The NFL’s Double Standard for Older Retired Players

Dec 1, 2010

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We posted earlier about Larry Kaminski‘s recent California Workers’ Comp suit (click HERE to read that post) and Larry had mentioned his letters from the NFL Management Council and the NFL Benefits Plan telling him that he had missed his deadlines and everything else in between that would – naturally – make him disqualified for benefits from them. The letters are from a typical Who’s Who when it comes to turning older retired players down: Paul Scott, Sarah Gaunt, Miki Yaras-Davis, Valerie Cross. For the older players, there has been so little information information and assistance available over the years (intentionally so) that many are finding themselves excluded once again excluded from their earned benefits through a maze of Byzantine rules and bureaucracy.

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But it does seem that more of the younger retired players ARE getting approved for benefits. One recently retired player told us that he received his disability benefits in a matter of weeks after applying this fall. And former Redskins running back Eric Shelton did successfully receive football degenerative benefits recently for a permanent spine injury from a helmet-to-helmet injury but was actually turned down for the higher Total-and-Permanent Disability Benefit. Shelton is now suing for his higher benefits through attorney Cy Smith, who was instrumental in winning the Mike Webster case (along with Bob Fitzsimmons). You can read the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz coverage on that suit by clicking HERE. The older players are glad to see some of these men get their earned benefits; at least it reinforces the process for some. But the time for eliminating the double standards and admitting that the old approach passed long before Gene Upshaw left the building. A complete overhaul of the rules and application process is well overdue. As long as this has been going on, we’re surprised this hasn’t been the focus of an age-discrimination lawsuit.

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Here are copies of Larry’s letters uploaded on Scribd for easier viewing and to make it downloadable. You can click on the FULL SCREEN button to enlarge it for easier navigation – hit the ESC key to close. You can also click the DOWNLOAD button to save a PDF copy for printing and reading:

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Larry Kaminski’s NFL Mgmt Council Letters
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6 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Bruce Jarvis
    December 1st, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Bruce Jarvis
    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for posting Larry Kaminski’s “turn down” letter from what you and attorney John Hogan (whose specialty is disability law) have aptly termed the illegal (under ERISA) NFL Disability Plan. Funny, it reads just like mine! I guess by the Disability Board’s standards I don’t have five fused cervical vertebrae, an ankle awaiting fusion, a shoulder with 2 inches of bone and two ligaments surgically removed, a spinal column reduced to 48% of its diameter, a surgically repaired lower spine, not to mention the operation that ended my football career – a botched lateral meniscectomy of the knee which resulted in a massive infection that my late father, a practicing cardiovascular surgeon said at the time could only have resulted from someone “spitting in my wound” during the procedure.

    My story pales by comparison to Larry’s or those of Conrad Dobler or Pat Matson or scores of others that will be coming to light through your website and the intense informational availability of the internet. Thanks for suggesting the idea of age discrimination as a basis for another method of suing those that have trampled on the rights of the men who played the game, thus making it possible for the League to be as immensely profitable for all those who feed off it: present owners, present players, television and radio broadcasting, the print media, government taxing authorities, agents, the gambling industry (legal and otherwise), the merchandising industry – and the list goes on and on and the money is huge!

    Bernie Parrish has led the fight for decades against the raw deal that the NFL, the NFLPA and many other organizations have dealt we retired players. Now you and others have jumped in and there are several active lawsuits working to right the wrongs but there will be many more to come with much more serious consequences to the League and one would hope that age discrimination is among them.

    Until the NFL, the NFLPA and the others who have fed at our trough pay their old tab (with interest) and establish fair and greatly increased benefits for all of us (not just Drew Brees and his post-1992 buddies), this injustice will escalate through the courts until the stench of what is being done behind the scenes permeates the halls of Congress, and throughout the ticket-buying countryside.

    We’ve had our concussions. It’s only fair we share them with the folks who made it possible.

    J. Bruce Jarvis
    Buffalo Bills
    1971-1974

  2. John Hogan
    December 2nd, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    John Hogan
    Dave,

    I don’t know if it really is a double standard – if they have the chance to screw a younger player by denying disability, or putting him in a lower paying category, or cutting off his benefits, they surely take the opportunity!

    However, I would say that some younger players probably do have a bit easier time qualifying than the older guys. There are a number of reasons for this: First, and foremost is your courage and tenacity in bringing the problems of the Plan to light! While the guys probably still do not get proper, timely information from the League, their team or their Union, they are much more aware of potential benefit eligibility because of you and Robert. Second, the younger guys I see generally have better documentation of their injuries – probably because they were paid so much better than the older players and can afford insurance. Also, due to your efforts – and those of many others, including Brent Boyd, Coach Ditka and Bernie – Congress got interested about three years ago, and forced the NFL and PA into some limited disability reforms – including accepting a favorable Social Security decision as proof of T&P disability.

    We still have a long way to go on disability reform; and just like all the talk about concussions – we need to have the needs of older retired players met, including “reparations” for cases like yours, Brent’s, Conrad’s, Dwight Harrison, George Visger and so many others.

    I would suggest that if the League and PA really want to move the stalled CBA talks along, that they work on retired players issues FIRST – and not leave them as an afterthought. After all, both sides have been pandering to retired players in the past year or so, with both acknowledging the duty owed to retired players.

    John V. Hogan
    Disability Attorney & Advocate

  3. Tweets that mention The NFL’s Double Standard for Older Retired Players - Dave Pear's Blog -- Topsy.com
    December 2nd, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NFL Alumni Houston, RobertinSeattle. RobertinSeattle said: The NFL’s Double Standard for Older Retired Players: We posted earlier about Larry Kaminski‘s recent California … http://bit.ly/dPv8A9 […]

  4. Brent Boyd
    December 3rd, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Brent Boyd
    From the NFLPA website: Players who took their NFL pension early, and therefore were ineligible to apply for and receive disability benefits, recently had the opportunity to apply for T&P disability.

    I remember standing up and asking Goodell, eye-to-eye, arms length away, at the Newport Beach meeting in January, 2009:

    Q - How many retired players are now receiving disability because of your announcement that the NFL would honor anyone who was already receiving SSA by automatically considering them NFL benefits?

    A - Goodell held up his hand to signify a Z-E-R-O – a goose egg – and then confirmed verbally, “Nobody. Zero.”

    They (Ell, Condon et al) found loopholes in EVERY SINGLE application – mostly age-related – older than 55 so they were already receiving other retirement, or legal loopholes (e.g. – 15 years passed since retirement, etc.). I can’t BELIEVE they’re still touting that fake PR move – must be running low on new material.

    Let’s circle ‘em like wolves – we’re almost there but perhaps the last part will be the hardest.

    Brent Boyd
    Minnesota Vikings
    1980 – 1986

  5. Henry Bradley
    December 24th, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Henry Bradley
    I was reading George Visger’s posts about his situation and what he’s doing. I’ve also been tested and was found to have brain injuries from football. I’m angry because my condition has cost me thousands of dollars! Furthermore, the NFLPA stole my severance pay and I am mad!!! De Smith personally told me he would look at it but he sent it to those same crooks in the so-called benfits department. I have now been cheated out of LOD disability, football degenerative disability AND my severance pay of $70,000 dollars!

    It’s Christmas Eve and I’ll be giving my kids post-dated checks — I will never forget this! These are my kids that I love very much. Mr. Smith, will your kids be receiving post-dated checks for Christmas? The bible says you will reap what you sow. So I wish no ill will to anyone there because they’re doing there job. The NFLPA completely dropped the ball on my severance pay. The lawyer for the NFLPA WAS TAKEN BY THE BROWNS’ LAWYER. Is it right to make me pay?

    Mr. Smith, look at my case and just pay me my money!

    Henry Bradley
    Cleveland Browns
    1979 – 1982

  6. George Visger
    January 5th, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    George Visger

    Henry,

    Hang in there, brother, as more and more of us step forward to tell our stories, the truth will be told. Thank God for Dave Pear, Brent Boyd and others with the courage to tell their stories and allow us to post ours.

    Unless someone has lived the Post-NFL life many of us have faced, and experienced firsthand the damage it has done to our families, very few will understand. That especially includes De Smith (and Roger Goodell). I personally asked De Smith on the phone if he had ever played football. His reply was, “A little bit in high school,” which probably means he played a total of less than 4 years. I’d had 10 years under my belt before I even entered the NFL.

    When I was hospitalized at age 13 after I knocked myself unconscious in a tackling drill during my 3rd year of Pop Warner, no one explained to me the potential life-changing consequences I might face. That holds true for my first play with the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. Major concussion on my first play early in the first quarter, but never missed a down. The trainers told me later I went through 20 – 25 smelling salts during the game. Why wasn’t I pulled from the game – or for that matter, kept out of practice for a day or two?

    I, too, turned to the NFLPA DURING the ’81 season, before I knew what I was headed for, and we all know where I ended up. Still fighting to this day tooth-and-nail to get medical treatments prescribed by my doctors. Of course, De Smith doesn’t need to worry about paying for his kids’ Christmas presents when he knocks down his seven-figure salary.

    So who really pays that salary, I wonder?

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers ’80 & ’81