Unvested players neglected in new CBA
While we are all waiting for the NFL and NFLPA to work out the details of the Legacy Benefit, there is another issue that has not received much attention, but should merit some discussion and consideration: benefits for “unvested” former players.
First of all, we need to be clear on what it takes to become a “vested” player. You become a vested player when:
- you earn three or more Credited Seasons, including at least one credited season after the 1992 season;
- you earn four or more Credited Seasons, including at least one credited season after the 1973 season; or
- you earn five or more Credited Seasons
Why do we still have a vesting system that does not treat all former players equally?
The NFL Player Care Plan, now called the Former Player Life Improvement Plan (FPLIP), still requires ex-players to be vested in order to receive life insurance and assistance with obtaining joint replacements, prescription drugs, assisted living, Medicare supplemental insurance, spinal treatment, and neurological treatment.
Additionally, the Retirement Plan, Disability Plan, 88 Plan and the Long Term Care Insurance Plan still require vesting.
I would venture to say that thousands of former players had their careers cut short due to the injuries they sustained. Those of us fortunate enough to make it to our third or fourth or fifth season should reflect on these often quoted words: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
In my opinion, most former players would like to see something done for the guys that are not vested—especially the pre-1993 players.
On April 21, 2011, Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players Association agreed to make payments to former players from the 1947 – 1980 seasons who didn’t qualify for the league’s pension benefit plan. Prior to 1980, only players with at least four years of service time qualified for a pension, but now under the new agreement, former players with one, two or three credited seasons will receive payments of as much as $10,000 for each of the next two years.
According to published reports, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, “We are a family and this is simply the right thing to do.”
MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner has been quoted as saying, “These are meaningful payments, and additionally meaningful because of the recognition this confers on this group of players. This was a long time in coming, but it’s important to stress that there was no legal obligation for MLB to discuss this issue. But I share [Selig’s] view that this is the right thing to do for the right reasons.”
If MLB and the MLBPA can find a way to take care of their unvested former players, then why can’t we? And where would the money for something like this for unvested NFL players come from?
The CBA has a provision called the Joint Contribution Amount:
“The Joint Contribution Amount shall be $55 million for the 2012 League Year, of which $22 million shall be dedicated to healthcare or other benefits, funds, or programs for retired players as determined by the NFLPA, $11 million shall be dedicated to medical research, as agreed to by the parties, and $22 million shall be dedicated to charities as determined by the NFL, including NFL Charities and/or Youth Football or successor organizations. The Joint Contribution Amount shall increase by 5% each subsequent League Year, and the allocation described in the preceding sentence shall be adjusted pro rata to reflect such increase.”
In other words, the NFLPA gets $22 million annually—plus a 5% annual increase—and can determine what type of retired player benefits, funds or programs we should be receiving. Over the term of the CBA, this will amount to $242,584,415 that the NFLPA will control and allocate as it sees fit.
The League also has $22 million annually that has been earmarked for youth football and charities.
Maybe the old saying, “charity starts at home,” should apply in the case of unvested players, and maybe it’s not too late for former players to influence the decision-making process on how these funds will be utilized.
In my opinion, the NFL and the NFLPA should follow the example of Major League Baseball and take a portion of the $485 million they have at their discretion and do something for the unvested former players. At the very least, they should try to level the playing field and give everyone that has three credited seasons a pension or a lump sum payment like baseball did for their pioneer players.
It’s true, the NFL and the NFLPA have no obligation to do this, but like Bud Selig and Michael Wiener said, it’s “the right thing to do.”
Posted on September 10, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged Bud Selig, Major League Baseball, Michael Weiner, National Football League, National Football League Players Association, Pension. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.