Archive for March, 2011

NFL owners pay $245 million into player benefits

The NFL clubs will complete their contributions toward 2010 NFL player benefits on Thursday, bringing the total amount funded by owners for the 2010 season to $245 million.

NFL owners will deposit $177 million on Thursday with BNY Mellon to complete the funding for the 2010 season. Ownership contributions fund player benefits that include the pension plan, group medical insurance, the disability plan, and the ”88” program for retired players with dementia or related conditions.

“NFL ownership is proud of the outstanding benefits that NFL players have enjoyed in recent years and the improvements that have been made for retired players,” said Carolina Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson, a former NFL player who co-chairs the NFL Management Council Executive Committee. “We have more work to do, especially for the retired players, and look forward to further improvements being part of the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

In the past 10 years alone, NFL owners have contributed more than $2.7 billion for the funding of the various NFL benefit plans for current and retired players.

BNY Mellon is a leading investment management and investment services company based in New York City. It was established in 2007 from the merger of Mellon Financial Corporation and The Bank of New York Company.

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NFL owners’ support of players is wide ranging

Aside from the nearly $2 million average salary of NFL players, the NFL clubs also fund a wide range of benefits and programs to support players and help them not only during their NFL careers but in making the transition to their post-NFL lives.

NFL Player Engagement offers programs to support players in five areas: Career Development, Career Transition, Continuing Education, Financial Education and Player Assistance Services.

Below are the player benefits under the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement (all of these benefits were in place and funded in the 2006-09 seasons when a salary cap was in place).

In recent years, annual benefit payments to current and retired players have been approximately $200 million. That amount would increase under proposals made by NFL owners in the current round of collective bargaining.

Player benefits

» Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan

» Second Career Plan

» Supplemental Disability

» Player Annuity Program

» Group Insurance

» Health Reimbursement Account

» 88 Plan (Dementia)

» Joint Replacement Plan

» Drug Prescription Discount Card Program

» Medicare Supplement Program

» Vested Inactive Life Insurance

» Severance Pay

» Post Season Pay

» Performance Based Pay

» Injury Protection

» Workers Comp

» Pre-season Per Diems

» Meal Allowances

» Practice Squad Post-season Pay

» Moving and Travel

» Off-season & Rookie Orientation

» Tuition Assistance Plan

NFL players in Rwanda: “We are arguing over billions of dollars…they have real issues, suffering here”

Nine NFL players are in Africa helping to outfit the people of Rwanda with hearing aids, according to a recent ESPN.com story by Steve Terrill.

“Half a world removed from a bitter labor impasse over billions of dollars, a group of NFL players landed in a country recently riven by genocide and turned its attention to the most basic of human needs – hearing,” Terrill writes.

“In Rwanda, Derrick Morgan (Titans), Gerald McCoy (Bucs), Roy Williams (Bengals), Tommie Harris (former Bear), Vernon Davis (49ers), Vontae Davis (Dolphins), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), Bryant McKinnie (Vikings) and Adrian Peterson (Vikings) took part in a mission to provide hearing aids and other assistance.”

“They have real problems over here,” Morgan said. “We are arguing over billions of dollars, but they have real issues and real suffering here.”

Hundreds of functionally deaf Rwandans came to receive the hearing aids and were helped by NFL players who attached amplifiers to impression-molds that were already fitted in the ear.

“The first time I helped someone to hear, I was so moved. I was emotional,” Fitzgerald said. “To see a child hear their mother’s voice for the first time and see their family’s reaction is one of the moments I will never forget. We all have basic needs, and hearing is one of those needs.”

For complete story, click here.

Buffalo News reports voice of fans loud and clear at “State of the Bills” event

Buffalo Bills executives Russ Brandon and Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey yesterday hosted 750 fans and sponsors to talk football, the Buffalo News reported.

“The Buffalo Bills’ loyal fans were leaning Monday evening toward defense with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft,” the story began, “and they were leaning strongly in favor of the owners in the NFL’s labor standoff.”

While the Bills’ draft-choice options drew many opinions, a number of fans also spoke about the work stoppage in the NFL.

“The consensus among the die-hards was clear on the current NFL lockout,” the story continued. “While the fans didn’t have great sympathy for either side, almost all said they favor the owners’ position.”

“I lean toward the owners,” said Phillip Basile of Williamsville. “They need to make some concessions. But the product is the NFL. My loyalty is to the [NFL] logo, to the team.”

“I’m a union man, but I lean toward the side of the owners,” said Brian Zachary of Lewiston. “It’s their game. If I told my boss what the players are saying, my boss would say, ‘Take a hike.'”

“It’s hard to feel sorry for people who make millions,” said West Seneca’s Don Bartz, who noted that he has not missed a home game in the Bills’ 51 seasons. “They both have a lot to lose by not settling. If I were the owners, I wouldn’t let them look at the books. They’re not shareholders. I’ve never seen a union employee who got to look at the books in any labor negotiation.”

“They’re arguing over $9 billion and we’ve got people who can’t pay for health insurance,” Ryan Hopkins of Tonawanda said. “I don’t hear any of the players playing now arguing for the retirees. You’ve got older players who need more assistance.”

For the complete story, click here.

NFL filing in NFLPA’s antitrust litigation: Union’s “‘heads I win, tails you lose’ approach is not and cannot be the law”

Last Monday (March 21), the NFL filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota its opposition brief in the NFLPA’s antitrust litigation. Following are excerpts from the brief:

  • One party to a collective bargaining relationship cannot, through its own tactical and unilateral conduct, instantaneously oust federal labor law or extinguish another party’s labor law rights.
  • The NLRB is now considering whether the union has purported to disclaim in order to gain a tactical bargaining advantage, rather than disclaiming unequivocally and in good faith, as the federal labor laws require. If the Board finds such a violation, it will issue an order requiring the union to return to the collective bargaining table. Under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, the Court must stay this case pending the outcome of the Board proceedings.
  • The injunction sought by plaintiffs here is precisely the kind of relief that Congress barred by enacting the Norris-LaGuardia Act.
  • [T]he question whether the NFLPA remains a collective-bargaining representative is fundamental to determining numerous rights and responsibilities of the parties under the labor laws. It is therefore a core labor-law question that demands uniform resolution by the expert agency. If this Court were to enter an injunction reflecting its view that the Union has validly disclaimed, but the NLRB were to determine otherwise and issue an order compelling the Union to return to the collective bargaining table as the players’ representative, all parties to this controversy would find themselves in an untenable position.
  • Under the [National Labor Relations Act], a union’s disclaimer of interest in collective bargaining is effective only if it was “unequivocal” and “made in good faith.” Disclaimers are made in bad faith—and are therefore ineffectual and invalid—when they are done as a “tactical maneuver,” or when the disclaimer was “obviously employed only as a measure of momentary expedience, or strategy in bargaining.”
  • In short, the National Labor Relations Board will likely conclude that the NFLPA has not engaged in the good faith, unequivocal renunciation that the NLRA requires, and it likely will issue an order requiring the Union to resume collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL member clubs.
  • Plaintiffs cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits because, notwithstanding the NFLPA’s purported disclaimer, the challenged lockout is protected from antitrust scrutiny by the nonstatutory labor exemption.
  • The Court should be especially wary of finding that this situation is “sufficiently distant in time and in circumstances” that the exemption no longer applies, given this Union’s previous history of disclaimer followed by bargaining, and the multiple recent statements of its leadership confirming that its purported disclaimer was an interim step, undertaken for tactical reasons, in anticipation of reaching another collective bargaining agreement.
  • Under plaintiffs’ theory, the NFL is subject to antitrust liability if it ceases or refuses to continue football operations, and it is subject to antitrust liability if it does not. This “heads I win, tails you lose” approach is not and cannot be the law.
  • Enjoining one side in a labor dispute from using the economic tools available to it under the labor laws would contravene the policy underlying the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the primary jurisdiction of the NLRB, and federal labor law generally, by replacing bilateral negotiation with a unilateral ability to place a judicial injunctive thumb on the collective bargaining scale.

For the complete brief, click here.

“Worst deal in sports history”? Veteran Fred Taylor doesn’t think so

In a recent Q&A with The Florida Times Union’s Jaguars beat writer Tania Ganguli, veteran running back Fred Taylor noted that he was informed that the gap between NFL clubs and players to get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was not large.

“My agent Drew Rosenhaus, he texts us every single day,” said Taylor, who has played 13 NFL seasons at running back. “He doesn’t miss a beat. I’ve been looking at it some. I think it’ll be football pretty soon. I think it’ll be over with. I definitely think it’ll be business as usual in another month or so. I think it’ll be over with. I don’t see why it shouldn’t.

“You go from the owners wanting a billion dollars of our share, now couple weeks ago I heard it was something down to they were about 180-something million apart? That’s just a wash, going from a billion to a 180-something million,” Taylor continued. “If you can’t find a way to close that gap, then you don’t need football. But on the outside looking in, not really inside seeing what real negotiations are, I think there’s a possibility that it should be football pretty soon.”

Taylor played his first 11 NFL seasons with Jacksonville before spending the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the New England Patriots. A first-round draft choice in 1998, Taylor ranks 15th in NFL history with 11,695 rushing yards and posted seven 1,000-yard seasons. He holds numerous Jaguars club records including those for rushing yards and total touchdowns.

For the complete Q&A, click here.

NFL reaction to NFLPA’s comments about recent court ruling on workers compensation:

“The NFLPA’s statements regarding the court’s ruling are completely inaccurate. The federal court decision issued last week concerned only the question of the proper calculation of workers compensation benefits received by NFL players who also have received from their clubs injury protection payments under the recently expired CBA. The court ruled that a prior arbitration decision on how such offsets should be calculated under the NFL Player Contract should be enforced. The NFL clubs have fully abided by that decision. Contrary to the NFLPA’s statement, there was no finding by the federal court of any ‘unlawful’ conduct or any finding that an NFL club has failed to pay workers compensation benefits due to players under state law. It should also be noted that this subject was extensively discussed in the recent CBA negotiations that were abruptly terminated by the NFLPA.”

Former Patriots center Jon Morris: “I give the Krafts all the credit for making the alumni feel so special”

Former New England center Jon Morris discussed the outstanding relationship that the Patriots and the Kraft family maintain with the team’s alumni following his recent selection to the Patriots Hall of Fame.

“I consider this the crowning achievement of my football life and I am so thankful to the Kraft family and the selection committee for allowing me to experience this feeling,” said Morris, who played the first 11 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Patriots (1964-74).

“When I first retired from the Patriots, the alumni were not meant to feel welcome,” Morris continued. “I don’t say that to be critical, it was just different. Once your career was over, it was over. You cannot be a player forever and we understood that.

“But, when the Kraft family came along, they changed all that. It hasn’t been just a one-time thing, either. They have maintained a relationship with the alumni since he bought the team. I just think that is the neatest thing that has ever happened. It is one of the reasons that being in the hall of fame is such a big deal. They have made it a big deal. I give the Krafts all the credit for making the alumni feel so special and I look forward to being a part of this year’s hall of fame ceremony.”

Morris was selected by a 10-person senior committee which includes longtime Patriots beat writers and staff. The committee was approved by Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft to ensure that early-era players receive consideration for Patriots Hall of Fame induction.

In his Patriots career, Morris earned seven consecutive All-Star appearances with six AFL-All Star games (1964-69) and was an AFC Pro Bowl center in 1970. His seven league All-Star selections rank second in Patriots history behind Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah (9).

Tedy Bruschi & Marcellus Wiley on blood testing for HGH: “It is the right thing to do”

On this afternoon’s “NFL Live” on ESPN, former players Tedy Bruschi and Marcellus Wiley discussed HGH testing.

“It is the right thing to do,” said Bruschi, who won three Super Bowls in 13 seasons at linebacker for the New England Patriots.  “It is HGH now, but later on down the road, it is going to be something else and proper blood testing is the only way that you are going to be able to detect these PEDs. You want to level the playing field.”

Wiley, who played 10 seasons at defensive end for four clubs, agreed.

“It may be invasive, but at the same time, I wouldn’t have a problem with it because it is my livelihood,” Wiley said. “Anytime there is a situation where I have to bite the bullet just do something to protect the integrity of the game, I am all for it.”

FACT CHECK: Despite union claims, NFL clubs contributed more than $350 million for retired player pensions in last two years

Former Buffalo Bills defensive back (left) Jeff Nixon recently wrote a column to set the record straight on the funding of retired player benefits. Throughout the story, Nixon, a member of the national advocacy committee for the “Fourth and Goal” organization of NFL Alumni, corrects statements made by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith last week on WFAN Radio in New York.

“Right now as we speak, how much money do the NFL teams provide to the former player pensions? The answer is zero,” Smith said in the interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

“Teams pay nothing to former player pensions right now, and it’s been that way since 19…it’s been that way since history,” Smith continued. “So I think it’s disgraceful that teams don’t pay anything to the former players who made this game great.”

“Now let’s do some fact checking on what DeMaurice Smith said,” Nixon writes.

“First of all, the NFLPA’s own website – under the section Former Players Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Pension Plan – it states that “The increased benefits, and a new 88 Plan for retired players with dementia, will be funded by about $250 million of owner contributions over the next six years.

“So as you can see, DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA acknowledged on their own website, that the owners are contributing money to the Pension Plan,” Nixon continues. “Hasn’t DeMaurice Smith ever wondered why the Pension Plan is named after two former NFL Commissioners?”

“It’s named after Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle because they were the owners’ representatives that were responsible for negotiating the NFL pensions that players receive now and in the future.”

“The 2006 CBA – and all previous CBAs,” Nixon notes, “have clearly stated that the owners are responsible for all contributions to the Pension Plan. You can read it in Article 3 – Contributions – of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan.”

“According to AON, the actuarial consultant for the NFL Pension Plan, the NFL owners contributed $187.8 million to the NFL Pension Plan in 2009 and $166.7 million in 2010,” Nixon adds. “In 2010, the Pension Plan paid out more than $63 million to retired players currently receiving pensions.”

For the complete story, click here.