Stopping the Insanity: A Simple Solution

Dec 9, 2010
(c) 2010 Tom Fishburne

(c) 2010 Tom Fishburne

John Hogan’s comments to our prior post from Evan Weiner and Randy Cross struck a chord with us:




You’re right – and you bring better focus to what Randy had to say. Yes, it is way past time to give retired players their proper due but unlike Randy’s assertion that this is a League-only issue, as you correctly point out, there has to be help from the Union, too. Nolan Harrison recently spoke about the Legacy Fund – he (an employee of the PA) wants the League to be the one paying for increases in pension and disability for retired players. They don’t want any of these funds to come out of the incredible amounts of money active players are now earning. When will they really show some leadership and help educate active players that they will soon be retired players – not for a few brief years – but a lifetime?


John Hogan
Disability Attorney & Advocate


(You can read that post by clicking HERE.)


Some very good points, John. There always seems to have been hypocrisy applied to the older generation of retired players when it comes to acknowledging and sharing the wealth fairly among all “teammates,” past, present and future. We’ve posted Brent Boyd’s back-of-the-bus analogy in the past and we want to point out that when our Social Security program was created, it was made equally available to all qualifying seniors regardless of how long or how much they had contributed. Many of our parents and grandparents would have received absolutely nothing based on the NFLPA and the League’s approach, while newly-retired players would be receiving huge pensions and benefits. That’s as simple an analogy that almost everyone can relate to.


Something else that was recently pointed out to us: Nolan Harrison III collected over $9 ,300 in GLA lawsuit settlement checks like everyone else who was included in that litigation. His name was on the list and he benefited from this lawsuit regardless of any effort or lack thereof on his part and certainly not because of any personal opinions he might have had. In any fair and legal system, that is how things are supposed to work. While there may have been inequities in the way the final list was generated, a cold, formularized approach was the best – and only – option for all those who were eventually included and paid in the class.


While the proposed Legacy Fund is a good step forward in the right direction, it’s not enough. Nor has the issue of past transgressions ever been addressed anywhere yet. Until the Union itself finally rectifies the decades of diversion of funds away from retired players to active players under the direction of Gene Upshaw and his BFF Tom Condon, the senior retired players will always be shortchanged.


While we’re on the subject of the proposed Legacy Fund, we think it’s a good idea that could become a great idea for retired players …under certain conditions:


Absolutely first and foremost: Neither the NFLPA OR the NFL should not be allowed to have a majority control over the management and distribution of these funds. (In actuality, the NFL and NFLPA have total control over retired players benefits while the retired players themselves have absolutely NO say as it stands today.) Expert governance and direct control of a properly installed Board with full retired player participation (e.g. – voting) should be a no-brainer. Call us cynical but somehow we even suspect there’s already more than one party within (and outside) the NFLPA salivating over those lucrative management fees such a fund will surely generate.


There are long- and short-term benefits from the League in making such a proposal: The League could actually benefit over the long run by publicly insisting that this new, COMPLETELY independent fund be the first step in achieving total transparency in the longstanding benefits debacle that won’t go away for them or the PA until retired players benefits are properly apportioned and awarded directly into the rightful hands. In the short term, they could gain by being even more generous than originally proposed in the percentage to be put into a completely independent and separate Legacy Fund specifically earmarked for and by the retired players. The League can even justify their current negotiating stand on giving a smaller percentage of gross revenues to the Union, most of which would inevitably go to active players for increasing salaries otherwise. And clearly in the long-run, the League will benefit from the braking effect on skyrocketing salaries for the likes of Albert Hayneworths who now don’t even want to earn their money. Aside from all that, it would also send a clear message to the PA that it’s been obvious to absolutely everyone else they’ve never been able to represent the retired players’ share of the benefits in any way that even remotely demonstrates fairness, let alone fiduciary responsibility. Why should you keep getting handed billions of dollars every year without proper accounting or administration?


Could such a proposal actually work? Absolutely. Something simple like this would definitely not be any worse than what retired players have put up with for decades. It would take the responsibility out of the hands of those who have proven themselves time and again to be most clearly responsible for destroying it and place it squarely in the hands of those with the greatest vested interest in ensuring that it is managed correctly in the future. Older retired players have been looking in on this Alice in Wonderland insanity from the outside for long enough. And short closing answer to John Hogan: The best thing the NFLPA can do for its retired player membership is step aside when it comes to their benefits.


5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dave Pear
    December 9th, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Dave Pear
    Question for the NFLPA, the NFL or the AFL-CIO:

    Have retired members of any other AFL-CIO union EVER sued their own union in federal court for breaching their fiduciary duty or breach of contract and prevailed along with punitive damages, as did the NFL retired players?

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  2. Bruce Jarvis
    December 9th, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Bruce Jarvis
    Hi Dave,

    As I’ve written here and on Jeff Nixon’s blog, the (proposed) Legacy Fund, the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan, the Second Career Savings Plan, Annuity Plan and other current active player benefits such as 5-year medical after football if left in place are just pots of money put in place to favor the few over the many. Rolled up into one pool of invested capital many of the bad things that can happen are harder to pull off (poor to zero visibility, mismanagement, greasing your investment firm buddy’s pockets with large fees, underfunding, lowball actuarial assumptions, etc.).

    Mr. Harrison (as a proxy for De Smith and the rest of the NFLPA) is playing the negotiating game (and us for fools) by trying to make the argument that a Legacy Fund is a fait accompli. The only issue they would have you focus on is how much in a Legacy Fund and who should pay for it. (Pss-sst De — That way we can keep all those other pots of money separate. That’s the ticket to getting those old guys off our backs so the young guys can still keep the real bucks until we can snooker the geezers better in the next CBA!) If we fall for that, then the division of players (retired vs. retired and retired vs. active) will continue and intensify while the owners stuff their pockets and we continue to die young.

    BTW, anyone who truly has been around the institutional money management business knows that by far the best long term answer to the management of that big pool of capital is control by a fairly elected and truly representative board with the money run in extremely low-cost asset allocated index funds and entrusted at one of the the large excellent trust banks (no hands in that cookie jar). Ballpark total cost is 10-15 basis points which is about a mere 10% of the current Bert Bell pension plan costs!

    It can’t be said often enough: It’s not rocket science — anything else is greed.

    J. Bruce Jarvis
    Buffalo Bills

  3. Gordon A. Wright
    December 9th, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Gordon Wright - NY Jets
    If the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Pension Management wanted to do the proper distribution of earned Retirement Benefits then they should use the United States Railroad Pension Benefits distribution as a model for Fair allocation of earned benefits. This model works even better than Social Security.

    There was a recent news story about a young New York Jets player who decided not to go back to the NFL when he was asked to return to the team after obtaining employment with the United States Railroad. He knew their Pension is far greater than the NFL.

    Read the story and watch the video on ABC/ESPN – click HERE.

    Gordon & Dora Wright
    Philadelphia Eagles & New York Jets
    1967 – 1970

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    December 9th, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

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  5. Dave Pear
    December 12th, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Dave at Home The definition of the NFL Disability Plan is:

    “A cold, rigid set of laws (plotted and designed by the Groom Law Group) with an endless maze of rules and regulations that follow no standard and violates ERISA Law.”

    Dave & Heidi Pear