Peyton Manning “Humbled” by Memory of Johnny Unitas
I was watching the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins game where Peyton Manning surpassed the great Johnny Unitas’ record for all-time franchise wins. Manning later said that he was “Humbled.”
But aside from this minor mention of Johnny Unitas’ long-standing achievement, little is said or acknowledged of the shameful treatment that he endured over his lifetime from his own Union, the NFLPA. Many of the players like Peyton Manning who have followed in Unitas’ big footsteps never truly recognize the sacrifice and abuse that this sports legend put up with while he was alive so that future players could make the big bucks they do today.
You can read a very insightful piece from Sports Illustrated about the final years of his career by clicking HERE. We also posted a very touching letter from his wife, Sandra, last February (read her letter by clicking HERE.)
Among the many things people DON’T know is that the NFLPA regime under the late Gene Upshaw went out of their way to screw (I can’t think of a nicer way to say it) even high-profile heroes like Johnny Unitas out of his earned Disability Benefits. When Unitas first started receiving his Pension checks, he actually managed to hold off from cashing any of them for months; he knew full well that if he did, the NFLPA would use that as the excuse to deny him his Disability Benefits (the Union created a rule that stated if you were collecting a Pension, you couldn’t receive Disability Benefits as well!). Sure enough, in a moment of desperation or forgetfulness, he cashed a new Pension check that had come in and they immediately informed him that he wouldn’t qualify for his disability benefits since he was already receiving a Pension check (a stupid rule that has since been declared discretionary, even by former Upshaw advisor, Lanny Davis). The great sports legend Johnny Unitas died in 2002, never having received one dime of Disability Benefits after suffering from years of debilitating pain and humiliation from playing the game he loved. If anyone clearly earned his Disability Benefits from injuries due to playing football, Johnny Unitas would have been the poster boy! The great arm that helped build the modern NFL had to have pens taped to his right hand to sign autographs because he could no longer hold a pen!
Without taking away from their accomplishments, what can the stars of today’s game like the Manning Brothers, Tom Brady or Ben Roethliesberger possibly do to acknowledge the contribution of guys like Johnny Unitas to the game of football? Perhaps just a few public comments about the sorry state of how poorly their fellow teammates have been treated over the years might go a long way towards informing the public as well as shaming their Union and the NFL into doing the right thing. (At least these guys have a lot more class than Drew Brees who openly declared that the older players deserved what they got. Click HERE to read that trash talk.) They have nothing to lose in doing so; they’re at the top of their game, the public follows them and the owners and the Union aren’t too likely to step up and fire them for speaking the truth. It’s called leadership, fellas!
And read another great piece from Sports Illustrated subtitled Every young NFL quarterback owes a debt to Johnny U by clicking HERE.