Following is the answer to a recent question in the NFLlabor.com mailbag. To submit a question, send an email to NFLlabor@nfl.com.
I read that the NFLPA union is meeting in Hawaii (tough life!) and that their meetings include retired players. When is the league going to do more for retired players?
The owners’ position on helping former players probably is best summarized by a response that the Commissioner sent to Congresswoman Linda Sanchez earlier this week after she asked a similar question in a recent letter. Below are excerpts from that letter:
March 9, 2010
The Honorable Linda T. Sanchez
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Congresswoman Sanchez,
The NFL owners share your appreciation and respect for our NFL alumni. That is the reason that in collective bargaining with our players’ union we have from the outset made improved retiree benefits a priority. I have said publicly that there will be no agreement without improvements for retired players. On the contrary, when the union last week informed us that it was willing to make a new deal under certain conditions, there was no mention by them of increased benefits for retirees. The union leadership was willing to make a deal without any improvements for retired players.
Several months ago, we made a proposal to the union that involved reducing the exorbitant salaries and bonuses that our clubs pay to rookies each year and using the first $100 million of that savings to cover increased pensions and other benefits for our alumni. We offered to implement such a plan immediately, even without a new collective bargaining agreement, in order to deliver more assistance to retired players now. The union to this point in our discussions has not agreed to that proposal.
Former New York Giants defensive lineman George Martin is a past president of the NFL Players Association. He now is the executive director of the NFL Alumni Association, which represents the majority of retired players. We have worked closely with George and the association to improve medical benefits for his members. He and his group have an appreciation for the many new benefits that our retirees receive in addition to their longstanding pension and disability payments. Those benefits include a wide range of programs that are available through our Player Care Foundation, as well as a new program of neurological care, which is being headed by former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher of Morehouse University Medical Center, and includes a number of other leading medical institutions…
…The current CBA gave the players a significantly increased share of revenue and this economic arrangement no longer works. Overall league expenses are increasing faster than revenue and that is the reason why we need to create a more balanced system so that the owners’ cost of producing revenue is better recognized. This will allow for investment and growth that will benefit everyone, including current and retired players. We are seeking a fair agreement that will be good for the players, our teams, our retired players, and the fans. While I cannot predict the course of collective bargaining, I do know that we will have a new agreement. In the meantime, I restate the commitment that I have made on numerous occasions – no matter what course collective bargaining takes in the near term, we will not reduce in any way the benefits paid to retired players, will continue to accept new retirees into our benefit programs, and will continue to look for ways to improve services to retirees while simultaneously negotiating a new agreement with the NFLPA.
Thank you for contacting us and please be assured that we will continue to financially support the great NFL players who helped build our game in the 20th century.