A Hot Topic
One of the presentations that drew a lot of attention during The Summit was from Bruce Laird of Fourth and Goal. Fourth and Goal has been in ongoing discussions with the NFL to use the NFL Alumni organization as a possible platform for advocacy of disability and pension reform. At the conclusion of The Summit, the group voted to continue moving forward without embracing any single organization at this early stage while encouraging and supporting all organizations that will advance retired players’ issues. (You can look at the evolving Summit blog by clicking HERE and you’ll find Bruce Laird’s presentation under the PowerPoints tab – or click HERE.)
Bernie Parrish has already voiced some of his strong opinions in no uncertain terms (HERE and HERE) and this is definitely going to make it a very hot summer topic. There’s no middle ground or gray area on this one. Do the retired players embrace an existing organization that has been looked on as another business-as-usual club for elite members or will they be embracing an organization that’s been reborn into something that can actually serve the membership at large with complete transparency and representation for each and every one of its members? Only time will tell and everyone’s watching closely.
In the meantime, we’re encouraging everyone to join in an open dialog to make their voices and arguments heard. We hope that everyone will take advantage of the new technology tools available to us today so anyone can voice their opinions. We just received some comments from Jeff Nixon and Tony Davis who were both also at The Summit. So we’re posting them here tonight in hopes of starting a civil discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the Alumni deal. We only ask that each of you keep your comments from getting personal. This will be cross-posted on Dave’s blog and on the new Football Summit blog.
Dear Bernie Parrish:
In your recent posting on Dave Pear’s Blog, you said that if any retired players support Bruce Laird and his mouthpiece Tony Davis, they should send you an email. Few players will take you up on that offer because they don’t want to be the next target of your personal attacks. I will probably be in your cross-hairs now, because I wholeheartedly support Bruce Laird and his attempts to get the NFL Alumni moving in a more proactive way to help retired players.
I have also supported your efforts in the past, and even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, I will continue to keep the lines of communication open in order to find the best way to help retired players. At the Summit, Bob Grant told everyone he was an independent advocate and that the only person he stands behind is you. Then during his presentation he made some very derogatory and inflammatory remarks about Bruce Laird and everyone associated with Fourth and Goal and the NFL Alumni. The next day, Mr. Grant apologized to the participants for his tone, but he did not take back any of his statements.
The big question is, why didn’t you come to the Summit and speak for yourself? Did Bob Grant speak for you? I told Bob Grant that even though we may disagree on the “vehicle” we to use to get to our goal, we need to treat each other’s opinions and ideas with dignity and respect. We also need to make sure we are truthful in all of our statements, because if we aren’t… we lose all credibility. You made some statements in your posting that I believe are untrue and misleading and I will now address each of those statements.
In your comments, you state that, “After several conversations with NFL Alumni Assoc officials, I’ve learned their preference NOW is to join with the NFLRPA who are meeting in Palm Springs and not to join with Bruce Laird’s Fourth and Goal group that is meeting in Las Vegas.” You also said “Bruce was described as an “empty suit” by an NFL Alumni Assoc, spokesperson earlier this past week, meaning he has no backing, outside of a small gang of loud individuals.”
Retired players are sick and tired of information based on your “anonymous sources.” If someone at the NFL Alumni is against the recent changes that were made at the NFL Alumni, then they need to have the integrity and guts to come out and say how they feel… and you shouldn’t be quoting them unless they do! As with all organizations, there are going to be people who are threatened by change. The bottom line is this… as a result of Bruce Laird, Fourth & Goal, and other retired player advocate’s efforts, the NFL Alumni has agreed to make “Helping Retired Players” its number one goal and priority. Bruce also made it clear in his presentation, that the NFL Alumni will need to work with the NFLPA in order to make needed changes to the Pension and Disability Plans.
You also said “Laird’s claims of secret agreements between him and Roger Goodell about the NFL Alumni’s logo and restrictions on collective bargaining and not being able to sue and NFL entity are simply not true.”
There is no secret as to what Bruce Laird and Roger Goodell have talked about. The information from the White Paper Recommendations” were given to everyone at the Summit. The good news is Roger Goodell has agreed “in principal” to the recommendations that were made. After reading the recommendations, I am optimistic that we can achieve several of the goals within a year, if not sooner.
I have asked Bruce Laird to make one of his first orders of business an audit of NFL Alumni finances. If we want the NFL Owners and the NFLPA to disclose their finances and have total transparency, then we must also ask this of the NFL Alumni…. and any organization that has retired players as its members. Secondly, the NFL Alumni will be hiring a new Executive Director… someone with strong marketing skills, preferably a retired player, who will start building more opportunities for us to increase revenues and become a self-sustaining organization. I think most retired players are tired of going to the NFLPA and the League with “hat-in-hand” every time a new CBA is being negotiated. Obviously, this will require the League to give us authorization to use the NFL Alumni Shield to obtain more sponsors and obtain certain intellectual and property rights that will allow us to effectively market retired players.
In your posting, you said that “He [Bruce] has even pissed off the new (by way of Berthelsen’s rigged election) Executive Director “D” whatever his name is, who claimed emphatically yesterday that he represents retired NFL players”. Is that a bad thing? Bruce has been pissing the NFLPA off for years… and that’s one of the reasons we have the 88 Plan that helps retired players with Alzheimer’s and Dementia! That doesn’t mean we should stop talking to them.
I have no problem asking the League or the NFLPA for money to help us with our cause, just as Bob Grant (and maybe you, but we don’t know because you were a no show) are asking the NFLPA for 1% of the revenues for a proposed Retired Football Players Association.
You state that “the retirement benefits remain the same, the disability plan remains a fiasco and rumor has it, “D” is threatening to cut our retirement benefits by 80% if there’s a lockout. This is the ol’ buddy that Ron Katz says is the answer to the retired players’ issues…”
I made it clear to everyone at the Summit that the Retirement Plan could not be reduced because the benefits are protected by law. Mr. Smith has clarified his statement by saying that the reduction would be in the Supplemental Disability Plan. Additionally, you continue to treat Ron Katz with no respect even though he was instrumental in winning the $28 Million Class Action Suit against the NFLPA.
You said “Bruce does not and never will represent the 2062 participants in Parrish v NFLPA Case No. 07 0943 WHA, no matter what he or Tony Davis claim.” To my knowledge, Bruce and Tony have never claimed to represent the 2062 class members. If you have any information to the contrary, please share it with everyone. The fact of the matter is there is only one retired player that legally represented the Class and his name is Herb Adderley. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Herb, because even though you continue to tout yourself as the sole representative, he has remained above the fray… dignified and unselfish.
The facts show that you were dismissed as a Class Representative for making racially charged statements. That is not my opinion, that is what the presiding Judge said in his ruling, which I have attached. The Judge stated on page 14, “Parrish’s vindictive remarks aimed at defendants, the racial slurs in several of his statements, his stated unwillingness to ever settle this case, and his blemished track record of representing retired NFL players – all demonstrate that he cannot be trusted to fulfill his fiduciary duty to the proposed class.”
After that statement from the Judge, do you really think retired players are going to rally around you and Bob Grant and your proposal for a new Retired Football Players Association. Good luck.
In closing, I want you to know that I have full faith and confidence in the new members of the NFL Alumni Executive Board – Bruce Laird, Harry Carson, Jerry Kramer, Daryl Johnston, Ben Lynch and Jack Thompson. They will be key voices in the NFL Alumni’s new mission to help all retired players.
I urge all retired players to become members of the NFL Alumni. Your support will go a long way in securing a brighter future for the pioneers of the greatest game on earth, “The National Football League.”
“It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
NFL Alumni Member
To the NFL Retired Players:
We NFL Retired Players are a proud group. We had to be. We took great pride in everything we did to achieve the highest levels of our profession. We took pride in perfecting our skills. We took pride in improving our weaknesses. We took pride in what our teammates thought of us and we took pride in being good teammates.
This past weekend, 100 to 150 NFL Retired Players organized to once again become good teammates. Among those were 4th and Goal and NFL Alumni. There was a current NFLPA-RP Chapter President as well as many men looking for a new direction. The stories we heard from wives were compelling. All were personally interested in what was to be said and hopefully what was to be done on behalf of suffering NFL Retired Players.
The issues of Pensions and Disability were addressed by two of the nation’s foremost experts in Michael Wagner of JP Morgan/Chase and Disability Attorney and expert, John V. Hogan.
As a member of the Advisory Board of 4th and Goal, I have made a decision to send in my membership application and dues to the NFLPA-RP. Yeah, you read it right: the NFLPA-RP. I have also enclosed my application for the New NFL Alumni Association. I am sending Gridiron Greats a small donation and may do the same to support Dave Pear’s Blog. I can choose one, I can choose none, I can choose all. These groups work to improve the conditions of the NFL Retired Players. They all deserve my support. By the way, I come from a Union family. My Pops said, “If you’re not a member, then you can’t complain.” That decision is completely yours but I have to have a clear conscious while going after the “Fiduciary Breachers.”
When I came to the Summit, it was with the intent of informing NFL Retired Players of the possibilities of a New NFL Alumni Association that may soon be in a position to provide help and services for our Retired Players and families. I haven’t seen an organization that currently provides a comprehensive package of services for our membership. Bruce Laird, President of 4th and Goal, gave a complete breakdown of the history of 4th and Goal, the NFL Alumni Association and how, through the efforts of many, we are very close to being able of having an Association that every NFL Retired Player WHO WANTED TO could become a Shareholding Member. This Association is all-inclusive. It’s your choice. You can become a member or choose not to. You may be a member of all the Groups listed at the beginning of this commentary. It is up to you. Our mission is for the “Care and Welfare of the NFL Retired Players, NFL Retired Coaches and both their families. Choose any group you desire. With us, it’s not an either/or situation.
I have heard the comment that this New Association has already propped up its leader. In order for change to happen, it requires someone or some group to step out and organize change. Change does not happen without creative thought and effort. In 35 years, there have been only two directions for the NFL Retired Player to go. One was the NFLPA, the other was the NFL Alumni Association. The NFLPA failed in Pensions, Disability and Fiduciary Responsibility. The NFL Alumni Association chose to focus their charitable work to help children. I am quite certain the NFL-A did not envision that the NFL Retired Players conditions would deteriorate in the fashion we now see.
When like-minded men who see injustice choose to make change, what you get is 4th and Goal and Bruce Laird. Then others, with the same passion to make change, jump into the mix and what you see is an Advocacy Group. If Bruce Laird had not taken on the task of helping John Mackey and his family, many other families would not have been helped without 4th and Goal. Bruce didn’t prop himself up as leader of 4th and Goal. He took on the job to help others and people followed. Bruce has repeatedly said he will not take the position of Executive Director of the New NFL Alumni Association. Our 4th and Goal Advocacy Group, based on the record of helping others, earned the trust of the NFL and Roger Goodell. Despite that trust, every member holds to a disciplined rule of transparency and democracy. Decisions are made by consensus and everything is open to the members. NOT ONE MEMBER OF 4TH AND GOAL HAS RECEIVED ANY COMPENSATION FROM THE NFL.
Transparency and Democracy are central to our mission which means every member has a vote and every vote counts. There will be elections of our officers after the initial efforts of organization are accomplished. We are working with the current NFL Alumni Board in this transition. We are continuing to finalize the funding required and the programs to be funded. Very soon we will have a Marketing Plan and Budget that we will be posted for all to evaluate.
If we are fortunate enough to fulfill the “What If” proposal every NFL Retired Player has an open ended invitation to be a Shareholder in their own Association. We will never say we’re THE NFL Retired Players only organization. You don’t have to make a choice between us and any others. All are open and all, I believe, are inclusive. Choose one, choose none, choose all. It’s always your choice and your choice is always “The Best Choice.”