An Open Letter from George Visger

Nov 15, 2009
George Visger

George Visger

Fellow independent retired 49′er, George Visger, recently sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. He was kind enough to share his letter with all of us. George has managed to continue his ongoing battle with the NFL and the NFLPA for recognition and fair treatment of all retired football players despite his personal struggles from football-related brain damage and the subsequent brain surgeries he’s had to endure over the past 20+ years. George’s case is another perfect example of how the NFL stacks the deck against the players when it comes to disability and pensions after football. They know the average career is 3 years or less so they set the standard for qualification at 4+ years. Even at WalMart, an employee qualifies for FULL benefits after a 90-day probationary period. And you can be damn sure if you hurt yourself on the job on your second day of work, you’d be qualified for Workers Compensation benefits with little objection. Only in one of the most lucrative and physical professional sports do they set the standard so impossibly high for its employees. When will we actually see our Union step up for its retired players?

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You can follow some of the recent media coverage on George Visger’s story - click the links below:

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NPRSacramento News Review • CNN Interview Coming Soon!

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Dear Mr. Smith and Mr. Goodell,

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I, too, would like to hear where you stand on pension/disability reform and medical care after football. The vast majority of us played a minimum of 7 years of organized football (I had 10 years) prior to reaching the NFL. With the average life expectancy of an NFL player at a little over 2 years and the NFL vesting period of 4 years, where does all the money that the majority of players who have ever made it to the NFL and paid into the retirement system actually go?

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Certainly not a dime has gone to someone such as myself who only played 2 seasons, yet has endured 9 emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries, 3 knee surgeries (including a GoreTex ACL transplant that they stopped doing in 1991) and multiple grand mal seizures. I was hung out to dry by the NFL, was forced to sue for WORKERS COMP to get brain surgeries # 2 and # 3 paid for – just 4 months after we won Super Bowl XVI – and recently spent 3 months fighting with the 49′ers Workers Comp to get approval for a $3,700 three-day evaluation at Dr. Amen’s clinic, AFTER already being referred there by my primary care provider. My fight for benefits continues to this day, despite the fact I won my Workers Comp case against the 49′ers in 1986!

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I would like you to answer this one question:

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WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING FOR SERIOUSLY INJURED RETIRED PLAYERS WHO BUILT THIS LEAGUE WHILE YOU CONTINUE TO LEECH FROM THEM SO READILY?

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It’s a very simple question and one that even a brain-damaged individual such as myself (I am on brain surgery # 9 ) could answer. We’re all tired of your double talk and while you continue to juke and jive, people such as Mike Webster (dead at 51), Terry Long (suicide age 45), Andre Waters (suicide age 44), Justin Strzelczyk (suicide age 36), Tom McHale (overdose of pain killers and cocaine at age 45), Gerald Small (dead at 52 – I knew him, he was from Stockton my hometown), Curtis Whitley (dead at age 39 – his mother has written to me several times describing his last few years) are dying. I am a proud man who has always taken care of myself and completed a degree in biology at the age of 32 during brain surgeries 4 through 7. But I sometimes find myself slipping into a dark abyss where it seems these others ahead of me have fallen.

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BUT I REFUSE TO GO THERE!

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I may be speaking for many others without voices when I demand answers. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ADDRESS PENSION AND DISABILITY REFORM FOR RETIRED PLAYERS AND HOW DO WE GET MEDICAL CARE WITH ALL OF OUR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS?

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I don’t know how either of you sleep at night with the blood of so many destroyed families on your hands. And it IS on your hands because YOU hold the power to change this system NOW. Do either of you gentlemen let your children play football? If so, I pray to God that your children never face an injury while playing, or worse: be damaged even more by the BS we must go through just to get treatment 28 years later.

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George Visger

San Francisco 49′ers

1980 & 1981

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3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dave Pear
    November 15th, 2009 at 7:40 pm #

    Dave Pear
    Thank you, George, for your very insightful letter!

    I would like to hear where Commissioner Goodell and De Smith stand on pension/disability reform and medical care after football.

    The retired players who are the makers of the game have been left in a lurch (a vulnerable and unsupported position) with no one representing them and the active players who are the keepers of the game today will soon be retired players with a Union that won’t represent them.

    A Union is suppose to stand up for the rights of their current and the RETIRED members. Retired players have been patient but there’s been NO real change yet.

    Someone must stand up for the rights of RETIRED players!

    When will this happen?

    Sincerely,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  2. Greg Howard
    November 25th, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Reading George’s letter has opened my eyes even further regarding the dark side of the business of professional football. These companies are just that: Privately-held businesses that answer only to themselves, and yet market the pretense that they somehow “belong” to the people of the city they may have their headquarters in for that season. It’s false, and how they treat former players is the undeniable evidence of that.

    I played alongside George at Colorado. He was a joy to be around, a leader, full of life, and a very hard worker. And though I haven’t seen him in many years, I’ll bet he is still all of those things. His personal fight that has been going on for so long inspires me, and confirms my thoughts about the sport that have been brewing for some time now — that is, I have 3 very active and athletic boys in my home and I am not encouraging any of them to take their football game to the next level (college). There are many other sports available today that can offer just as much thrill of the game, and that still have exciting levels of physicality, to make it fun. And then, when they are in their sunset years, they can still enjoy a full life.

    Recalling the times I’ve been knocked out on the field, that is my hope for me as well.

    Thanks, George. God is still using you. Take care.

    Greg Howard

  3. Pete Lund
    February 9th, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    George,

    I remember watching you and a lot of guys in the late 70′s early eighties. (I am from MN, guess which team has broken my heart lately?)

    I just read an article about you and I want to do more to help publicly shame the NFL… it’s kind of like the music industry with their artists and how nobody gets anything after they have been through the mill. All for “our” entertainment. I think of football players as the modern day Gladiators, but I would hope this civilization does not allow its Gladiators the same fate.

    Pete Lund