Monday Armchair Quarterback Review

Dec 15, 2008

A quick note on this Monday morning just to let our readers know that there’s been a huge offline discussion among the retired players over the weekend regarding who can or can’t attend those meetings that Commissioner Goodell has been announcing in various NFL cities.

With all due respect to Stan and Jan Berenstain, this classic children’s book pretty much sums it up:

So in a complete turnaround, the NFL Alliance – a committee originally appointed by the recently departed Gene Upshaw and Commissioner Goodell – finally fessed up publicly that they had indeed set up secret side rules to exclude everyone else from their meetings with the Commish. Including spouses and caregivers, as well as representatives. (Read our earlier post from the weekend HERE.)

Several of the Alliance players have been backpedalling so quickly, we think they’re going to give Lance Armstrong a run for his money in the next Tour de France. Some of them are now even saying they meant “except the spouses – um, if maybe they’re pushing their husband’s wheelchair.”

Listen up: The year is now 2008. A black President was just elected. And women won the right to vote over a century ago. And you actually have people working for you in the NFL and NFLPA offices who never played football (men AND women) because you pay them to do stuff you don’t know how to do.

My take as a football dunce? Look – if you fumbled the ball in a stadium in front of a crowd of 50,000 fans, you simply call it a fumble and move on to the next play instead of pointing around to cover it up. We ALL saw the fumble – get over it.

And you don’t do that play again. Just my two cents worth from the sidelines…

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. robert
    December 15th, 2008 at 10:35 am #

    Saturday Evening Post - No Girls Allowed
    Some additional comments: Just so I’m perfectly clear about what I’m trying to say. I’m not just advocating that spouses be allowed to attend the meetings. I’m making a statement that these are modern times and your problems need a modern approach using everyone and everything that’s available to you to get the job done. I believe that the meetings need to be completely open and honest. Spouses, caregivers and other representatives have to be included. And the press might not be a bad idea either.

    The point I’m making is this: When the meeting closes, what do you think happens? The guys go home and talk to their spouses and friends about it anyway. And it makes its way to the press one way or another, whether it’s in an e-mail, an interview, a blog or simply as gossip.

    And if the media is kept out of the meetings, they’re going to get it second hand anyway and the message may or may not get out there the way you want. Or – as Harry Carson discovered – the New York Times will call you on it. As much as many may still believe this is being played under the old Upshaw Rules, these are truly modern times that we live in now – the playing field has changed. We all need to embrace them or get left behind.

    Heck – we could even invite Dr. Phil if some of you think that will help! (But the retired players will negotiate their own GLA agreement for that one if you don’t mind!)

  2. Dave Pear
    December 15th, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Dave & Heidi Pear
    Dear Retired Players,

    It appears that our next step is a GAO (Government Accountability Office) audit. This will expose the fraud being perpetrated against retired players. Please read Mr. Hogan’s candid response to the current illegal disability system.

    Sincerely,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

    John Hogan – Disability Attorney

    The jury in the retired players’ class action lawsuit found that the NFLPA and Players, Inc. violated their duty of loyalty and care to the retired players with regard to licensing and marketing their GLAs. Judge Alsup repeatedly reminded the attorneys out of the presence of the jury, that the class action did not involve other areas of contention between the parties such as disability and pension benefits. Have the NFLPA and the NFL violated similar fiduciary duties to retired players seeking benefits under the Bell/Rozelle Retirement Plan?

    Section 8.8 of the Plan provides “The Retirement Board and the Disability Initial Claims Committee will discharge their duties with respect to the Plan and Trust solely and exclusively in the interest of the Players and their beneficiaries, and with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence under the circumstances then prevailing that a prudent man acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matter would use in the conduct of an enterprise of like character and with like aims. …” While the late Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA have taken most of the heat for the failings of the disability system under the Plan, it should be noted that the Bell/Rozelle Retirement Plan is a joint venture with the NFL Management Council, and the ex-officio Chair of the Retirement Board is the NFL Commissioner. (Plan section 8.1 (c)) Furthermore, it appears that it may well be the NFL Management Council-appointed members of the DICC and Retirement Board who routinely vote to deny claims, often without any substantive justification. Last year Congress heard many stories of players’ claims which were denied even after several favorable opinions from the Plan’s own neutral physicians. If this is in fact the case, it would seem apparent that those deciding disability claims are violating their duty of loyalty and care – not to the NFL – but to the Players and their beneficiaries.

    Furthermore, their fiduciary responsibilities charge them with the duty of skill, care and prudence to act like others operating a similar enterprise (i.e. – adjudicating disability claims). Here there is a significant failing, as the Plan asks examining physicians to determine whether players meet their definition of disability, which in a nutshell, is whether “…he is substantially prevented from or substantially unable to engage in any occupation or employment for remuneration or profit…” (Plan section 5.2). I have been specializing in disability law for well over 25 years, handling claims in many forums, including Social Security, the VA, the Railroad Retirement Board and with most major insurance carriers. In each of those forums, a physician cannot make the determination of whether someone can work. Rather, they set forth the physical and mental restrictions which a claimant possesses, and then a qualified vocational specialist considers such factors as age, education, work experience, past earnings, etc,. (depending upon the specific requirements) to determine whether a person with the claimant’s medical limitations is in fact capable of working. The vocational factors of whether a retired player meets the Plan’s definition of disability are completely missing from their disability determinations and thus, the Plan is failing in their fiduciary duty to act with the skill, care, prudence and diligence they are required to exercise.

    Only a complete audit of the Plan will be able to properly uncover all of its shortcomings.

    John Hogan

  3. Bob Grant
    December 15th, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    Bob Grant
    John Hogan, you are a “BAAAAAAAAAAAd Man” Brother. I look forward to your presentation at our Independent Summit for Retired Players this spring.

    Dave, are you saying that Senator Hilary Clinton, or Linda Sanchez, or Dr. Rice, or Lady Maxine Waters-Williams could not attend one of these Meetings that the Commissioner is going around holding?

    How about John Hogan since he is our strongest Disability Legal Adviser?

    I guess that Bernie Parrish would be entirely out of the question, huh? Maybe they would consider letting you in to ask a question or two. If they ever let me in, I’m bringing the script of questions that Bernie gave us and I’m going to insist on a response to each and every one.

    Bob Grant