Ron Mix on our First IFV Conference

Mar 28, 2011

Hall-of-Famer Ron Mix attended and spoke at our first Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference last week, held at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. We received Ron’s overview and editorial letter this morning and we’re posting it in its entirety below. Thanks, Ron!
.
You can view and read more of the entire event by going to the site by clicking HERE. (We will be updating the site constantly all week long as we finalize sound enhancements on all our videos as well as add more commentary and PowerPoints from our speakers.) And if you would like to help advance our cause by being a founding donor, please feel free to go to our Donation page by clicking HERE.
.


.
March 28, 2011
.

CONFESSIONS OF A STRADDLER

.

I attended the Independent Football Veterans Conference in Las Vegas last week with conflicted feelings. I am a former professional football player, having played for the San Diego Chargers for ten years and the Oakland Raiders for two years. In that capacity, I am a member of the NFLPA Retired Players Section and send additional financial contributions to its Players Assistance Trust (PAT). I also maintain membership in the NFL Alumni and send additional financial contributions to its Dire Need Fund. I also am a supporter of Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats.

.

A fair question to ask ourselves: Why is it necessary to have so many organizations all professing to have the same common goal of improving conditions for retired players? We should not — we should have only one organization, but I will get to that later.

.

Before I address that question, I want to present an overview of the Conference from the perspective of a person who has attended many conferences and served in executive positions, having been President of the Retired Players Section of the NFLPA in the mid-80’s and having been the Founder and Past President of the Hall of Fame Players Association. This Veterans’ Conference was the most instructive and meaningful conference I have ever attended. I read a recent posting by Bob Grant regarding the Conference wherein Bob stated: “I am sorry to hear it did not come off well.” That is a premature judgment because the Conference is not over. Thanks to the foresight of Dave Pear and Robert Lee, the Conference was recorded and will be available later this week for the public and current and retired players to continue to access on David Pear’s Blog. They will be able to hear presentations that will be educational and that can have a permanent positive impact on their health and well-being. Far too often I have attended retired players conferences where a significant part of the program was not applicable to the retired players; for instance, financial companies offering financial advice to persons with no money to invest; corporations seeking to sell franchises to, again, persons with no money to invest; motivational speakers attempting to get players to change their personalities and “be a success” when the players cannot focus or concentrate because of brain damage. The following were presenters:

.

Disability Attorney John Hogan. John presented an overview of the NFL Disability system and Social Security Disability. He presented case examples of how the NFL Disability system failed in its mission to deliver benefits and John raised the issue that the Plan may have been actively violating ERISA laws, the federal laws designed to protect pension plan beneficiaries.

.

Bucky Zimmerman & Bob Stein. These gentlemen are the attorneys behind the current class action by 22,000 retired players against the NFL and NFL Films who for years have been making immense financial benefits from the use of the names and images of players long after the NFL’s right to use their names and images had expired. You do not hear too much about this suit because Bucky and Bob (Bob, a former NFL linebacker) do not call press conferences and rail about their adversaries; Bucky and Bob just quietly pursue a claim that, I can almost promise you, has the potential of resulting in financial benefits beyond comprehension. Access their presentation. You will hear them explain in clear, everyday, language (not legalese) the merits of the suit.

.

Ron Mix. My current law practice is representing retired professional athletes in claims for workers’ compensation benefits. A fair question: Would Mix be attending the Conference if he did not expect it to benefit his law practice? My history is that I have attended many conferences long before my law practice took this turn. Workers’ compensation is an important topic because it is the most certain method for retired players to receive money and health care for their present conditions…and this system is under attack by professional teams and professional leagues. By way of very brief summary, the NFL, collectively, and many teams individually, are attempting to shift the cost of care for their damaged workers to the general public by seeking to eliminate workers’ compensation for current players and to cripple and eliminate the benefits to retired players by sponsoring litigation that would limit players to filing workers’ compensation claims only in the state where the team is located, rather than in states where they sustained all or part of their injuries. If enacted, the great harm to retired players is that their claims would be generally barred by the Statute of Limitations in states other than California or their states may not provide coverage for cumulative trauma injuries (wear and tear over an entire career). I will remind all of you that it is cumulative trauma that causes the vast majority of permanent brain damage; it is the 1000’s of blows to the head over a career that cause the greatest harm; it is the 100’s of times you had your bell rung and shook it off and continued playing, not realizing that you had just sustained another concussion.

.

George Visger and Dan Bunz. These former players put a face on the problem. Listen to their personal stories of horrific injuries that impacted every aspect of their health, personal and financial lives. You will come away infuriated at a system that all of us allowed to violate our rights for far too long.

.

Ed Nemeth. Ed funds and operates the Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic in Sacramento, a clinic that has generously treated George Visger’s brain injuries at no charge to George. The studies presented by Ed and others later in the program as to the benefits of being treated by the Hyperbaric Oxygen system will give you hope, not only for those suffering from various levels of brain damage but also for our military and the general public. Ed saw the benefit to his severely brain-damaged daughter and decided to fund a clinic to treat others.

.

Dr. Jim Wright and Steve Reimers. These gentlemen gave further testimony relating to the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment for those with concussion injuries. Dr. Wright personalized his presentation by relating that his son, a Marine, had concussive injuries and both of his hands blown off in combat and that the treatment allowed his son to make a miraculous recovery from the concussion injuries. The Independent Football Veterans is working on developing a program for retired players to receive this treatment for their concussion injuries; but, even beyond that, studies have shown that this treatment reduces the recovery time from other injuries significantly, something that will benefit current players.

.

Dr. William Duncan. Dr. Duncan is former congressional staff member who has drafted proposed legislation for Hyperbaric treatment of our brain-damaged war veterans. He also presented personal experience of how the treatment changed the life of his son.

.

Dr. Michael Propper & Mike Sloniewsky. These gentlemen are from the OsteoArthritis Centers of America (the “Centers”). The Centers have developed advanced methods of diagnosing and treating the cumulative effects of physical pain from aging and the Centers have agreed to treat some of our most needy retired players at no cost.

.

Dr. Barry Sears. Dr. Sears specializes in treating inflammation. Inflammation is the source of pain in all parts of the body and a source of the harmful effects of concussive injuries. His treatments are easily administered with the beneficial effects verified in medical studies. The information is so important that if you decide that you only have time to access two videos from the Conference, view Dr. Jim Wright and Dr. Barry Sears because they present information for the improvement of your health.

.

Carl Lopez. Carl is a Seattle attorney who has expertise as an agent and in Labor Law. He explained the impact of the NFLPA’s decertification and the League’s lockout of players and the applicability of the anti-trust laws. His explanation removed the mystery and provided insight as to the motivation and expectations of both the NFLPA and the League in their chess game. Flat out fascinating.

.

John Houser. John is a former NFL player, pre-59 category, who became a successful businessman. John led a session that was not filmed for public consumption because it was, in essence, a discussion on strategic steps that must be taken to advance the pursuit of equitable player benefits.

.

That was the Conference. Now, I wish to address whether or not there is a need for all of the various organizations that purport to advance the common goal of improvement of player benefits. Here are the advocacy groups and their roles:

.

NFLPA. There is a Retired Players Section but retired players have no legal standing to have the NFLPA negotiate any benefits on behalf of retired players. We are nothing more than guests of the NFLPA and guests can merely ask for things, not negotiate for anything. We do not even have a vote. We have no independent income source. Such persons that are designated by the NFLPA to represent our interests are paid by the NFLPA. I believe that De Smith has a sincere desire to make improvements in benefits for retired players but, let’s be realistic, his legal and ethical duty is to his employers, the current players.

.

NFL ALUMNI. This organization has the potential to be the most formidable advocate for retired player benefits because it possesses a trade name and logo containing the magic marketing name “NFL.” Currently, however, the Alumni are dependent upon the League for financial support. Until the Alumni make an effort to obtain financial independence, you will not see them take a position adverse to the League.

.

GRIDIRON GREATS. The brainchild of Jerry Kramer and Mike Ditka, now run by Mike, arose to address problems that were not being met by the NFL Pension Plan. Mike has been invaluable. Before Mike, we had some strong, intelligent voices that made an effort to keep retired player benefits a part of the public conversations, voices like Dave Pear, Jeff Nixon, Tony Davis, and Bruce Laird; but, until Mike lent his celebrity to the cause, the press virtually ignored the issue. With Mike, the subject became part of the conversation of the press and then Congress. Only then did we begin to see both the NFLPA and the League undertake a serious effort to correct some of the past injustices. Let me put something in perspective: Mike has been the only “celebrity” with income ties to the League to risk his announcing career to do the right thing. The role of Gridiron Greats remains the same: address the needs of players not met by the NFL Pension Plan, PAT, or Dire Need.

.

FOURTH and GOAL. For the longest time, this organization, peopled by persons I previously mentioned, Bruce Laird, Jeff Nixon and Tony Davis, had the lonely job of carrying on the fight by itself and played a strong role in tweaking the conscience of the general public and both the NFLPA and the League.

.

INDEPENDENT FOOTBALL VETERANS (IFV). Dave Pear and Robert Lee. There is a reason why the term “Independent” is in the title. Of the three advocacy organizations, NFLPA Retired Players Section, NFL Alumni, and IFV, only IFV is truly independent. I see the NFLPA Retired Players Section as extremely important because we must have access to the decision makers of the NFLPA and the current players. I also see membership in the NFL Alumni as being very important because we must have contact with the League and press the NFL Alumni management to move towards financial independence.

.

The role of the IFV: The watchdog. The IFV has to advocate the positions that are not being advocated by the Retired Players Section or the NFL Alumni: (1) pension reform (pensions equal to Major League Baseball); (2) disability reform (programs on paper may sound great but mean nothing if they can not be equitably accessed); (3) medical care for life for retired players; and (4) correct the injustice of the Social Security Electors (approximately 375 former players, most of whom are receiving pensions of less than $200.00 a month). The IFV has evolved from being only a watchdog to a developer of programs to assist retired players.

.

THE IDEAL: MERGER OF NFL ALUMNI & NFLPA RETIRED PLAYERS

.

If I were an executive of the NFL, I would shake my head in wonder at the fragmentation of the retired players. We need one voice. Many players do not have the time, money, or patience to belong to two organizations, let alone three or more. We are in a unique position; no longer are we in the historic clash between employers and employees; now, we are in a clash against both our former employers and our union because we need their joint cooperation to obtain equitable benefits. We need to make peace with the NFLPA and to have the NFL Alumni as the surviving organization because of the value of its trade name and logo. The Alumni can become a division of the NFLPA with at least two votes. The licensing of the trade name and logo would produce sufficient revenue for us to be financially independent and also raise money to assist retired players that have needs not covered by existing programs.

.

Wishful thinking, yes, but if we can speak with one voice, the next retirement we can herald would be the retirement of the Independent Football Veterans because the IFV would no longer have a mission.

.

Until we reach this nirvana, I am going to support all three organizations.

.

Ron Mix

Hall of Fame

LA Rams, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders

1960 – 1971

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

16 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. George Visger
    March 29th, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    George Visger

    Ron,

    Excellent synopsis on a great program. I too felt that the information provided by all the various speakers, you included, was invaluable. Dave and Robert were able to bring together many experts under one roof, allowing all to strategize on how best to use each others strengths, with the common goal of improving ex players lives.

    The bottom line is that no one was there to “sell” anything to anyone. All were there to provide information and services to individuals and their families, in order to assist them in dealing with the long term, life altering repercussions of playing in the NFL.

    Though this was the first conference I have attended, I came away with the feeling this was only the opening kickoff. All of the presenters I spoke with relayed the same sentiments.

    Thanks to all the presenters who took the time to attend the conference, the information you all provided will change lives.

    I would like to send a special thanks to several of the presenters who have literally changed my life over this last year:

    Dr. Barry Sears and Paul Wilk. We met via Dave Pear’s blog over 1 1/2 years ago, and you started me on your Omega 3s and antioxidants (free of charge I might add). Though we had never met, you have taken the time to call me many times this last year to not only check on my status, but relay information on the physiological changes which were taking place in my body. As a biologist, I’m always inquisitive as to what the various treatments I have undergone are actually doing to my body. Paul, you took the time to come down to meet me at Dr. Amen’s clinic last year during my first of three evaluations I have had.

    Ed Nemeth. I thank you for mobilizing (complete with bringing a portable Hyperbaric Oxygen chamber I might add!), at a moments notice. You not only drove down hauling the chamber, you brought Brad down to run the system. From the second week of my 80 treatments, I began to see improvements in my sleep patterns, irritability, and memory. The combination of hyperbarics and Dr. Barry Sears’ products have been the only treatments I have used the last 29 years with which I have shown improvement and I wanted this information available to others in my situation. Thank you both.

    Dan Bunz. My old teammate at San Francisco and good friend. You took time off from your teaching position at Sutter Middle School to offer your personal support for me and our goals. Your testimonial will never be forgotten.

    And to Dave Pear and Robert Lee. THANK YOU both for putting this together. Your hard work and commitment to what is right is finally beginning to get the attention it deserves.

    And it’s only the beginning. Let’s hope we can continue to make the changes needed to prevent any more unnecessary deaths and destroyed families before it’s too late.

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers
    1980 & 1981

  2. Dave Pear
    March 29th, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    I seem to recall that one of the speakers at our Conference said that the NFL is becoming a pariah in our society.

    If the NFL continues their clandestine behavior towards their retired players (esp the pre-1993 and pre-1959), then the NFL has no future.

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear
    footballvets.org

  3. Rick Sanford
    April 2nd, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Rick Sanford NE Patriots

    A special thanks to Dave Pear for posting and sending out all the information from the IFV conference.

    Like many of you, I’m having difficulties in normal thinking patterns so my M.D. wants me to have a head scan. I am astonished that with all the difficulties we retired players experience, we still have no vote to better our situation.

    It’s pathetic that the current players don’t care. Sad but true.

    Rick Sanford
    New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
    1979 – 1985

  4. Patrick Scoggin
    April 22nd, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Patrick Scoggin

    Ron:

    Thanks for a fair, unbiased assessment of the various alumni advocacy groups and their roles. For a change, it’s nice to see more than one group mentioned in the same piece without the typical partisan bashing that is so common. If more had this same outlook — of focusing on commanalities, rather than their differences — your nirvana could come to pass and the collective alumni would be stronger as a result.

    Keep spreading the gospel!

    pws
    endzone sports charities
    Member, NFL Alumni (Rocky Mtn)

  5. M. J. Duberstein
    April 25th, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    MJ Duberstein

    Ron Mix. Wasn’t he the guy that advocated Hall of Fame members receive larger pensions than other former players? Let’s hear how you-all think about that.

    MJ Duberstein
    1981-2005 (Retired)
    Director of Research Propaganda
    National Football League Players Association, AFL-CIO

  6. RobertinSeattle
    April 25th, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    RobertinSeattle

    MJ Duberstein. Weren’t you one of the PA’s hacks Upshaw used to use to do character assassination on any of the players who stood up to speak their minds against the Union and the League? And who is now comfortably retired on his fat NFLPA pension and benefits and living in Hawaii so you can still continue to post nasty comments on any blogs and sites whenever they get to the truth?

    If you watched the entire video of Ron’s speech at the Conference, you’d hear all about Ron getting blackballed by the NFLPA for his legal work on behalf of retired players for Workers Compensation rights that their own Union should have been doing all these years. In SPITE of his being a Hall-of-Famer.

    Yes – THAT Ron Mix.

  7. Gregg Bingham
    April 25th, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Greg Bingham

    Dubie -

    Many of us know who you are and what your past has brought us… Shhhhh – before you get exposed.

    Gregg Bingham
    Houston Oilers
    1973 – 1984

  8. M. J. Duberstein
    April 26th, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    MJ Duberstein

    “Sticks and stones”…etc.

    No personal attacks, huh?

    At the very least—as compared to RobertinSeattle (??), I put my real name on what I say.

    “Hack”, Director of Propaganda (??), well, we shall see what we shall see.

    Looking back over the years I served on the NFLPA staff, only Bruce Laird and Brent Boyd ever were elected as a player representative or asked to be included in the various projects underway.

    Laird was a Baltimore Colts player rep when I joined the union staff in 1981 and throughout the lead-up to the 1982 strike. Never once during all the meetings I attended–either formally or informally–did Laird ever propose increasing benefits for then-retired players, the Pre-59ers.

    Boyd, as a Viking player rep seemed to enjoy the yearly free trips to Hawai’i but never spoke out about going back and raising disability payments or changing the system.

    There is no record I know of showing Jeff Nixon during his regrettably short career with any involvement with the NFLPA. The same goes for David Pear, who, as one of Upshaw’s teammates certainly had an opportunity to become involved.

    Mike Ditka never involved himself in the union in any role whatsoever; in blunt terms, among staff members and by players who knew him, Ditka always was considered to be a management stooge—the type of player trying to win plaudits from owners so that they could quickly move to that side once their playing days ended and, of course, that is exactly what happened.

    I sat across from (now loudmouth) Joe DeLamielleure in a team meeting visit I attended in Orchard Park and he never said anything about raising pensions for players out of the game or bringing into the pension umbrella those former players not receiving a cent at that time; as a matter of fact, he was mute throughout the whole meeting.

    And I notice very little about Brian DeMarco, Gridiron Grates original “poster boy”; maybe that’s because someone back then would have found that, as reported by ProFootball Talk:

    RETIRED PLAYERS’ POSTER BOY HAS ANOTHER WART

    The folks who are hoping to compel the NFL Players Association to take better care of retired players have wrapped their arms around former NFL lineman Brian DeMarco, a 35-year-old man who allegedly is financially destitute, and who walks with a cane.

    The NFLPA recently explained that it has been providing financial assistance to DeMarco, and ESPN reported that former teammates have questioned whether DeMarco really needs a cane.

    There’s another problem with using DeMarco as the face of the cause: His face could be on a wanted poster.

    A law enforcement source in Ohio has tipped us off to the existence of a warrant for DeMarco’s arrest. The warrant was issued in September 2006, after DeMarco failed to appear at a contempt hearing in connection with child support obligations.

    The online court docket for the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas shows that DeMarco’s current address is in Austin , Texas . DeMarco has been identified in recent media reports as a resident of Austin, Texas .
    The docket can be viewed at this address, after inserting case number 01NU059151.

    And

    DEMARCO IS THE WRONG POSTER BOY

    The name Brian DeMarco recently has surfaced as one of the former NFL players whose on-field injuries have left him disabled and destitute. The folks targeting the NFLPA and executive director Gene Upshaw needed a compelling poster boy to give life to the cause, especially since none of the current NFL players are going to stand up and ask tough questions. And DeMarco seemed on the surface to be as good of a candidate as anyone.

    The problem, however, is that a scratch or two at the surface reveals some potential flaws.

    Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the NFLPA produced on Monday night checks reflecting contributions of almost $10,000 that have been made to DeMarco over the past 12 months for rent, utilities, and child support.

    Earlier in the day, DeMarco claimed at a press conference that the union has turned its back on him during his time of financial need. (Hey, if anyone out there wants to turn their backs on us in similar fashion, we’ll be glad to, you know, cash the checks.)

    Mortensen also reports that a union employee wired to DeMarco $300 as recently as this weekend. The money came out of the employee’s own pocket. Also, the union claims that it set up a job for DeMarco in Austin, Texas, but that he didn’t show up for work.

    Said NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw: “We can’t let them manipulate the media anymore. On dire need alone, we made $1.2 million worth of payments to 147 former players last year and paid another $1 million to 140 guys the year before. And we’re glad to do it. We don’t talk about it. That’s what we do.”

    Also, a former teammate of DeMarco’s suggests that the former Jaguar is jaking it. “[H]e’s walking with a cane in front of cameras,” the ex-Jaguar told Mortensen. “Last time we saw him — and it was in the past two weeks — he didn’t need a cane. He has some physical problems, yes, but there are other things going on there.”

    Look, we’re not saying that any of this means that real changes aren’t needed. But if the folks looking to effect change are going to rely upon apparent bunko artists to make the case, it will be hard to generate any real sympathy.

    And whomever RobertinSeattle is, I don’t see any refutation of Ron Mix having advocated that Hall of Fame members should receive higher pension rates than their non-Hall of Fame peers simply because they were in the Hall, thus sweeping aside the obvious fact that none of them would have been there without blockers, other linemen, receivers, etc, i.e., some of the most perverted logic I have ever heard.

    What’s your take about the role of agents in this area. Where’s Pear’s? Nixon’s? Or DeMarco’s agent saying what he did? Boyd’s? DeLamielleure? You think they’re stepping up to the plate? Of course not; agents wring as much money as possible from players and then let them hang out there as the agent searches for new clients and new money. And I see that Ralph Cindrich, who seems to exemplify Bob Dylan’s “You don’t need a weathervane to know which way the wind blows”, is now in your corner.

    “Hack”? I’ve been called much worse. Jack Donlan wrote a note to Ed Garvey saying I was a “shit-stirrer” after the first printouts of comprehensive salary data went out to every player in the league.

    Seemingly, if you guys were involved with the NFLPA rather than Garvey or Upshaw, no player (or agent) ever would have had access to all that data. That, along with putting together the 1982 Percentage of Gross proposal, the initial and continuing NFLPA surprise appearance at the Combine starting in 1987, and the Pipeline to the Pro’s program of speaking to college players at dozens of schools, was what I contributed in my 25 years with the union (or trade association at appropriate moments).

    In 1981 when I arrived at the NFLPA, no professional sports union ever had had an academically-trained economist on its staff. I’ve never bitched about any player’s credentials, something you’d had learned if you ever glanced at page four of the over 160 page “NFL Economic Primer” I referenced the other day when commenting on the controversial issue of average career length.

    After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa from 1963 – 1965 I received a Ford Foundation Fellowship and did my graduate work at UCLA. I spent nearly a decade working in the U.S. Congress, first as a Research Economist for the Joint Economic Committee, then as Legislative Assistant for the late Representative George E. Brown, Jr. of California and then as Legislative Analyst for Representative Ronald V. Dellums of California. During my stay on Ron’s staff—and he was the keynote speaker at the 1982 NFLPA Convention in Albuquerque—we introduced legislation that would have added then-current NCAA training regulations to OSHA and another bill requiring certified athletic trainers be present at any collegiate or high school game if the schools accepted federal funds for any reason. At hearings on that latter bill I first met Garvey, Dick Berthelsen and various players.

    Oh, another thing: While a member of the NFLPA staff , I—like every other staffer—never publically disparaged any player, current or retired. Had I done so, which would have been violating one of Ed and Gene’s prime directives, I assure you that the next day I would have been out of a job.

    My role as a “propagandist” only began after I had been retired on my laughably “fat” pension a few years and saw the distorted attacks launched on Gene—and the NFLPA—by the likes of Ditka and DeLamielleure. And usually I wrote to the real “hacks” who cover the league and never bothered to find out the other side of the story.

    Obviously everyone’s got a right to their opinion; I certainly respect yours.

    As for agreeing with it, to me it’s just stale canned corn that’s been around for quite a while; the tired story of how little the NFLPA and the late Gene had done for “needy” players—such as Pear–as compared to the efforts of Ditka and his Gridiron Grates buddies. I know De Smith told the 2010 Rep meeting that he had reached out to Dikta et al in order to bring together as much as possible the various groups of former players much as I see Ron Mix proposing. Instead, the Grates appear to be greasing up their pr flacks, trotting out the “needy”, while once again failing to spend anything from their own organization to help needy former players; were Ditka and his acolytes to put as much effort into providing actual dollars to the players they roll out, maybe these issues would be nearer to being resolved. (I have become tired of asking Gridiron Grates to document how much they have channeled to the “needy” instead of spending on itself; maybe you can find that out.)

    I certainly sympathize with needs of former players. After all, as I began pointing out a decade ago, the injury rate every season in the NFL is 100%; i.e., every player suffers a series of injuries that would put non-players on the “sidelines” in whatever we do.. Nonetheless, most NFL players also become acquainted with the story of Wally Pipp and begin to fear that if he can’t play because of what might be an injury the league defines as “probable” (a 75% probability that a player will play in the next game), he might never regain his spot once he’s healthy again.
    My analysis found NFL roster turnover ranged from 25% to 34% every season and a succession of “minor” injuries probably ranks as the largest factor. But, playing skills don’t suddenly diminish. Instead, players are cut because they’ve lost a step–especially in the so-called “speed” positions such as running back, receivers, and defensive backs. (Why is golf the most popular sport for former NFL players? It’s the only one in which they can compete.)
    What does interest me about so many of the attacks is that they are not only extremely distorted view, but also so one-sided. There’s absolutely no indication anyone contacted the NFLPA—except one discredited former employee who hasn’t worked there in eight years. And so, the real hacks essentially take the easiest pathway and follow without question a line of reasoning from a small group of malcontents centering around Ditka and his ilk.
    As noted, I’ve watched this controversy develop over the past five years or so–and while there is reason for concern that too many former players faced significant troubles, what’s ignored is that Ditka and his Gridiron Greats escapes the same level of investigation. And my conclusion is that Gridiron Greats is (1) either a sham as shown by the paucity of funds actually going to former players or (2) a tool by remaining hard-line owners—and they are still out there–seeking to weaken the NFLPA gains since 1993 which headlines proclaim the current imbroglio is all about.
    It isn’t—and you should already know it. Go back to 2006 and find out how difficult it was for Tagliabue to procure the votes needed to ratify the CBA extension. That’s because 24 positive out of 32 votes are required now once again. And behind all the confusing propaganda about “great” offers from owners is the reality that Goodell—unlike De Smith—cannot even okay a $5 daily increase in per diem. There’s absolutely no way that Goodell can find 24 votes for anything—unless it’s lifting the lockout so that they can avoid the probable billion-dollars plus trebled antitrust damages again, as happened in 1993.

    So I digress. My key point remains that during their fabled NFL careers, neither Ditka himself or very few of Ditka’s superstars were involved with the NFLPA or did anything personally to further player rights.

    Given the past history of savaging Upshaw, then and De Smith now, by the likes of Ditka and DeLamielleure, I understand why Gene tried to take a low profile until he could no longer take the abuse and lies and then lashed back. As the lawyers among you know full well that Gene adhered to labor law when he made the point over and over that he was only responsible to one group and one group alone—then-current active and potentially active players, the lawful members of the union’s bargaining unit and those are the only ones to which he devoted his life 24/7/360.

    When I joined the union staff in 1981, players received approximately thirty cents out of every dollar generated in revenues and owners took approximately seventy cents. That, of course, was a legacy from the Ditka era when so-called “Superstars” like Ditka made what in that period could be termed “high”salaries while the vast majority of players—the “grunts in the trenches” earned a pittance. While the stars such as Ditka may have been big names on the playing field, off of it, they were too afraid to challenge the owners over any issue—be it measly pensions back then or a lousy disability system.
    Enmity between players and owners then was bitter and hostile. And the more that you stir up trouble relying only what Ditka and his buddies say, there are, and will be, unneeded divisions among players, and remaining hard-line owners laugh all the way to the bank. For them, a weakened NFLPA is the best of all possible worlds.
    By 2005 when I retired, players were receiving well over 60% of all revenues and owners over 30%–and those unsettling labor/management battles between the parties of the 1960’s through the 1980’s were replaced by a sort-of constructive partnership (although I personally would call it more of a “shotgun marriage”) one that owners fractured when they took the early out of the CBA. Do you disagree that current NFL players have the best post-career program of any professional sport and important steps have been taken in critical health coverage and injury issues.

    Remember:

    (1) All decisions relating to NFLPA policies are decided by a vote of the elected Player Representatives; when it is imperative to take a quick vote–whenever it is impossible to bring together the entire Board of Player Representatives–votes are made by the elected Executive Committee. Neither Gene nor De Smith, as Executive Director has the power to vote in any situation. I witnessed many instances when votes went against what Gene favored;
    (2) Throughout every period when there has been a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the current recognized bargaining unit under the National Labor Relations Act limits membership in the NFLPA only to active and potentially active players. See if you can find any other union where retired members continue as part of the bargaining unit; so when Gene is quoted rebuffing former players because they are “not his boss”, he may have seemed gruff but he was technically and totally correct; even so, every annual meeting of the Board of Player Representatives has had one or more former players attending–and no one, Dikta or any of you had you ever asked, was turned away;
    (3) Had you bothered to ask current NFLPA president, Kevin Mawae, and also other past presidents, such as Jeff Van Note, Tom Condon (both of whom served as player-appointed trustees on the pension board), and Michael Kenn, and Trace Armstrong, former NFLPA presidents who constitute a procession starting in the 1960’s and running through the turn of the century they certainly could have testified under oath that any attempts to discriminate against older retired players didn’t happen;
    (4) Investigating and concentrating only on the role of the NFLPA—and and in particular–is disingenuous in terms of players receiving disability payments from a joint board. There are three player trustees and three owner trustees which mean, in practical terms, only those cases that receive unanimous votes can proceed. Once again, the NFLPA executive director does not have a vote on the board. No matter what he personally—or any of the player-appointed trustees favors and how thorough the due diligence performed by the NFLPA staff and its consultants—the owners’ three representatives always vote as a group. I am not aware of any instance over the near quarter century I worked for the union when an owners’ trustee broke ranks and therefore I am puzzled by charges hurled at Gene for his alleged inability to grant disability payments—that anyone ever contacted the NFLPA Director of Benefits Miki Yaras-Davis to inquire why player trustees might have voted against a player’s request;
    (5) No one was more interested in extending post-career health coverage than Gene and such insurance coverage has been expanded greatly since 1993. However, research conducted by Yaras-Davis, uncovered that the cost of total post-career health benefits just for active players would be more than entire amount of funds going for all salaries and benefits–and to add coverage for the thousands of retired players would be literally astronomical. You don’t have to take just my word; the following article lays it all out:
    Lifetime insurance not realistic by Jason Cole, Yahoo Sports, 9/26/07

    While the NFL Players Association has taken heat from former players for red tape involving disability claims and lack of pension increases, the union did investigate the idea of providing medical insurance for players until they are 65 years old.
    The conclusion from that study, which was conducted by the Towers Perrin consulting firm, was bleak. In March 2005, NFLPA director of benefits Miki Yaras-Davis informed all of the player reps of the 40-year estimate.

    It was a $16.2 billion charge just to cover currently active players who qualified and the following wave of players who would qualify over that period until they reach 65 years of age. To qualify, players must have been in the NFL for at least three seasons – generally putting them at the age of 25 when they reach eligibility.

    Towers Perrin calculated that in order to fund that immediately, the NFLPA would have had to give the firm $3.1 billion in 2005, Towers Perrin senior consultant Rob Schlau said.

    “That assumes our ability to get a six percent return on the money and factors in increases in healthcare costs, among other factors,” Schlau said. “It’s a staggering amount of money.”
    How staggering? That $3.1 billion figure was approximately the same amount of money that was spent on player salaries that season. In other words, every player in the NFL in 2005 would have had to play for free to fund health insurance over the next 40 years.
    That fund would also not cover former players who retired prior to the plan’s possible inception. In short, none of the retired players currently clamoring for increased benefits would have received the coverage.
    “When I brought the figures into the meeting, it was a pretty short conversation,” said Yaras-Davis, who has been with the union for 29 years. “I said, ‘You can give me all the money and we’re fine.’ It got really quiet after that.”
    The NFLPA currently provides qualifying players five years of medical coverage upon retirement, 18 months of COBRA coverage and gives players $25,000 per year up to 12 years ($75,000 minimum, $300,000 maximum) to pay for insurance or other medial issues.
    Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

    As it is, you might do better by complaining why insurance companies hesitate to issue coverage for any former NFL player because they assume that the players have–and they do–too many pre-existing conditions.

    (6) It will be difficult, if not impossible; to locate any other industry in which pension benefits for already-retired members–some of them out of the industry for over 25 years–are regularly increased by significantly more than cost-of-living indices. Yet that is what Gene and his bargaining committees did every time starting in 1983; Name me some other plans that can match that? For NFL retirees–and mainly the older ones–that started in 1983, and continued again in 1998, 2002 and 2006. And remember that any money spent to create a new benefit, improve an existing benefit, or fund future benefits for either retired or active players, comes out of current players’ negotiated percentages–not out of the owners’—percentage (player costs = salaries and benefits).
    In 2006 alone, active player salaries and benefits were reduced by $126-million, an average $70,000 per active players ($96.5 million to improve pension benefits and $20 million to fund disability benefits). Over $5.5 million is being spent monthly on current retired players, disabled players, widows and surviving children.
    (7) Indeed, Gene was able to negotiate significant increases for older former players in years when no new comprehensive Collective Bargaining Agreement talks have been on-going; there are always CBA issues and interpretations that must be dealt with, either formally or informally. Since 1993 when the current basic CBA took effect, when the NFLPA has prevailed—and that has been the rule rather than the exception—and that result most often has been the norm, the owners have agreed to increase the share of overall revenues allocated to players (both active and retired). Assume, for instance, that increase was $20-million. Divided by the 32 clubs that would mean each club would have to increase its share by $625,000–and given past history it is likely that at best only one or two current players would end up with marginally higher salaries. Contrast that with the effects were all of the $20-million were put into new or higher benefits—either for active or retired players. Of course, when splitting that same $20-million among all former players who qualify for benefits, it means that marginal increases for every player are not very large. Nonetheless, the tendency since 1993 has been to put disproportionately more money into benefits than into salaries;
    (8) As the proportion of funds going to benefits has continued to rise at a more rapid pace than the increase for salaries, players who were not covered by pensions—the so-called pre-59er’s and some reaching back to World War II and Korea who didn’t have the requisite number of credited seasons for pension benefits, i.e., were not covered at all because of the inability of the pre-Upshaw NFLPA’s leverage (and that includes most of the dissidents of the Ditka era who complain loudly about Gene but were afraid themselves to strike during the regular season)–are now all getting pension benefits;
    (9) I can assure you that the first bargaining area always dealt with by the bargaining committees led by Gene, before anything else, has been to negotiate both higher pension rates and higher disability rates for all players receiving pensions.
    Why then has there been so much criticism? Here’s some history—not propaganda—you continually ignore:
    Until 1959, no NFL players received a pension. Prior to the NFLPA’s formation players were required to provide their own “jocks-and-socks” for practices—even when there were twice a day pre-season practices in stifling late summer heat. Players received no compensation for the entire pre-season period. If injured, players would be released without any further pay. No disability payments. There was no grievance or arbitration process. And when a player’s contract expired, he was not able to negotiate with any other club. Owners held tightly to their powerful leverage over players.
    For most of its history the NFL has operated both as a monopoly–having absorbed or bankrupted such short-lived potential competitors as the All American Football League (1946-1949), the American Football League (1960-1966), the World Football League (1974-1975), and the United States Football League (1983-1985)–and as a monopsony since owners recognized “’gentlemen’s’ agreements “not to bid against each other for player services..
    And yet, the weaker, pre-Upshaw non-confrontational and meeker NFLPA was forced to accept a bargaining unit excluding many retirees—and, even if, improbably, that could have been achieved–the difficult disability payments process, extremely limited post-career health insurance, and everything else that the malcontents were too chicken to try and achieve.
    And that is the true bottom line: Ditka, DeLamielleure and the older group of players among you were unwilling to challenge the owners’ either by striking during the regular season, or by decertifying their union so as to be able to sue the owners via the much stronger anti-trust approach rather than through weak labor laws.
    Had players not struck during the 1982 season and again in 1987 and decertified in 1989 after owners imposed Plan B, I assure you that no matter how much NFL revenues have skyrocketed, players still would be stuck with lousy pensions and even worse disability plans (if any at all would have been there).
    That monopsony leverage was maintained until late 1992 when the association–the NFLPA had ceased being a union in 1989 in order to not fall under the NLRA instead of the more powerful and relevant antitrust laws–prevailed in the McNeil trial and White suits. As you know the settlement between the parties resulted in the 1993 CBA which was the basic structure of the now-expired CBA and under which when the association once again became a recognized union—and with specific terms that the NFLPA could revert to a trade association when the CBA ended.
    Having worked for the NFLPA for such a long period, I was able to witness many stages in our development. When the USFL competed for player services in the early 1980’s and after the first salary printouts went to all players, NFL salaries rose at a historical rapid rate–and those players whose careers had just ended bemoaned the fact that “they were born too early”. It happened again when the Plan B system took effect for the 1989 season–only this time many of the players who benefited from the USFL experience were the ones complaining. And, of course, when the just-expired system took effect in 1993, the Plan B group groused as salaries rose at unprecedented rates since 1993, players leaving the game also point out how fate had denied them the salaries that younger players were earning. No one group ever seems to have been exceedingly pleased–and yet, what could the NFLPA or Gene in particular do about it?
    Many, if not all, of the players now complaining the most made a conscious decision and took pensions at age 45 which meant that payments were significantly below what they would have been had they waited until age 55 or 65.
    I also know that in doing so, many times they were driven by fears generated by management. It took a comprehensive NIOSH study published in the 1990’s to reveal that longevity for retired players mirrored that of the general population. Until then, conventional wisdom held that the average age of death for retired players was 55; given that prospect–one trumpeted throughout locker rooms by management–waiting until the presumed” average age” of death to receive a pension seemed foolish. To blame Gene Upshaw or the union for their own follies is wrong.
    Or the fabled case of that one Hall of Famer who is only receiving $100 a month; but, he took 25% of his pension when he left the game, which obviously reduced his pension by 25%; at age 45, the same player started collecting his pension, further reducing his pension; then, to top it off, the same player elected the Social Security option which meant he had to sign a form stating he understood that at age 62 his pension would be at $50 a month. All of these were bad choices, but, because of technical changes made since 1993, that can never happen again.
    They (??) say squeaky wheels are heard the most. I question that strategy here. Uniting former player groups—other than NFL Alumni which is propped up by the owners to stall such reconciliation—should be your objective rather than heaping continual attacks on the NFLPA. As you know so well, whenever I come across vicious attacks upon Gene and now upon De Smith and when the pictures of them are so very, very far from the truth, I will lash out. Knowing Gene, Miki Yaras-Davis and the others involved in the process, I am astounded by the depths to which critics have fallen–and I would be amazed if the dissidents were able to produce a single instance when and where the NFLPA alone has failed to represent its former members fully. I was proud to serve under Gene and with those hundreds of dedicated player reps and I hope this information–while obviously biased–is helpful to you in setting the record straight.

    M. J. Duberstein
    Kihei , HI
    1981-2005 (Retired)
    Director of Research Propaganda
    National Football League Players Association, AFL-CIO

  9. Dave Pear
    April 26th, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Dave Pear

    I would like to remind M. J. Duberstein what a jury in federal court described the NFLPA union leadership of in the players Inc. trial. The language in the courts that jurors found the union to be guilty of included such phrases as “malicious and oppressive conduct with evil motive,” and “conduct that was outrageous and grossly fraudulent.”

    The NFL Players Assn. was found guilty of “breach of fiduciary duty” and “breach of contract” and ordered to pay $28,100,000 to over 2.000 retired players for violating marketing deals.

    The story of Dave Duerson in Men’s Journal May 2011, attorney Cy Smith, the lawyer who won a landmark lawsuit on behalf of Mike Webster’s estate: “I get dozens of these files coming across my desk — stark, sad cases of guys really banged up — and the vast majority of these judgments are 6-0 against the players. That’s a gross breach of practice by the board and a clear pattern of bias against paying.” That Duerson was siding with management — and, apparently, Upshaw — is no surprise to his critics. Says Huff, the New York Giants Hall of fame linebacker: “Dave wanted Gene’s job when he finally stepped down, and was saying and doing whatever Gene wanted, or whatever he thought he wanted.”

    Is there anything the NFL Players Assn. does that is not a breach of fiduciary duty towards their retired members? Why did the Players Assn. treat workers comp. attorney Ron Mix like their enemy when he was representing Nelson Muncie for his disability benefits? When Hall of Fame attorney Ron Mix finally was able to help Muncie get his disability benefits, the union then blackballed Ron and accused him of overcharging his client. Ron fought back and prevailed and vindicated his name but Ron describes the union as “evil.” See the video from the conference.

    I played my last two years in the NFL with a herniated disc in my neck and on my own I went to the Stanford medical center and the dean of neurosurgery drilled out the bulging disc. The Raiders Al Davis turned his back on me and I was on my own.

    What about NFL Dr. “NO” Ira Casson? He specialized in violating his hippocratic oath as a medical doctor for the NFL.

    Why don’t you go away and bother someone else because you are part of the problem. How can the NFLPA call themselves part of the AFL-CIO? What an insult to a real union that actually represents their retired members. Shoo – shoo – shoo! Go away!

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  10. M. J. Duberstein
    April 26th, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    MJ Duberstein

    Okay, Gregg,

    What has “my past” has brought you? Be specific because I need the exposure. And, by the way, what did you do for players during your career?

    MJ Duberstein
    1981-2005 (Retired)
    Director of Research Propaganda
    National Football League Players Association, AFL-CIO

  11. RobertinSeattle
    April 27th, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    RobertinSeattle

    Well, here we go again. Another mine-is-bigger-than-yours rant. And now you feel like you have to post your vile remarks to Dave’s Blog since it appears that all the other blogs and sites have already banned and closed down your baseless re-writing of history.

    Your worn-out old tactics of spreading it out thick and heavy no longer work in these modern times. The Internet is here and a thousand right voices will drown your tired rhetoric under a wave of overwhelming evidence.

    What right do you still believe you are entitled to that would allow you to denigrate and deny these men who put their all into a game that they truly helped to build this huge, successful industry? It has less to do with what they’re asking – no, demanding – and more of what they had been promised over the years and denied. When a phony Union organization hiding behind fake AFL-CIO credentials swindles its senior members out of their hard-earned benefits while pretending to take a high road by bragging about all those “great things” they’ve done for their retirees, we’re all surprised that it hasn’t already invoked the anger and ire of all the REAL unions in this country yet. If a real union like the UAW discovered that its senior workers had been thrown under the bus as the retired players have been, the resulting outrage would ensure that it would be corrected immediately. But in fact, it was YOUR boss, Gene Upshaw, who declared that he DIDN’T work for the retired players, even as he continued drawing bigger and bigger salaries from an organization that was originally set up to protect all players – past present and future. This simple fact was reinforced on the annual membership cards emblazoned with the words Past Present Future until we pointed it out two years ago, after which that slogan mysteriously disappeared.

    The time is now at hand when the wrath of the government will bear down on the League and its owners for its arrogance in shoving its full responsibilities as an employer on to the general public’s healthcare system. If even the Social Security and Medicare process acknowledges the injuries have sustained as a direct result of their football careers, the NFL should have no argument in denying benefits to any of them. And Workers Compensation cases that are now being won in greater numbers because of the work of men like Ron Mix add even more evidence to their cases. Everyone else pays. But then, why would someone like you even care? You’re probably well-vested as a retired employee of the NFLPA and will continue receiving a nice pension and benefits from funds generated by the very men you choose to direct your unwarranted venom. Sadly, people like you will always feel entitled to your benefits because you did such a fine job of vilifying others by twisting the truth to the bitter end.

    And even with all your chest-thumping about your wonderful accomplishments in your past, it’s your actions today that truly count and your comments can simply be summed up in one word: despicable. In reading your comments, it’s clear that you’re still drinking the old Kool-Aid and you don’t realize you’re now standing there on the deck of a sinking ship by yourself. It almost seems as if you’re still quietly on the PA payroll; maybe some of that $16 million granted to Upshaw’s widow as a final act of defiance to the retired players managed to quietly make its way into your wallet.

    Of course, when the ship finally starts to go down and those at the top get charged with breaching legal – and moral – obligations, it’s always those whispering advisers like the lawyers (Berthelsen and Kessler for example) along with the ‘researchers’ and advisors who will all be the first to beg out by saying, “We had nothing to do with it. We were only following orders.”

  12. M. J. Duberstein
    April 27th, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    MJ Duberstein

    Yes, bye, bye.

    Especially difficult when a blogger hides behind his nom de plume (RobertinSeattle).

    I now understand why fancy empty rhetoric becomes so attractive and makes it so easy for critics to keep blathering on and on.

    Yes, goodbye. I’d rather work with positive folks.

    Aloha, mahalo and malama pono.

  13. M. J. Duberstein
    April 27th, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Bozo

    Oh, sorry. One final, final thingy. Whomever that bozo pictured beneath my name is, it ain’t me.

    Aloha, mahalo and malama pono.

  14. Dave Pear
    April 27th, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Dave at Home

    Right – business as usual. Attack and insult a Hall-of-Famer in your first comment, then attack pretty much anyone else doing anything today in your second comment and then attack the messenger in your third comment while never answering the real question: What have YOU done to help any of these men let alone said that was positive?

    Goodbye
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  15. Steve Baack
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Steve Baack

    It seems to me that a breach of fiduciary duty as it applies to the GLA issue counts as testimony to the disregard for the ‘past’ guys – particularly the HOF’ers. Did I not see evidence submitted that had Upshaw requesting pixelation of the HOF guys’ names on jerseys so that they wouldn’t have to be paid any royalties?

    How could it be that Gene even suggested we eat dog food? I guess I was mistaken and the $21.5 million settlement was just pure generosity. LOL!

    Steve Baack
    Detroit Lions
    1984-1989

  16. Gregg Bingham
    May 5th, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Gregg Bingham

    Dubie -

    You said and I quote :

    “I would be amazed if the dissidents were able to produce a single instance when and where the NFLPA alone has failed to represent its former members fully”

    and I say:

    I could give you 28 million instances of how and where the NFLPA has screwed retired players but I see Dave Pear beat me to it!

    See here:

    “The NFL Players Assn. was found guilty of ‘breach of fiduciary duty’ and ‘breach of contract’ and ordered to pay $28,100,000 to over 2,000 retired players for violating marketing deals.”

    The FACT IS: a blind man with an IQ of 70 knows when he is getting hosed and it’s going to take a long time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again; and I hold Gene Upshaw 100% responsible.

    One more thing:

    When you said this:

    “Many, if not all, of the players now complaining the most made a conscious decision and took pensions at age 45 which meant that payments were significantly below what they would have been had they waited until age 55 or 65.”

    Not me buddy – I’m a 60-year old linebacker who has had major brain surgery and thus uninsurable and my bank requires the life insurance from NOT taking my pension.

    Gregg Bingham
    Houston Oilers
    1973 – 1984