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Mikey Will Eat Anything!

Sep 29, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Retired Bengal and Buccaneer Tony Davis just addressed some additional comments to Nolan Harrison III – and the NFLPA – on their current proposal for a Legacy Fund. Tony addresses more facts and issues that need to be discussed now rather than AFTER the CBA negotiations and contract are finalized. Each time a CBA was negotiated in the past, retired players were always kept in the dark regarding details and serious pension and disability reform never came about. It’s time to have a public dialog… NOW!

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For all the old-timers out there, it reminds us of a classic commercial from the 70′s (we kind of doubt if very many of the younger players have seen it):

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With that, here are Tony Davis’ additional comments and observations:

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Dear Retired NFL Players:

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The NFLPA Senior Director of Former Player Services, Nolan Harrison III, recently attacked Dave Pear for comments he made regarding the Legacy Fund and other comments about the NFL disability plan.

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In a comment to Dave, he said “While this might not be politically correct, to be honest with you, from reading your posts I don’t believe that anything we do or say will be good enough for you. For example, we are advocating for a Legacy fund, that can help put money in the pockets of many former players and you attack that concept. Why would you attack the possibility that we could get the owners to repay the players what they owe?” (Read the rest of that earlier comment that started it all – click HERE.)

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Here’s why:

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The NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith, proposed a Legacy Fund that asks NFL owners to contribute $32 Million ($1 million per team) to increase the monthly pension of pre-1993 players by $1,000 …but that’s not what retired players asked for!

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As we all know, former players passed a Legacy Fund resolution at the Convention in Maui asking for a $2,000 monthly pension increase for pre-1993 players. The resolution also called for 2% of League revenues which would be $160 million. Why isn’t Nolan carrying that message to the active players?

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Some NFLPA reps have suggested that Mr. Smith was just showing how easily the increase could be accomplished with a mere $1 million contribution from each team, but it now appears that the $32 million has become the “mantra” of everyone at the NFLPA including the Former Player Board Chairman – Cornelius Bennett - and now Nolan Harrison III.

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Nolan Harrison played from 1991 to 2000 and therefore he will benefit from the proposed Legacy Fund because he has at least one credited season before 1993.

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While a $1,000 monthly increase in Nolan’s pension might be satisfactory to him, there are many former players that would like to see the NFLPA advocating for the $2,000 monthly increase that was originally proposed in the resolution. This is especially true for the guys that took Early Retirement and/or the Social Security election. Most retired players took those options because they had to, not because they wanted to pad their huge salaries – salaries that averaged around $20,000 to $50,000 a season.

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Here’s what Nolan said about retired player benefits: “The NFLPA has always been there for us in terms of benefits and it’s kind of funny because the first benefit increases were the ones that I voted for.” - posted on the NFLPA Website

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It may seem kind of funny to him but there aren’t too many retired player laughing with him. In addition to voting for pension increases, he also voted for the Second Career Savings Plan and the Annuity Plan. Those two plans, which have only been in existence since 1993 and 1998, have over $1 Billion in assets while the Pension Plan which has been in existence for over 50 years has less than $1 Billion according to the last Annual Summary of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan.

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While Nolan was an active player, he served on the Board of Player Representatives and the Executive Committee. During his tenure, the NFL Pension plan payment was increased for players who played from 1995-1996 to $285 per credited season, for 1997 to $330 per credited season and from 1998 to 2006 to $425 per credited season. It was increased again in the 2006 CBA to $470 for all players from 1998 and forward. While Nolan was busy increasing benefits for the players of his era, most retired player benefits remained stagnant around $200 per credited season.

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Nolan goes on to say, Seeing the benefits and what they are today, being retired and eight years out of the league, I think it’s important to show that perspective.”

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Here’s some perspective: A 10-year veteran who played from 2000 to 2009 receives a pension of $54,000 a year. They would also receive $455,000 from the Annuity plan; $132,000 from the Second Career Savings plan; $145,000 in Severance pay; five free years of health insurance; and $300,000 from a Health Reimbursement plan that can be tapped into for the rest of their lives for the cost of health insurance, medical bills, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications etc.

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Oh – I almost forgot: If that same player received the league average pay for those 10 years, they would have grossed about $15 million in salary. The average starter would have grossed about $25 million. 

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Nolan also says, I think it’s important that a lot of the younger guys teach some of the older guys that the young guys do care, they are not selfish and they will continue to give through the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s important because those guys in the past who gave are benefiting from it now in terms of leadership and it has come through a big change.”

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There is nothing the younger guys can teach the older guys – unless it is how to destroy a Pension Fund that was just recently declared to be an Endangered Status under Federal Law. Just exactly how are we benefiting from that? And where is that big change!  If the money for the Second Career Savings Plan and the Annuity Plan had been invested in the Pension plan, it  could have provided substantial increases for ALL vested players – active and retired – and we wouldn’t be having this problem with the Pension Fund and inadequate pensions for the older players now. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially when you’re trying to trick an old dog!

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While DeMaurice Smith is asking former players to unite with active players in fighting to retain the active players’ salaries and benefits, it would be nice to know that they’re fighting for ours too.

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Just because I am holding the NFLPA accountable for what retired players have requested, I have become another target of the NFLPA’s smear campaign against former players who don’t walk in lock-step agreement with the Union. They have also attacked the NFL Alumni and Fourth and Goal for taking an advocacy role in helping retired players.

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Nolan Harrison is paid by the NFLPA so I understand that he is just doing what his boss has asked him to do. The fact is, we all have different points of view and we should all be allowed to express them without being told we have to pick a side; and if we don’t, we are nothing more than scabs who have crossed the line of player loyalty. That is exactly what DeMaurice Smith said in a letter to retired players in regard to those who have been critical of the NFLPA.

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On his blog, Dave Pear has discussed his own personal NFL injury claim and has asked the NFL what they are specifically proposing in the way of disability reforms in the current CBA discussions with the NFL owners.

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In his comments back to Dave Pear,  Nolan says Now a legitimate effort by DeMaurice Smith and the National Football League players Association to review your case has been trampled upon by your actions and words.

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Nolan appears to suggest that just because Dave Pear has complained about his particular claim, it will not be given proper consideration. This is also a veiled threat and warning to all retired players that the NFLPA will not help anyone who complains and speaks out regarding the state of the current disability plan or the pension plan.

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Nolan tells Dave that “It is unreasonable to expect that before a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached that a new disability plan can be put in place.

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If the NFLPA waits until a new CBA is put in place, they will lose any leverage they might have to get some of the changes they are asking for. They need to negotiate for changes during the process, not after the CBA has been signed.

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This problem is the same as it’s always been – retired players have no idea what the NFLPA is asking the NFL owners for in the way of disability reforms.  Just like under Gene Upshaw, retired players are being asked – once again – to trust our Union to do the right thing for us …without telling us what they are actually trying to do for us.

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The Former Player Steering Committee is part of the problem too, because they haven’t specifically asked the NFLPA to make any changes. If they have, they sure as hell haven’t told any of the members. Do they operate in a vacuum? Is there any input at all from the Former Player Chapter members on this issue?

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If retired players don’t specifically ask for something, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they get absolutely nothing!

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All retired players should have a voice in the debate over what should be done to help the pioneers of the game and we shouldn’t have to put up with statements like the one Nolan made about Dave Pear when he stated, Your attacks on the one institution [NFLPA] that actually can do good for your cause is misguided, selfish, and destructive to everyone else who will have claims in the future. I have expressed to you my sympathies for the pain and suffering that this game has caused you.”

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Retired players don’t need Nolan’s sympathy and we surely don’t need his insinuation that players that speak out will be destructive to everyone else who will have a claim in the future.

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Most retired players never even had a Disability Plan that they could rely on for the injuries they sustained in the NFL. Many of the players that were covered under a Disability Plan have been denied benefits and others have had to sue the Retirement Board to rightfully receive those benefits. See the Mike Webster Story for details.

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Nolan wants us to think he is in the same boat with the pioneer players of the game when he says in his comments to Dave that “I and thousands of other former players who are just like you, suffer just like you, but do not choose to attack the NFLPA like you. Those thousands have decided to back the institution that has always been there for them.”

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If you have read any of Dave Pear’s personal accounts of his injuries and medical procedures, I doubt there are thousands that are suffering just like him (Harrison III).

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As far as Nolan’s claim that the NFLPA has always been there for us, all I can say is: Retired players won a $28.1 million class action lawsuit against the NFLPA and $21 million was for punitive damages!  The jury sent a strong message to the NFLPA and punished them for the way they were  treating retired players!
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Tony Davis

NFL Retired

Cincinnati Bengals & Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1976 – 1982

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Cross-posted Sept. 29, 2010 on DavePear.com and FourthandGoal.com.

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6 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Tweets that mention Mikey Will Eat Anything! - Dave Pear's Blog -- Topsy.com
    September 29th, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RobertinSeattle, John Bestdeal. John Bestdeal said: Mikey Will Eat Anything! – Dave Pear's Blog http://bit.ly/a236gB [...]

  2. eugene morris
    September 29th, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Mercury Morris
    Nolan, did you ever see the segment on ESPN called, “COME ON, MAN!!!!” Well, after reading the comments that you are alleged to have made to Dave Pear regarding his disability claim and The NFLPA, I say to you, “COME ON MAN!”

    First, I’m not a lawyer but I can play one on TV. My first contention is that your response to Dave Pear’s comments that I and others have responded to, are not your words. They are the words of Doug Ell. Nolan, the phrasing and context of what you are saying are ”housed” in a condescending lamentation that occurs as a ”make-wrong.” If you (or whoever is telling you what to say) make Dave Pear look wrong, that then makes you look right. You do that in a courtroom, NOT a retired player’s Blog. I know you are just a “Messenger,” so go back and tell the “lawyer” who actually told you what say; that you want to sound more like a “Retired Player” so your comments will not be taken apart like I am going to do when I send Dave Pear copies of some minutes from a couple of Board meetings in 1983 and 1984. They reveal what everyone’s conversations were. When you say that the NFLPA has “always been in our corner,” I say they haven’t. When Dave Pear posts those “Minutes” perhaps your view of the history of The NFLPA always “being there” for the Retired Players will prompt a response that will actually come from a former player and not a lawyer.

    People who live in glass houses should always answer their doorbells – it’s not like we can’t see what you are doing.

    Eugene Mercury Morris
    Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers
    1969 – 1976

  3. Burt Grossman
    September 29th, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    Burt Grossman
    Tony,

    Great piece, probably one of the better ones I’ve read on this site or any other.

    Burt Grossman
    San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles
    1989 -1994

  4. Roman Gabriel
    September 29th, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Roman Gabriel
    Dave,

    The problem with Nolan and his cronies is that they never played 6 preseason games a year for $50 a game! Also they have no idea that you played hurt or lost your job and then got operated on by an 80-year old surgeon! Honestly, I don’t think many of the guys today would play under the conditions we performed under!

    Sure I would do it over again because it was my dream to be a professional player. I have made so many friends because of realizing my dreams!

    By the way, Dave, another great article! Keep up the good work!

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

  5. Earl Edwards
    September 29th, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Earl Edwards
    Tony,

    You said it all, brother. You were complete. I gave up my position as a Chapter President in Phoenix when Mark Washington (D.C. Chapter Pres.) resigned because of the disrespect he faced from the steering committee members (especially Nolan Harrison) and director Andre Collins. Simply because he asked questions and held people accountable. I resigned to show my support for Mark and hoped that other Chapter Presidents would at least ask questions or come to our defense and make some noise. But that was not the case.

    I think Chapter Presidents overall don’t want to rock the boat; after all, they get a free trip one weekend a year to a meeting where they are instructed how to control the masses. I really have a problem with people like Nolan and Andre telling me and my chapter what we can and cannot do instead of asking me how he can help. Wake up, guys — we may never have these dynamics or get this chance again.

    Nolan, you are not doing us any favors. You should be busting your butt to make sure our needs are equally met. We were the ones who said, “No Freedom, No Football.”

    Earl Edwards
    San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers
    1969 – 1980

  6. George Visger
    September 29th, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    George Visger
    Keep in mind I’m just a simple, brain-damaged wildlife biologist who has survived 9 NFL-caused emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, so I’m having some trouble following this conversational volley.

    You mean to tell me that after all these years of crippled retired players paying into the Fund, there is only less than $1 Billion to fund the retirees’ benefits and the current players – making exponentially more money than those who built the game – still aren’t making enough?

    The NFLPA – which I always assumed meant the NFL Players Association while I was a dues-paying participant – is supposed to be the voice of ALL the players. (I must digress here and admit that I did turn to my Union, the NFLPA, during the 1981 season, immediately after my first brain surgery due to a cover up by the 49ers and was promptly thrown to the wolves. Thus, I may have a slightly jaundiced view.)

    Even with those facts, I still can’t seem to understand the logic from those who supposedly represent the players such as Nolan Harrison for their argument about why older retirees are not entitled to just benefits?

    I guess if we had paid trips to Hawaii for the wife and kids, we may not want to share either.

    Back in the day, there was an old saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in the word team.” But then again, that was before all this, “I got mine attitude.” Would be nice to see all this infighting and venom directed where it should be – at those who are illegally withholding benefits to injured employees.

    We need leaders and spokesmen who truly represent their constituents. Not more politicians.

    Wake up, those of you who think you have yours, for sooner than you think, you’ll be in our shoes.

    George Visger
    Brain Damaged Wildlife Biologist/Motivational Speaker
    Visger & Associates Environmental Consulting

    SF 49ers 1980 & 1981
    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

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