Archive for 'Player Benefits'

FACT CHECK: DeMaurice Smith at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith recently spoke with MBA students at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.  Smith discussed a wide range of issues on the NFL’s labor negotiations.

Following is a FACT CHECK on a selection of Smith’s answers:

Smith: “You never stop being a trial lawyer. So, really that is the posture of the case. The league is opposing the injunction. If they win, the lockout continues. 1,900 players and their families will be out of work. Their health insurance has been cancelled.”

FACT: All NFL players are eligible to continue their current NFL health insurance under the federal law known as COBRA, under which affected employees are entitled to continue their employer-provided health insurance coverage at their own or their union’s expense. To date, 1,192 players have signed up for COBRA and they have until May 10 to do so.

Smith: “Not even possibly” – answer to question: “At the end of that two-year negotiation period before the lockout, you called the NFL’s final offer possibly the worst deal in sports history?”

FACT: The proposal owners made to the players on March 11 would have paid players $19-20 billion in cash and benefits over the next four years (2011-2014) – a 14 percent increase representing an additional $2 billion compared to the past four years. In addition, the proposal would have:

  • Reduced the offseason program by eliminating five weeks and cutting OTAs from 14 to 10 days.
  • Put limits on full-padded practices in the regular season. 
  • Increased days off. 
  • Increased retirement benefits so that more than 2,000 retired players would have received almost a 60% increase in their pension benefit. 
  • Offered players the opportunity to have lifetime coverage in NFL medical plan. 
  • Offered for the first time to revise disciplinary system so that a third-party neutral arbitrator resolves all drug and steroids cases. 
  • Offered improvements in the disability plan, the 88 Plan, and post-career benefits, including education and career transition programs.

Smith: On how much the March 11 NFL proposal would reduce the players’ share of revenue:  “The day that you sign that deal, the 50 percent number that we had since 1987 goes automatically before the ink is dry on the deal to 45 percent. In Year 1. The deal that we would have signed with the owners would have probably been about a 10-year deal. The ultimate result of us signing this deal would be that within 10 years that 50 percent would be down to 40 percent of all revenue.  As you march forward from that point, by the time we got to the 15th year of a deal, you could see players getting shares of revenues that were in the 30 percent range.”

FACT: Smith’s statement is based on the flawed assumption that the current deal — which everyone agrees was one-sided for the players — would have stayed in place and just marched ever onward with no re-balancing. It assumes revenue growth that may or may not materialize. No one knows how many, if any, new stadiums will be built, as one example. There are none currently in the pipeline. The statement ignores the explicit commitment in the NFL’s March 11 proposal to a “true up/reset” in 2015, the same year the union wanted to reset the share coming off a player cost of $161 million per club in 2014, which was the union’s requested number for that year. The March 11 proposal had the 2011 cap at $141 million (union was at $151 million;  NFL at $131 million; NFL clubs said “we’ll split the difference”), rising to $161 million in 2014 (meeting the union’s demand for 2014). That’s a 14 percent increase in three years ($20 million per club) and $2 billion more in player costs than was spent in the previous four years. Then the cap would be mutually re-set in 2015. The clubs would guarantee those 2011-2014 numbers even if revenue did not meet projections. Clubs actually spent $140.6 million in 2009 and $138.4 million in 2010 on salary and benefits. So the $141 million proposed cap for 2011 was higher than the actual cash spending of 2009 and 2010.

Smith: “This lockout will cost every team’s city $160 million in lost revenue for a year. $160 million.”

FACT: Those numbers were conclusively refuted by independent economists in a story by Eric Stirgus of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Stirgus consulted a number of experts and posted links to four of the economic impact studies he reviewed. He concluded: “Each independent expert we talked to believed there will be little economic impact if there is no NFL action next season, since they believe people will find other ways to spend their money. We rate the NFL Players Association’s claim as False.”

Smith: “The fundamental principle of our business model necessarily includes that every player only plays for an average of 3.2 years.”

FACT: The average career length for a player who spends at least three games in one season on the active and/or inactive rosters and/or injured reserve is 5.3 years. In addition, the average career length for a first-round draft pick is 9.3 years.

Smith: “You have a group of owners who don’t want financial transparency, who don’t want us to understand the true financial picture of football.”

FACT: The NFL publicly released its proposal to the players on March 11. We offered to show the union five years (2005-2009) of year-by-year league-wide operating profits based on audited club reports reviewed and confirmed by Deloitte & Touche. We offered to show the union the number of clubs that had declines in operating profits from 2005-2009, and by how much on a cumulative basis, again based on audited financial statements. We offered the NFLPA the ability to review Deloitte’s work. We also offered to give five years (2005-2009) of audited individual club financial statements to a third-party accounting firm to verify for the union the profitability data provided to the union. And there were no conditions put on the information offered, meaning that they could have asked for more.  But the union’s concern was giving up its public relations position. As linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer wrote in an NBC Chicago blog post on April 1, “It’s true, the NFL did offer some financial info towards the end of mediation. We rejected it, not because nothing is better than something, which it is not, but because the perception would then be that we got what we needed.”

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

Jeff Pash agrees with Mike Vrabel: “Let’s have decision makers at the table together. We could be back negotiating Wednesday”

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash spoke with media today at the NFL Annual Meeting in New Orleans and adressed Kansas City Chiefs linebacker and NFLPA Executive Committee member Mike Vrabel’s call to meet with “people that are willing and can agree to a deal.”

“The point that Mike Vrabel made, even though it was not too flattering towards me — was a fair one, that the people who are writing the checks and the people who are cashing the checks should be at the table together,” Pash said. “And let’s have decision makers at the table together.  So when he said that their executive committee should be meeting with the CEC, I understand that point of view.  That is why we were quick to say that our team, including owners and including the owners that they asked for, would be prepared to meet with the Union’s Executive Committee — Mike Vrabel, Drew Brees, Kevin Mawae, Tony Richardson, and whatever other members of the Executive Committee they want to have there — and we can do that any time.”

“We could be back negotiating with them tomorrow or Wednesday if they wanted to after this meeting concludes,” Pash added. “The fact that there are proceedings at the Labor Board would not, in my judgment, hold up a negotiation or hold up trying to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association.”

Following is a transcript of Pash’s press conference:
Read more

NFL Alumni’s Jeff Nixon: Current players offered lifetime health benefit

Former NFL player Jeff Nixon (left) writes under the header “Current players offered lifetime medical.” Nixon, a member of the national advocacy committee for the “Fourth and Goal” organization of NFL Alumni, notes that under the proposal from NFL owners on March 11, “current players were offered the right to continue participating in the NFL’s medical plan after they retire.”

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash outlined that portion of the proposal last week in an interview on Sirius NFL Radio.

“One of the benefits that was created in the last agreement, which we would be continuing, was a health savings account where players, over the course of their career, can build up hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a benefit fund, sort of like a 401k, but for medical expenses which they could then use to pay the premium to stay in the medical plan so there would be no issue of preexisting conditions.,” Pash said. “There would be no issue of trying to buy insurance as an individual or having to pay the higher rates when you are outside the group.  You’d have the same quality of care and the same network all over the country.  We thought that the reaction of the players and the reaction of union officials to that proposal was really very positive.  That is obviously the first time that the opportunity has been available from the NFL.”

Nixon also discussed the heath reimbursement account that active players can draw upon to pay for health insurance.

“The Gene Upshaw HRA (Health Reimbursement Account) was a benefit that former NFLPA President Troy Vincent and Gene Upshaw were successful in negotiating into the 2006 CBA,” Nixon wrote.

“A player is eligible for the HRA Plan if (a) he earned a credited season under the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan for 2006 or for any year after that (if a Salary Cap was in place) and has a total of three or more credited seasons, or (b) his last credited season was either 2004 or 2005 and he had a total of eight or more credited seasons,” Nixon continued. “Players receive $25,000 for each of their credited seasons and an additional $50,000 when they achieve their third credited season.

“Eligible players did not receive $25,000 in 2010 because it was an uncapped season and under the CBA rules that were agreed to by the NFL and the NFLPA, the owners were not required to contribute to the fund.”

For the complete story, click here.

FACT CHECK: Players eligible for health care under COBRA & were offered lifetime health benefit

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew wrote on Twitter earlier today about what he called the lack of available health care for NFL players.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about players and health insurance so I want to clear it up,” Jones-Drew wrote. “It’s not that we can’t afford it. The insurance companies won’t take us [because] of all the injuries we have. I’ve been denied twice trying to find an insurance company for my family and I.”

In fact, all NFL players are eligible to continue their current NFL health insurance under the federal law known as COBRA, under which affected employees are entitled to continue their employer-provided health insurance coverage at their own or their union’s expense.

Furthermore, in a letter to players yesterday, Commissioner Roger Goodell detailed a new post-career health benefit the NFL proposed to the NFLPA last Friday.

“For the first time,” Commissioner Goodell wrote, “players and families would be able to purchase continuing coverage in the player medical plan after retirement for life, and could use their health savings account benefit to do so.”

Commissioner Goodell letter to players: “We believe the offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations”

Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday sent a letter to all NFL players, detailing the proposal that NFL clubs made to the NFLPA last Friday.

“We want you to understand the offer that we made to the NFLPA,” Commissioner Goodell wrote. “The proposal was made to avoid a work stoppage.  Each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk. We believe the offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations, allowing the new league year and free agency to begin, and growing our game in the years to come.”

Among the details of the proposal detailed by the Commissioner:

  • A salary cap for 2011 that would avoid a negative financial impact for veterans.
  • Extensive changes in off-season work requirements that would promote player health and safety while also encouraging players to continue their education and promote post-football career opportunities.
  • Reduction in preseason and regular-season practices with pads and with contact and increased days off.
  • Expanded injury guarantees – including a guarantee of up to $1 million of a second year of a contract for players injured who can’t return to play.
  • Lifetime access to medical coverage for players and their families after a player’s retirement.
  • Enhanced retirement benefits for pre-1993 players. More than 2,000 former players would have received an immediate increase in pensions averaging nearly 60 percent, funded entirely by owners.

“In that spirit, we are prepared to negotiate a full agreement that would incorporate these features and other progressive changes that would benefit players, clubs, and fans,” Commissioner Goodell concluded. “Only through collective bargaining will we reach that kind of agreement.  Our goal is to make our league even better than it is today, with the benefits shared by all of us. 

“I hope you will encourage your Union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement.”

Click here for the Commissioner’s letter to players.

Eagles president Joe Banner: Players offered additional $2 billion over next four years

Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner (left) today discussed the proposal NFL clubs made last week to the NFL Players Association in an interview on Pro Football Talk Live.

Banner noted that the deal the union walked away from featured an additional $2 billion in cash and benefits to players over the next four years.

“If you looked going forward over the next four years, this would produce somewhere between $19-20 billion in cash and benefits to the players.  If you look back at the last four years, that number was a little bit over $17 billion,” Banner said.

“I know we are talking numbers that are hard for the average fan to relate to,” Banner continued. “But you are talking about a significant increase over the next four years versus the past four years in a combination of cap and benefits to the players and in a formula that accomplished what the owners needed to do to be able to get the game and keep it as strong as it is by doing things like investing in stadiums and investing in the NFL Network and assuming the costs of operating expenses on these new stadiums.”

New NFL Long Term Care Insurance benefit rolled out to retired players

The NFL Alumni today informed its members that they will soon receive information on the new Long Term Care Insurance benefit, which is fully funded by the NFL clubs in partnership with Transamerica Life Insurance Company.

“ALL eligible retired players are advised to apply immediately, regardless of current or past medical history,” NFL Alumni President George Martin wrote to his members today. “This program has an acceptance criterion that is different than many other programs. You should apply even if you’ve previously been denied long term care insurance – you may still qualify for the benefit under this program. And, you may qualify even if you are receiving disability payments (such as from the NFL player retirement plan.)”

Among the details of this new benefit:

  • Vested former players between the ages of 50-75 are eligible
  • Insurance comes at no cost to vested retired NFL players – the premiums are 100% covered by the NFL
  • Players may purchase coverage for spouses at a discounted rate
  • If players already have a long term care insurance policy, they may still apply for this benefit and have the premium paid by the NFL
  • If a player’s spouse already has a long term care insurance policy, the spouse may still apply for the discounted policy

For more information, click here.

Chicago Tribune: “Players didn’t need DeMaurice Smith’s inappropriate analogies to war or 11th-hour ultimatums. They needed perspective”

Chicago Tribune NFL columnist David Haugh wrote today on NFL labor negotiations under the header “Union chief’s ego gets in way as he overplays players’ hand.”

“Based on reports, Smith insisted on trying to force the big play,” Haugh wrote. “The only people dancing in the end zone now are Washington law partners.”

“The players didn’t need Smith’s inappropriate analogies to war or 11th-hour ultimatums,” Haugh continued. “They needed perspective. They needed compromise; they got confrontation over money.”

“Lost in Friday’s inflamed rhetoric assessing the failure were two key points,” Haugh noted.

•”If current players really wanted to do something profound for those before and after them, they would have focused on the league’s offer of lifetime health coverage and increased retirement benefits instead of the disparity in profit. That’s sacrifice in the name of something.”

•”Smith consistently sought to present the players as partners in the league with the owners. As much as the ability and charisma of players have put America’s most popular sport at its apex, they are employees. The owners are employers.”

“That doesn’t mean players need to take a deal on terms the owners dictate,” Haugh added. “But it should mean players recognize they benefit from the opportunities the NFL provides more than these negotiations have shown.”

For the complete story, click here.