More Foxes than Hens – 2008 So Far

Dec 30, 2008

Here we are coming in to a New Year and looking behind us at how much has happened in the past year. We’ve seen a recent flurry of comments and e-mails among a lot of the retired players discussing the current state of affairs within the NFLPA, not the least of which has been the disability benefits and the ongoing selection process for a new Executive Director. And the Commissioner keeps on rolling from city-to-city attempting to put on his dog-and-pony show about his compassionate concern for the disabled players. Wow! It’s been quite a year.

Roger Goodell's Dog-and-Pony Show

Roger Goodell's dog-and-pony show - what's that pile in the background?

With the search for a new Executive Director to replace the missing Gene Upshaw now narrowing down to 9 (!) candidates, it’s shaping up to look like more of the same: same management, same attitudes, same approach to everything. And why not? With the entire Upshaw-picked organization continuing to run the show and working with acting-Director Berthelsen to direct the entire selection process for the new Director, why would anyone expect change? Everyone has been wondering about the details. Like why this new Executive Director isn’t selected for a one-time 2-year term and charged with overseeing a massive review and overhaul of the entire organization? And why isn’t the entire membership – current and retired – given an opportunity to vote for this new Executive Director? And will this new Director also hold the position as head of the Players Union? Which – by the way – has also never held an open and free election either (what other union in the world does business that way?)?

Perhaps it’s due time for all the retired players to simply pick up all their marbles and form their own union if they’re not being properly represented. And that would mean they should be able to take all their money with them (what’s left of it anyway, after the current crew has finished helping themselves to your money). Perhaps then – and only then – might the retired players finally have a say in how their pensions are set up, their benefits defined and distributed, as well as how they’ll be represented fairly.

Oh – and of course, there will need to be a complete and thorough audit one way or another to establish where all the money is and has gone. We have a funny feeling a lot of it has been spent on high salaries, bonuses, consulting and legal fees that may never be recovered. When you have a barrel full of money (hundreds of millions according to most), the temptations can be pretty hard to avoid.

And on that note, here are some insightful e-mails from retired players, Tony Davis and Jim McFarland:

This is an opinion I happen to agree with that looks at the direction and choices of the next NFLPA Executive Director. Jim McFarland – an attorney, a Retired NFL Player and a current member of the NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee – who offers this look at what is being done. It has been my position that the search for a new NFLPA Executive Director needs to start with a look at MLB…

You would think that the NFLPA would want to emulate what MLB has done with regards to Labor negotiations. Major League Baseball is the most powerful sports union in the world. I don’t have to expound on the Pensions of MLB players to make my point. I think what is most important in this search is what Jim makes reference to. We need experienced Labor negotiators, men who have been face-to-face with owners. The final candidates come from the CURRENT NFLPA CULTURE. Is this the best they can do or is it as Jim suggests: that the current faction of NFLPA power is doing whatever they have to do to hold on to their power.

As it stands right now, what we think or believe has no relevance on who is picked. That was decided by Gene years ago when he manipulated the system to favor Power and eliminate veteran knowledge. I wonder – based on the Class Action decision – if there may now be legal standing to make the right changes. Please read what Jim wrote and act on it.

Tony Davis

Lord help us if – after a nationwide search – the final three leading candidates turn out to be three former NFLPA Presidents, each one supported by different factions of the NFLPA staff and legal counsel whose primary interest is not the overall welfare of the NFLPA, but rather just to keep their jobs. Is this nationwide search process formulated to find the best possible candidates for Executive Director or just a facade for politics as usual within the NFLPA?

Tell me: When did Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr serve as Major League Baseball Player Association Presidents of play Major League Baseball? When did Bill Hunter serve as NBA Player Association President or play in the NBA? And finally, when did Paul Kelly serve as the National Hockey League Association President or play in the NHL?

The only common denominators that I can discern in the three current major sports league player association executive directors is that they are all lawyers (two are former U.S. Attorneys) and all have experience in labor relations. From what law schools did any of the three former NFLPA presidents graduate? And, other than their limited participation in labor negotiations in the NFLPA under Gene Upshaw’s guidance, what is the depth and breadth of labor relations experience for any of these three former NFLPA presidents?

Jim McFarland
NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee
Nebraska Chapter

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Conrad Dobler
    December 31st, 2008 at 7:01 am #

    Conrad Dobler
    Well said.

    Conrad Dobler

  2. Dennis O'Sullivan
    January 2nd, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Dennis O'Sullivan
    I remember having our annual ‘Gene Upshaw’ meeting when I was a player and asking Mr. Upshaw what I thought to be a few relatively easy questions:

    1. What is the average career, in terms of years, for an NFL Player?
    2. With what company are our dues invested ($15,000,000 at the time)?
    3. Can we raise the bar and eliminate split contracts?

    I never received one straight answer or one that made sense:

    1. If you make it to 5, it’s 10.
    2. I don’t know.
    3. No.

    When I pushed for actual answers his entourage jumped in to deflect, distract and circle the wagons around their leader.

    If these are the people that are being considered for this post or have the power to make this decision, our union will be the same joke it has always been.

    Our union is unique in that it is run by millionaires. At the time of my ‘Upshaw Meeting,’ the average union rep made $2,000,000 a year and had been in the league 9 years. What they consider important is going to be quite different from the average player – who at the time was making just north of the league minimum and would be out of the league in 2.5 years – let alone be concerned for retirement benefits of former players.

    Dennis O’Sullivan
    New York Jets
    Houston Texans

  3. Floyd Little
    January 2nd, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    Floyd Little
    Hey Dave,

    Thank you for keeping me informed on what’s going on inside the NFLPA. I always look forward to reading your blog.

    I have a concern as it relates to finding a replacement for Gene Upshaw: Why are we considering someone with no legal background to represent us when we have a qualified person like Jim McFarland ready and willing to serve? It’s my opinion that we need strong leadership in these next negotiations. I believe that Jim McFarland is the best man for the job. I know that Jim knows our history as a former player and a member of the Steering Committee for the last two years.

    With a law degree, Jim understands what direction the NFLPA needs to go in. We need to let it be known that we support Jim as our candidate. I can’t think of a better candidate to represent the NFLPA – I know Jim would do a great job for all the players, Past and Present.

    Floyd Little
    Denver Broncos