begged them, pushed and pulled them to understand why it is justifiable and morally right to help the men the paved the way for all the great benefits the active players now enjoy. 

So, why does the NFLPA feel it is necessary to continually bash our organization? What is their motivation? I talked about the “real” reason in this article entitled Why does the NFLPA continue to attack NFL Alumni? 

So what happens now? 

The NFL and the NFLPA still need to negotiate areas that only a Union can bargain in a CBA, including drug testing, player discipline, disability and pension programs. 

The big question that all NFL Alumni – particularly the pre-1993 players want answered is this: How will the “Legacy Fund” specifically affect my pension? 

As soon as I get more details on how the “Legacy Fund” will be allocated and administered I will let you know.

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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 30, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Francis Winkler

    Jeff, My name is Francis Winkler and like some other players with 3 years in the N.F.L. do we receive anything from this “Legacy Fund”. Because at one time, I think Mr. Smith said, that anyone that was vested in the N.F.L. would receive some money. Please let me know at Franciswinkler@aol.com.
    Thank You,

  2. john ebersole

    Jeff my name is John Ebersole. Played with the N.Y. Jets 1970-1978. I get $112.19 a month in retirement. If we get a % increase will it be on the $112.19 or the $1300.00 a month i got before social security which i had to take because i lost my nfl monies. John ebersole

    • John:

      The method of allocation has not been determined. These are issues that will be discussed when the Union is recertified and they begin discussions with the NFL this coming week. The Carl Eller lawsuit does not want the Union to negotiate the allocation of those benefits and and has filed a complaint with the court to intercede on behalf of retired players. They have submitted a proposal based on the input of retired players, but to date, they have been denied a seat at the table. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Hi Jeff I have enjoyed reading some of your articles and posts. I like many other retirees am curious about how the new CBA may possibly assist me or will I be left out as before.

  4. Jeff,

    Thank you very much for keeping “ALL” players up to date on the changing world of the NFL….If only the NFL explain the “CBA” like you do…in “SIMPLE ENGLISH”…it would make life so easy…I forgot nothing easy in this world….”THANKS”

    GOD BLESS!!
    Dwight Stone

  5. Jeff- when you use the term pre-1993 “players”, you should always include the word “vested”, as I believe that all of the benefits to former players negotiated in this CBA only benefits “vested” former players. I have 3 years in the league, all prior to 1993, and nothing has changed for me. Please correct me if I am, hopefully, wrong. By the way, I played 1 year in the CFL and I get a pension from them.

  6. Jeff-

    It’s sad the hierarchy of the NFLPA doesn’t acknowledge that strength in numbers far outweighs the efforts of a single entity. Look at history. What would the landscape of the world be today if the allies didn’t unite to defeat the evil of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Our retired voices would collectively be that much stronger negotiating future benefits for retirees as one instead of the negative sniping, allegations and innuendo directed at each other.

  7. Jeff if you want to discuss frustrating I was on IR in 1977 and 1978 and in 1976 I was the last cut by the Raiders on the Tuesday prior to the opener that season. I then signed with the Giants for games on weeks 13 and 14. Yes I am one game short of being vested. Today after 33 surgeries I am disabled and unable to walk, well with a walker I can go 50 feet on a good day. Email me if this new CBA might afford me some financial help.
    Dick Leavitt
    dick.leavitt@rsu4.org

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