Behind the Scenes at the Alliance Meetings
More keeps coming out on the touchy-feely meetings that Commissioner Goodell has been conducting with the “Alliance” in league cities across the country. The first meeting held in Dallas ended with Disability Attorney being invited – and then uninvited – by John Wooten (read about that HERE) and as revealed in a series of interesting e-mails that followed the meeting (read about that HERE). Then a dull second meeting in Chicago and a more interesting one last week in Baltimore. The spouses of several players with dementia confronted the Commissioner outside of the meeting room about being denied a voice in the process. And then the New York Times backed it up with the revelation that it was the Alliance who decided to close the meetings to everyone except retired players (read about that HERE and HERE).
Behind the scenes, there’s been a flurry of e-mails and phone calls between the retired players and some members of the “Alliance,” discussing and rationalizing the secret decision to keep the meetings closed. And lots and lots of backpedaling and finger-pointing. We’ve got one interesting exchange that came from Alliance member John Wooten trying once again to explain his way out of another ridiculous situation. Tony Davis’ response is first and Wooten’s e-mail follows at the end. Tony is expressing an opinion that the majority of retired players all seem to share. So why weren’t the other players even consulted before the Big Brother Alliance decided for them?
From: Tony Davis
To: John Wooten; Bruce Laird; Dave Pear
Cc: Mike Connelly; Jack Kemp; Merlin Olsen; Jerry Kramer; Daryl Johnston; Harry Carson
To members of the NFL/NFLPA Alliance,
First, let me thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of the NFL Retired Players. I spoke to Harry at length about this issue after the NY Times story came out (and after I wrote him and my email list of over 4,000 NFL Retired Players). Harry’s explanation on the “Players Only” decision did help me understand his – and apparently your – stance on this issue. Harry wanted me to understand that your group wanted to meet with “just the men,” like it used to be on our respective teams when there were issues that required a team-only meeting. We can all understand that kind of meeting. But with all due respect, this was not one of them.
I don’t have a website and I don’t do a blog. I communicate with many people who have a vested interest and passion to see fairness and justice brought to what we see as a corrupt system with regard to the NFLPA. Those issues still remain the same: A Pension that equals MLB, a Disability system that meets the specific needs of the unique employment of the National Football League and – last but not least – a real VOICE in the administration of the plans that affect us.
The issue of a representative voice comes up every time the “Alliance” is brought into any conversation. I believe that there are honorable men of integrity on the “Alliance.” Among the majority of NFL Retired Players with whom I communicate, this body is not viewed as one that represents them. The reason for this is that this group was put together under the approval of Commissioner Goodell and Gene Upshaw. Based on the verdict given in the Class Action Suit, where the NFLPA/Players Inc. was found complicit in the violation of its Fiduciary duty to its members, the lasting impression of corruption in the NFLPA and Gene Upshaw is stronger than ever. Many have e-mailed me wondering why any Retired Players even sit at the same table with this group. Some of you are in the Hall of Fame. This group that was supposed to market you was laughing out loud at getting you bargain-basement money. Why have we heard only a few Hall of Famers speak out against Players Inc.? Many of you who signed the GLA’s were represented as plaintiffs in this case. Men, this group is guilty of stealing…
I ask Harry this question and I will ask all of you the same one. There are well over 5,000 NFL Retired Players. Most are not involved in the NFLPA Retired Players or the NFL Alumni Association. Most choose not to be “members” for the same reason: Nothing was being done on their behalf. The golf outings use only the Hall of Fame or name players; they’re never asked to autograph sessions to make money even though many played 5 to 10 years. The character they show today is the same we saw in them as teammates. They loved the game, wanted to be a winner and did it without attention. They wanted to be representatives for their teams and – like all of us – wanted the respect of their teammates and their coaches. Now, as time has passed, they once again see the need to be a representative of “The Team.” They want to be included. When a meeting is organized for NFL Retired Players, to discuss the issues that pertain specifically to them and they are told what they can ask, who can attend and that it will be exclusive, they want to know why.
And you must understand that if you’re on the “Alliance,” that doesn’t represent what the majority of the NFL Retired Players want to stand for. They don’t recognize this group and see it as another Upshaw-appointed club. If it insults any of you who are working hard to make legitimate changes, it is what it is. When you are aligned with a group that was just ordered to pay $28 million in punitive and compensatory damages, you should not expect a whole lot of ‘at-a-boys.’ When you say nothing about more millions of our union money being spent to appeal a decision that found them guilty of stealing from us, many wonder what you are thinking.
I have received over 50 e-mails from NFL Retired Players wives who are not really happy as you can imagine. At this point in time in each of our careers, the meetings we now take part in are no longer for motivating each other to do our jobs, to play harder and to know our assignments. These days, we get together to discuss health issues, to find out if widows need money and what can we do to lobby for a fair share of revenues that will be lining the pockets of the active players who have more funded programs than any of them need. If you really want to find out about the real issues of the NFL Retired Players, you ask our wives. If Roger Goodell wants to know the real story of the conditions of the NFL Retired Player and he excludes the wives, he’ll never get the real truth. You want to make positive, real change? Become inclusive.
The majority of the NFL Retired Players will read this e-mail. We’re a group of men who see a problem that directly affects our families and we’ve finally decided that we have had enough. We WILL be included in how our lives are being decided, one way or another. Attorney John Hogan should be embraced by your group. He has single-handedly done more for the NFL Disabled Players than any of us. If he has answers to our questions, why would he be excluded? If you do not include the advocates that are in trenches with the rest of us, you will drive a wedge in this body that’s even deeper than it is now.
Last spring, Commissioner Goodell and Gene Upshaw were called in front of Congress. They were told following the CSR report that:
“This report clearly demonstrates that the NFL and NFLPA need to eliminate the conflict of interest by team doctors who place the financial interests of their teams ahead of players’ health. The NFL cannot expect to simultaneously be team owner and referee,” said Sánchez. “After further reviewing the proposals suggested by CRS, I plan to work with my colleagues on legislation addressing several of the issues raised in the report.”
We see this statement and then see Commissioner Goodell making appearances at certain cities and it really looks like he is preparing his cover for the next round of testimony that will occur in front of Congress. I hear from several former players who communicate with Mr. Goodell that he is a good man who wants to make the right changes. It is my prayer that they are correct. If you follow the pattern of past action by both the NFL and the NFLPA, you will see that few, if any, changes to the conditions of the NFL Retired Players took place without being forced by court action or strong public opinion. Gene Upshaw used to say that the NFLPA does more for its Retired Players than any Union. The hard, cold facts don’t support that statement. Every single CBA that MLB negotiated included same level increases in the pensions of Retired Players as was received by the Active Players. I don’t have to tell you that those figures don’t exist in our sport and with our union.
The other pattern of change in the NFL/NFLPA has been appointed groups and programs that usually help very, very few of the members. I sincerely believe that there are great men with great intentions in the offices of the NFL, as well as among the NFL Retired Players. I know many of them. Unfortunately, some are exclusive and have been led to believe they represent the NFL Retired Players without ever being given that authority by the NFL Retired Players. So the next time you visit with Roger Goodell or Harold Henderson and they ask you what you think the NFL Retired Players would like on these issues, make sure you know the real answers.
In the meantime, those of us who break the wedges and cover the kicks will be hammering for the majority of NFL Retired Players to make sure that justice is served. Making a mistake is not an issue unless it’s never corrected. You see, leadership is never appointed – it’s earned.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
From: John Wooten
To: Bruce Laird; Dave Pear; M.E. Davis
Cc: Mike Connelly; Jack Kemp; Merlin Olsen; Jerry Kramer; Daryl Johnston; Harry Carson
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 6:27:25 PM
Subject: Players only meeting
Fellows please pass the E mail on to every one you know that is a retired player- Thank you-
There has been a lot of talk and questions as to why Wives and significant others were and are not allowed in the retired players meeting with the Commissioner- Let me try to explain how the decision was made
1st of all if the wife has to accompany her spouse in order to get him top the meeting- we all agreed that would be acceptable – The reason for the “players Only ” was we have many players who are very sensitive and in some cases embarrassed as to what is going on in their lives one of the things that Merlin Olsen has spoken out very strongly on the dignity and respecter we owe to our fellow players- Even to the point of saying to the NFL ALUMINi to change the name of the Dire Need fund- to another name – It is my understanding that the NFLPA has changed its Player asst trust to the Eugene Upshaw Fund the NFL Player Care Foundation works under the name of Financial Grants- All to move toward keeping the dignity of the players and respect to be in the highest class-
We have had wives to refuse her husband filing out a application for disability because she said it was welfare- We all know that there has been a great deal of lack of caring and follow up with many players – To the point we know a great number of players have totally been mistreated and that was the purpose of the meetings with the Commissioner around the country- It was a part of trying to make communications a better way than what we had before- It came after our meeting on Sept 5th- had ended- and we were sitting around talking of ways we could improve communications with retired players- Merlin Olsen spoke up about their having 175 guys at the Rams Reunion- The commissioner ask did all teams do this on an annual bases not all teams – But we all felt that if he was willing to come to certain areas in the country we could get retired players to come to a meeting where he could hear the concerns and issues right from the players who are affected himself- That is when we structured the idea of his visiting us around the country- We also decided that it would be players only no outsiders -no media- Only Players except if the person was there to accompany a player who needed assistance-
We all know what wives go through trying to help and take care of us- But we all know what goes on in A players only meeting because there is not one of us who has not been in a players only meeting- I heard Frank Gifford say last night on the “Best Game ever played said he and Sam Huff almost gotinto a fight over whether Jack Kemp was going to get a cut of the Championship Game – We know why we want and prefer Players only ,meetings it gives everyone the chance to speak his mind no matter the situation-
I plead with you let’s not let this become an issue we are makinfg headway to make the Disability and Retirement funds to be what it should be-Let’s stay on that course-
Harry Carson has been in touch with the Commissioner officew and he has agreed to meet with the Wives and discuss all of the issues surrounding them in their care of our friends and former teammates- Please understand we need for all of us to be together aand please know if your wife has to accompany you so that you can get to a meeting she is welcomed- We all know what they do to make our lives better they have always had a tough life to take care of us and dementia and alhzemiers is even tougher- we know that all of us have been touched by this dreaded disease and if you haven’t I hope you never will it is the most dread of anything I have ever encountered- I hope all of you will understand why it was Players Only- God Bless all of us- Keep fighting we are on the right track-