Bruce Jarvis: An Open Letter to the NFLPA

Sep 30, 2010

Gentlemen of the NFLPA

(Messrs. DeMaurice Smith, Andre Collins and Nolan Harrison III),

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After receiving my MBA at Berkeley in the early 80’s, working more than a decade in the institutional pension, investment and mutual fund business including the formation of a fund family as a founder, and working with some of the finest attorneys in the country in the process, I’ve learned a bit about how and why large pools of money are legally organized. Tony Davis’ recent article pointed out that rather than keep the Bert Bell Plan as the single benefit stream for all retired players, other pools of money were funded not to benefit all players, but rather to enrich a subset of younger and ironically better paid current players and more recent retirees including Nolan Harrison and also, I suspect, Andre Collins. Now DeMaurice Smith has entered the fray as the NFLPA is in the midst of a difficult collective bargaining agreement (CBA) process and legal challenges to deal with the ugly issue of what to do with all these guys who were systematically shafted in the past CBA process by the NFLPA and the NFL. Out of this comes: “One Team, One Locker Room.”

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Pre-1993 players are now finally aware that there is a tiering of haves and have-nots, brought about by the NFLPA making successive CBA deals with the owners that exclude players who played before the better-funded pools of money – from which they were intentionally excluded – were negotiated. Like many older retirees, I am increasingly sickened by the NFLPA proclaiming “One Locker Room,” while at the same time trying to insert release language into the Parrish lawsuit that would bar the very players the NFLPA has damaged from additional financial recovery in lucrative agreements with EA Sports, TOPPS Cards, NFL Ventures, etc.

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I’ve only been learning about the shafting of the older retirees for a couple of years, but because of the ‘net, the dirt uncovered is available at an increasing rate. Mercury Morris’ recent posting on Dave Pear’s blog on the disability process was revealing and chilling.

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There is only one reason for multiple benefit pools rather than one pool of money for all to share… G-R-E-E-D. The younger players have theirs, the owners enrich themselves by paying only the younger ones who are more than willing with your guidance to participate in the shafting. And the NFLPA… you invent the mantra “One Locker Room” and hope we older retirees will buy it and quit suing everyone. The NFLPA touts a Legacy Fund, first $2,000, then reduced to $1,000 per month, with not a peep about paying us an amount equal to the work done building the League, taking the risks involved, and then living with the excruciating consequences of injury.

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To the call for pension benefits greater than baseball, a legal disability plan that is not designed to keep retirees from receiving benefits and paid health benefits for all, there is nary a peep. That’s heresy to you all, and besides you’ve got enough on your plate just getting a bunch more from the owners for the current players in this CBA while avoiding a lockout and potentially breaking the NFLPA.

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If you truly want “One Locker Room,” then have one pool of money large enough to feed us all. Quit negotiating agreements that by their construction are designed (the owners know this) to divide current players versus recent retirees versus older former players. Design a disability process that is fair and reasonable rather than one where the tiebreaker goes to the owners designed to “Delay, Deny and Hope They Die.” Negotiate a deal that pays for health benefits to care for our broken bodies and damaged minds. Roll all benefit plans into one pool of money the investment of which we control and that is adequately and legally funded, and establish a democratic process to divide a much higher level of benefits fairly to everyone alive who played the game. And quit trying to offer us seats on your board without a vote.

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Yes, two-thirds of the retired players voted on Jeff Nixon’s blog to take $1,000 per month. It’s not surprising; the NFLPA and the owners have made them desperate enough to take just about anything. Please know this: The call for fair treatment will grow louder and it won’t subside. Some of us will die, but more and more of us will speak out more cogently, work harder and smarter until the right thing is done, either by you or by others who will be forced to replace you. If you truly want “One Locker Room” you – along with NFL owners – need to design one fair deal for all of us.

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Thanks,

J. Bruce Jarvis

Buffalo Bills

1971-1974

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10 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Reggie Rucker
    October 1st, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Reggie Rucker

    Bruce,

    This is probably the most intelligent, well thought out treatise on the current state of affairs in our so-called family that I have read. This is a must-read for everyone involved; after this, what is there? Thanks for all of us!

    Reggie Rucker
    Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns
    1970 – 1981

  2. Neal Olkewicz
    October 1st, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Neal Olkewicz
    Well said, Bruce! As the player rep for the only team that didn’t have a player cross the picket line in 1987 (Redskins), I can’t believe how we have allowed ourselves to be duped. I firmly believe that the only way we will receive what we have earned is through the judicial system. It’s time to stop believing the BS and take action ourselves. United we stand, divided we fall.

    Neal Olkewicz
    Washington Redskins
    1979-1989

  3. Roman Gabriel
    October 1st, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Roman Gabriel
    Bravo Bruce! Great info! I personally did not know about all the information you shared! I’m with you and you can count on me!

    Keep up the good work and keep it coming!

    Roman Gabriel
    16-Year Vet, #18
    LA Rams, Philadelphia Eagles
    1962 – 1978

  4. chris burford
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Chris Burford Chiefs

    Cogent, to the point, well-reasoned and concise.

    Nice job, Bruce….you’ve hit it spot on.

    Regards,
    Chris Burford
    Houston Texans/Kansas City Chiefs
    1960 – 1967

  5. Walter Beach III
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    Walter Beach
    A clear command of the issues before us. Excellent, Excellent – our vision has been expressed. You captured the essence of our struggle!

    Peace and Love
    Walter Beach III
    Boston Patriots & Cleveland Browns
    1960 – 1966

  6. Greg Davis
    October 1st, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    Greg Davis
    Thanks, Bruce. That was well stated!

    Greg Davis
    Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
    Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders
    1987 – 1998

  7. Tony Davis
    October 1st, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Tony Davis
    Reggie Rucker is absolutely spot on. This post needs to be pinned on every NFL Retired Player Website that currently exists. Bruce’s declaration of “There is only one reason for multiple benefit pools rather than one pool of money for all to share… G-R-E-E-D. The younger players have theirs, the owners enrich themselves by paying only the younger ones who are more than willing with your guidance to participate in the shafting. And the NFLPA… you invent the mantra “One Locker Room” and hope we older retirees will buy it and quit suing everyone. The NFLPA touts a Legacy Fund, first $2,000, then reduced to $1,000 per month, with not a peep about paying us an amount equal to the work done building the League, taking the risks involved, and then living with the excruciating consequences of injury.”

    For the NFL Retired Players who stand up and say, “Support the NFLPA, we’ve been given all we deserve (yes – an NFLPA Chapter President actually said that). Then come back with, “There is no new money” …I would direct them to Bruce Jarvis’ next statement:

    “If you truly want “One Locker Room,” then have one pool of money large enough to feed us all. Quit negotiating agreements that by their construction are designed (the owners know this) to divide current players versus recent retirees versus older former players. Design a disability process that is fair and reasonable rather than one where the tiebreaker goes to the owners designed to “Delay, Deny and Hope They Die.” Negotiate a deal that pays for health benefits to care for our broken bodies and damaged minds. Roll all benefit plans into one pool of money the investment of which we control and that is adequately and legally funded, and establish a democratic process to divide a much higher level of benefits fairly to everyone alive who played the game. And quit trying to offer us seats on your board without a vote.”

    What more can be said my NFL Retired Player brothers… Pass Bruce Jarvis post around to every NFL Retired Player you can locate.

    Last… Roman Gabriel, pick up the phone and call me…

    Tony Davis
    Cincinnati Bengals & Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    1976 – 1982
    NFL Alumni

  8. John Hogan
    October 2nd, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    John Hogan
    Just another smart retired player! Great job, Bruce. Tony, you’re no slouch either; and your explanation of the League’s “loan” to the Alumni also needs to be passed around.

    John Hogan
    Disability Attorney

  9. Dave Pear
    October 2nd, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Dave at Home
    Great letter, Bruce!

    It seems the only way for justice & restitution is a “class action lawsuit.” To say we are one team and one locker room is simply not true. As Brent Boyd points out, the older retired players are still made to ride at the back of the bus. Or think of it this way: It would be like creating our Social Security System in 1935 and then telling your grandparents and parents that they will be given much smaller checks than the generations retiring today. And telling them to shut up and like it. From what Earl Edwards and other brave retired players are now coming forward to say, it’s what our so-called union has been trying to do all along. Might I suggest we all start a letter-writing campaign to the heads of the AFL-CIO and the Fraternal Order of Police FOP) to inform them of how older football retirees are actually mistreated. I rather doubt they would lend their support if they realized how our own union’s senior members have been abused over the years.

    The indelible mark of thievery inflicted upon retired players from our own union the NFLPA Leadership will not go away with more hollow rhetoric.

    Real change needs to occur and until that happens, the strife and rift that exists will continue to widen and grow deeper.

    The real issues have always been:
    1) Disability/Pension reform
    2) Medical after football

    No more sly slogans that mean nothing.

    Our union has “Breached their Fiduciary Duty” towards retired players and nobody represents us!

    NOBODY!

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  10. Bruce Jarvis
    October 2nd, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Bruce Jarvis
    Hi Dave,

    Your comparison of our Social Security System with the NFL’s multiple pools of money paying hugely different benefit levels to different players is dead right. Imagine the outrage across America if the federal government’s actuarial math was applied differently across different groups of our citizens so, as is now the case with NFL/NFLPA benefits: Retirees born later were awarded benefits 10 to 25 times greater than those born earlier! That’s inflation …on HGH!

    The key difference is that all American citizens continue to matter to their government until they die. Why? Because they have a vote and can throw any rascals out who even mention forming additional pools of money so as to reward some at the expense of all the others.

    So the real key to fair and equitable treatment for all retirees is gradually being exposed… it’s the V-O-T-E. As the rules of NFL retirement are written currently – meaning the NFLPA and NFL bylaws – once a player is done playing he has no vote, control of the process is behind him and G-R-E-E-D prevents those still playing from seeing that they are one hit away from retirement and the creation by even younger ones (to the delight of the owners) of the next pool of money from which the now newly-retired will be excluded.

    Now you can see why the NFLPA doesn’t want us retirees to vote. And when they eventually do offer the vote, the first go-round will be unfairly rigged so as to maintain the status quo with the young ones (and their owner/partners/agents) firmly in control of the retiree’s issues.

    The vexing question is how is this ever changed? Moral suasion? Shame hasn’t scratched the current player’s and owner’s surfaces so far. Lawsuits? Maybe, but they pay great lawyers, the process is long, and the money – if we win – won’t be nearly enough. Congress? Who do you think pays the lawmakers more – the NFL owners or the NFL retirees?

    Well, here’s truly far-fetched idea …a fair solution does rest in moral suasion. It starts in two meeting rooms – one a group of current player representatives – and in another a gathering of owners. A gutsy football player stands up and says he understands that “it’s wrong what we are now doing.” In the same vein, an owner (perhaps two or three) say, “Fellas, there’s enough money here to finally start applying the Golden Rule, to bring back into the fold the guys we have forgotten.” It’ll be very tough at first to beat back greed and to convince the majority with so much money that they have to carve some off and pay the retirement tab that has been so long overdue. It will take soul-searching, it will take courage and it will take leadership. Let’s pray there are men in both groups who have all that.

    Thanks again,
    Bruce.