The NFL Alumni Association advocates “exclusively” for retired players

In looking back on 2011, one thing should now be crystal clear to every former player – the NFL Players Association represents active players and the NFL Alumni Association exclusively represents former players. I talked about this in a March 29, 2011 article entitled: DeMaurice Smith serves active players first…..and foremost!

When former players won a $28 million class action lawsuit again the NFLPA, it only solidified the fact that the Union was not working in our best interest. Not long after the lawsuit was filed, the NFLPA dropped its GLA (Group Licensing Authorization) program with most former players. Of course, they still offer GLA’s to the Hall of Fame players, but the average former player is S.O.L unless they are computer savvy and can make a few bucks on the S.O.T.L.

Some retired players say the Union stiffed them. In their federal complaint, plaintiffs Ronald Brown, Charles Detwiler and Dwight Hicks say they were improperly excluded from the settlement in Adderley vs. NFLPA, brought in 2007 by a class of more than 2,000 retired NFL players who had signed a group licensing authorization (GLA) form with the players union.

There is another class action lawsuit against the NFLPA that is working its way through the courts. The lawsuit, filed by 28 Hall of Fame players and other retired player advocates, is seeking “to readjust the [CBA] deal to better reflect the interests of the retirees which would’ve been done by the retirees themselves,” according to Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney in the case.

Mr. Hausfeld also said “This deals with the rights of retirees and how they were shortchanged by a process that negotiated their rights without input from them and then [how the decertified NFLPA] reached an agreement without the retirees’ right to be heard.”

With all that said, I’m still mystified when I see some former players still clinging to the notion that being affiliated with the NFL Players Association is preferable to being a member of the NFL Alumni Association.

DeMaurice Smith’s smear campaign against George Martin and the NFL Alumni Association was, to a certain degree, successful in taking the focus off what the Union was – or should I say – wasn’t doing for former players. This all started when the NFL Alumni announced that it was adding “advocacy on behalf of former players” to its mission.  Mr. Martin has done his best to achieve that goal even though there was intense resistance by a few of Chapter Presidents in the early stages of implementation.

Just for the record, the advocacy idea wasn’t something George Martin came up with. That was a policy decision that came from the Board of Directors before Mr. Martin was even hired.  

It is no secret that since its inception, the NFL Alumni has had contractual agreements and received financial assistance from the NFL, but during the CBA negotiations, the Union wanted to make that an issue instead of concentrating on the number #1 issue for most retired players.

And what was that? 

Better pensions for the pre-1993 players.             

During CBA negotiations, Nolan Harrison, the NFLPA Senior Director of Former Player Services said he was wary of the business ties George Martin had with NFL ownership and the belief that the NFLA’s main benefits push focused on older retirees. He said “You can’t just focus on one group. That’s the point we’ve been trying to get across to everyone. George knows what it’s all about over here, but we do have issues when it comes to trying to segment our group.”   

Yes, George Martin does know what it’s all about over there – taking care of the active player group at the expense of retired player group.  

The NFLPA Former Player Chapter presidents and their members all across the United States said that increasing the pension plan for older retired players was their highest priority! The NFL Alumni Association members also said that that was their number one goal.

So who was really trying to segment retired players?     

After taking office, George Martin wanted to meet with DeMaurice Smith one-on-one to see where they could find common ground and collectively work on behalf of former players. Some former players close to the Union actually said that George Martin had not earned the right to meet with DeMaurice Smith.   

Unfortunately, the one-on-one meeting never happened. Why?  In my opinion, Mr. Smith didn’t want the perception that the NFLPA and the NFL Alumni were in basic agreement on the key issues and concerns of retired players. Mr. Smith needed a boogeyman – an imaginary monster to frighten retired players……someone he could point to and say “He was the problem. He is why you didn’t get what you wanted.”    

None of that stopped Mr. Martin from forging ahead with his own advocacy efforts. In his meetings with the owners and key members of the NFL Management Council, George Martin put forth specific proposals based on recommendations and feedback he received from NFL Alumni members and the board of directors. The NFL Alumni’s Pension proposal alone was estimated to add $1.2 billion in liabilities for the owners. Compare that to the $320 million ($32 million annually) that DeMaurice Smith and the Union were proposing and then tell me who had your best interest at heart.

Former players should be pleased with the fact that the NFL Alumni Association has taken on the new mission of advocacy. In my opinion it was instrumental in boosting the Pension Plan for the pre-1993 players. It forced the NFLPA into a position where it had to do much more than it originally intended to do for the pre-1993 players.   

George Martin knew that the only way former players could achieve any significant increase in retired players pensions would be through the establishment of a Rookie Wage System, so he made that a big part of his advocacy platform.  That was something that DeMaurice Smith was totally against when he became the Executive Director of the NFLPA.   

George Martin also pushed to increase pensions for players who took early retirement and the Social Security election. That wasn’t even on the NFLPA’s radar.  

George Martin and several other retired player advocates also tweaked the NFL and NFLPA’s proposal for distributing the Legacy Benefit.

He also created the NFL Alumni’s first Group Licensing Program for former players and pushed the NFL to establish a Long Term Care insurance program, new business and career programs, increases in the 88 plan and other services and programs that fall under the Former Player Life Improvement Plan and maybe the most important advocacy effort of all………………….getting more money from the NFL owners for our organization!

That’s right, we need more money from the owners, not less…… and in my opinion it shouldn’t be in the form of a loan, it should be an outright grant for the marketing and promotion we provide the NFL.

As ambassadors for the NFL we have gone out in our communities and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charities and programs. Those activities are being organized and planned by both the NFLPA and NFL Alumni Chapters. Our local Buffalo Bills NFLPA Former Player Chapter just went over the 1.2 million dollar contribution amount.  These events and activities also promote the NFL and build up its image, its history and dare I say – the “Legacy” of the NFL!

If the NFLPA and the active players can get $44 million annually from the NFL owners to market active players and promote the NFL, and another $22 million annually for additional former player benefits over the next ten years, then what is wrong with the NFL Alumni getting a small slice of the pie?  For all we do, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

As the only “national organization” that works exclusively on behalf of former players, I encourage you to become a member of the NFL Alumni Association by paying your dues with a credit card at this link:  Join now!

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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 January 3, 2012, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Jeff, George
    We, former NFL players are indebted to you for your tireless effort on behalf of all those who once played in the league.
    Thank You
    Jim Grabowski
    Packers, Bears

  2. Jeff, it has been obvious since Upshaw’s days as the nflpa leader that he and they have served the active players and don’t care about retired players. Does the NFL alumni have any plans or ways where the NFL alumni can represent retired players and benefits? The nflpa could care less about us as retirees. How they continue to get away with continued injustices is unbelieveable. It’s time they be held accountable for their blatant actions.

  3. Tom Beer- Denver-NE 1967-1973

    Jeff-

    First and foremost, I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2012 and thank you once again for your tireless efforts advocating for the retired NFL rank and file. Indeed, 2011 was a historic year for the NFL and the NFL Alumni Association. Strength in numbers and our strong resolve, in my opinion, forced the NFLPA and DeMaurice Smith to make unwanted concessions on our behalf during CBA negotiations. Despite their obvious reticence in assisting our cause for improved pension and health related benefits, we found strong support from the NFL Manangement Council and Commissioner Goodall. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN GRATIFYING TO HAVE RECEIVED THE SAME SUPPORT FROM OUR OWN UNION, BUT THAT WOULD BE ASKING TOO MUCH FOR THE CABAL MASQUERADING AS OUR ADVOCATES. WHY SHOULD THEY BREAK TRADITION. I am very grateful to be a member of both NFLRPA the Alumni Association, knowing these groups will challenge any negative issues emanating from the NFLPA regarding our welfare. In retrospect, I wish we had a voice at the bargaining table last Summer when DeMaurice Smith flatly rejected the NFL’s proposal for improving pre 93′ pensions by approximately $2000 per month, settling, instead, for no more than $124 per month per vested season. I don’t think he would have tapped danced around that issue with Carl Eller or Joe Delamelluire staring him in the face.

    Tom Beer

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