Bernie Parrish to Commissioner Goodell: What retired players want

Dec 8, 2008

As most of you now know, Bernie Parrish played a key role in the successful players’ litigation against the NFLPA and Players Inc. in San Francisco. Around the same time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced what appeared to be a groundbreaking tour to NFL host cities to hear about what the retired players truly want to see happen for them. Unfortunately, as we soon discovered, it’s been nothing more than a transparent PR scam to generate the illusion that they’re actually doing something. While Goodell shows up dragging along his personal entourage that includes the like of Harold Henderson (general counsel) and the NFL PR flaks, the players themselves are told that they can’t bring anyone to the meetings. No counsel, no doctors, not even caregivers or spouses. So disability experts like John Hogan were not even allowed to attend that first meeting in Dallas (he was uninvited by the likes of Harold Henderson AFTER he was invited and flew there at his own expense). (Click HERE and HERE and HERE to read about that first meeting and the fallout after.) And it goes on. The second meeting in Chicago was even worse; it was announced with short notice, few retired players showed up and their stories were all the same. And oh yes – no one was allowed into the “meeting” except retired players.

Now there’s another meeting scheduled for Baltimore on December 11th at 6:30 at the Doubletree Hotel. And yep – absolutely no one allowed to attend except retired players. So if you’re a retired player – dead or alive – you’re invited to show up and speak your mind!

Bernie’s been circulating a list of REAL issues that everyone would like to see the Commissioner address. We’re posting Bernie’s points ahead of the meeting in the hopes that some of the retired players might have time to print them out and take them along to that meeting. And the next one. And the next one after that…

Subject: What retired players want.

Guys: I sent this to you a couple months or ago and I sent it to many congressional staffers, Representatives, and Senators. I am about to send it again so if you have anything to add or change let me know. If I haven’t expressed our thoughts in a way you agree with let me or the Congressional staff members know.


Note: There were dozens of emails saying “You got it right, that’s what we want.” There were none who disagreed or said don’t send it. Today I made some small wording improvements but there are no real changes suggested by retired players.

It was reported that the NFL owners lobbyist, Covington & Burling, has been paid $655,000 from the June 26 hearings until Dec 31, 2007 and another $900,000 (approx.) since then to lobby against retired player pension and disability issues. Rumor has it that Covington & Burling’s lobbyists have promised Congressional staffers future jobs with Covington & Burling if they will sabotage the retired player’s pension and disability issues behind the committee scenes.

I understand you folks (the Congressional Committee staffers) are asking “around” again about what the retired NFL players want including justice.

Here is what we want (it’s virtually the same as what we wanted two months ago!):

1A: Retired players do not want to be represented in any way by Gene Upshaw’s replacement or the NFLPA. Upshaw stated it is illegal for the NFLPA to represent retired players in collective bargaining and then continually violated the “law” he cited by representing retired players to their detriment. Denying retired and disabled players has been a mission of the NFLPA under its current leadership. We want to see NFLPA officers and Executive Committee members and the NFL owners prosecuted by the Dept. of Labor and Dept. of Justice for violating the labor law that Upshaw and the owners have flaunted while making their collective phony “best effort” benefit increase of $1.63 per day pension increase.  Empowered in his dictatorial role by the owners’ promotion of the scam – a clear RICO violation by the way – that included giving Upshaw a $10,000 per day increase in compensation. NFL Commissioner Tagliabue and owner Robert Kraft called it a “partnership.” So that there’s no misunderstanding, the retired players simply want nothing to do with Upshaw’s replacement or the NFLPA or their “partnership.”

What we do want and intend to obtain by whatever means it takes:

1) Adjust the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan to match Major League Baseball’s retirement plan. [In addition fixing the benefits of the 350 players, who – on the bad and misleading advice about Social Security from the NFLPA – took their pensions early.]

2) Completely re-write the disability plan using the input of retired players and attorneys Bob Fitzsimmons, John Hogan, Mercury Morris, Brent Boyd, and others who have dealt with the duplicity the Groom Law Group has written into the currently corrupted plan. Our industry is unique, having unique problems and the solutions should meet those unique problems; especially those that deal with the injuries sustained by the players who play the game that extend into the problems those injuries cause throughout player’s lives.

3) Establish a means for the retired players to protect their interests and control their own Retirement Plan now and in the future so future corrupt union leaders cannot exploit the active players’ and retired players’ divergent interests. One easy option is to give the retired players a vote in the union (which gives active players a vote for life in the union) both on a one-man-one-vote basis. A unique industry must have unique solutions. Another, even better solution is to form and operate an independent retired players “organization” without any ties or involvement with the NFLPA or its leadership or the active players.

4) A GAO audit of the retirement plan finances and operations, as well as the union’s financial operations, the operation of the league office and all its multitude of legal entities, and especially Players Inc. And a GAO audit that shows the true income and the true percentages of the benefits and compensation that goes to the active players, the retired players and the owners. This is needed for several reasons including the establishment of a baseline from which to operate in the future. There have been NO audits of the NFL owner’s corporations and the alleged 60% players’ share is closer to 35%. The current players don’t have a clue, none of them could read an audit or a balance sheet if they had one put in front of them.

5) Award the retired player’s retribution in retirement benefits and disability benefits owed them as a result of the leadership of the NFLPA acting in collusion with the NFL office and owners. Sever all ties between retired players and the active players and their union, as well as give the retired players control over their own Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan which currently owns the disability plan. We want no relationship whatsoever with Groom Law Group or any of those who have administered any part of the fiasco of a retirement or disability plan in the past. Retired players were far better off before NFLPA’s Gene Upshaw arrogantly broke the law, after citing it, recognizing it and then unilaterally representing retired players in collective bargaining when nobody asked or wanted him to (except the owners). This is our plan and we must administer it. The Player Reps have consistently shown they are inept, totally unqualified and have no real interest in the retired players or their welfare.

6) The owners opting out of the CBA means nothing to correcting these problems because any solutions and/or changes that involve the CBA – if Congress choose to use the CBA – can then be made using the NFLPA’s infamous “side letter” agreements. But the changes should be legislated and need not have anything to do with the CBA since it’s always been illegal to collectively bargain for retired players to begin with.

7) A sports Commission (3 man) or Commissioner who answers to a Congressional Subcommittee for at least five years – then moved to the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Labor – should oversee the Retired and Current players organizations, including league antitrust abuses by NFL franchise owners of the players and the public of everything from employment to stadium construction, TV contracts and franchise location issues and illegal gambling (a yearly $80 billion to $380 billion bookmaking industry) promoted surreptitiously by the league office and NFL/Covington & Burling lobbyists.

Bernie Parrish

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Irv Cross
    June 21st, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    Irv Cross

    This is a dynamite proposal. Last week I said Bruce Laird’s report delivered in Las Vegas was the best thing I have seen. You have clearly outlined another alternative for all retirees to consider. I was in Florida (’64), as one of the player reps for the Eagles when you proposed having the players join a union. We voted to become an association rather than affiliate with a union at that time. What you are proposing today clearly presents another alternative approach for all retirees. I like the idea of being independent, having a vote to control our own destiny, audits to develop a baseline and have a clear understanding of how the NFLPA has operated and more. The biggest challenge as I see it is to have a funded, unified organization that represents the retired players as a single body. Bruce has one approach, you offer another alternative. Looks like we have two terrific approaches. Is there a way to combine the best of each proposal to enable the retirees to maintain an independent status and create a revenue stream to launch this “new” entity? Any ideas?

    Irv Cross