NDPA: Class Warfare in the NFLPA’s Version of the CBA

Jun 1, 2012

First, some news and the intro: Retired players lost Round 1 in their battle to wrest control of their pensions and benefits away from the NFLPA. In her final motion filed last week in Minnesota court, Judge Nelson dismissed the Eller et al lawsuit brought against the NFLPA, Tom Brady and Mike Vrabel. That said, much of the motion left several issues open that will allow Hausfeld LLP and Zelle Hofmann to file an appeal shortly. What continues to be unclear is how the NFLPA could actually declare that they had negotiated retired players benefits when they were decertified as Union during the lockout last year. Magically, retired players benefits were negotiated in the short period after the Union recertified and then announced the shiny new CBA they had finalized. Got that? More analysis on this development in a future post.
This Union managed to get the CBA in place before football season started last year and then announced a new contract for Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (along with bonuses for “a job well done”); even Commissioner Roger Goodell got a new contract that will end with a $20 million salary. The current players got their paychecks and all was good in paradise. And in this scenario, even the lawyers got well-paid: Jeffrey Kessler, who represented the NFLPA in the Players Inc. lawsuit and apparently also represents retired players in fighting the NFL for Workers Compensation rights, was reputed to be earning as much as $5.5 million a year as a senior partner at recently bankrupt Dewey & LaBouef. Conflicts of interest never held this guy back from being a proponent of the two-tier haves-vs-have-nots at his old firm which probably explains why he’s been such a good fit for the NFLPA all these years. This May, Kessler jumped ship as his old firm was sinking and ended up at Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago. Among his new home’s clients is Philip Morris, one of the Big Tobacco giants that kept denying any links between cigarettes and cancer to the bitter end. Looks like he’s in good company…
This clip from May 2012 in the New York Times says it all about Kessler:
“In an interview in March, Mr. Kessler said there was immense pressure to pay big producers who brought in the clients, while the partners who did the fundamental work were worth less and less. He analogized it to the sports world, where the salary spread has widened between star players and others on the team.
“He observed that the pay spread between the New York Yankees all-star Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the team today was far greater than that of the Yankees legend Mickey Mantle and his teammates in the 1950s . “The value for the stars has gone up, while the value of service partners has gone down,” he said.”
Read the rest of that article – click HERE.
So according to everyone at the NFLPA, everyone has done well under the current CBA. Except for the retired players. And by extension, their widows. Many of the retired players are still confused and waiting for their checks while the widows – approximately 320 of them – weren’t even given consideration during these great negotiations by the Union. The League has publicly come out and offered to cover 51% of the estimated $14 million needed to boost the pitiful pensions most of the older generation of widows have been receiving. So what’s this Union’s solution? Offer to match the NFL’s 51% by paying up the balance? Nah. Instead, they’ve been whining about where the NFL’s getting the money to cover their share of the increase (from the active players’ fines pool). Then they try to circulate a phony “Petition” in protest? Everything BUT come up with the money to cover their 49% of widows’ increases.
What really makes us mad? This perpetual more-for-us-less-for-you mentality that starts from inside the entire organization with management and its lawyers. We’re talking about $7 million over 10 years here, folks. For 320 widows. And in case they think everyone’s forgotten about the distribution of the Players Inc. lawsuit checks, here’s a re-cap: As new Executive Director of the NFLPA in 2009, DeMaurice Smith made a lawyer’s decision to simply settle with retired players on their court victory. The NFLPA would pay them $22 million rather than follow Kessler’s natural propensity to appeal (ka-ching!). But there was a catch – of course: They had to pay the 2,000+ plaintiffs in two payments instead of one single check. Why? Because they had to pay ONE widow $16 million+. One widow! Gene Upshaw’s widow. In a side deal which has still never been disclosed in detail to anyone outside of the insiders at the NFLPA. So let’s see: The NFLPA is nickel-and-diming over where to come up with $7 million for 320 widows but managed to pay a $16 million lump sum to one widow quickly while making 2,000+ retired players wait months longer for their judgment payout? We should re-name the NFLPA the NDPA: The Nickel-and-Dime Players Association!
Does anyone think retired players should start circulating their own petition to the AFL/CIO and their elected officials to protest this ongoing fraud? Would you sign this petition if we posted one here on Dave’s Blog? Let us know!

One team - until we divide the money!

And for posterity, here is exactly what the NFL has stated officially:

TO widows and other survivors of Eligible PRE-1993 PLAYERS

NFL clubs last week at a League meeting in Atlanta decided to fund 51 percent of the cost of providing Legacy benefits to approximately 320 widows and other survivors of eligible pre-1993 players.  This benefit will be retroactive to August 4, 2011, which was the same effective date for the Legacy benefit for eligible pre-93 players.  The widows will receive 51% on the same basis that they received their late husband’s  benefit under the Bell-Rozelle Pension Plan.  Widows of eligible pre-93 players who remarried after their player-husband’s death still are eligible for the benefit.  Why only 51% for the survivors?  That is the same percentage that the clubs already are paying the 2,300 pre-93 players under the Legacy benefit program.
Unfortunately, what is NOT the same is that the clubs have not yet reached agreement with the NFLPA on its share of this survivor benefit.  The owners decided last week that their talks with the union on this issue had been stalled long enough so clubs will fund their share now and welcome a decision by DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA to fund the remaining 49 % as soon as possible.
The union also evidently has questioned the source of the clubs’ payment for the widows and has indicated that player fine money should not be used for this purpose.  Over the last 8 years, player fine money has been used to provide funding in the name of the League and NFLPA for Asian earthquake and tsunami relief, Hurricane Katrina relief and other natural disasters. Certainly, if the decision is made to use player fine resources to pay the widows of many individuals who helped build the league, that would be an appropriate use of the money.
The League earlier had proposed to the NFLPA that this same player fine money be used to fund the joint Player Care Foundation in future years but the union has remained non-committal to that proposal as well.  Whatever decision is made about how player fine money is used, the clubs will pay their share of the legacy benefit for widows and other survivors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A.J. Perez from FOX Sports just posted his take on the widows’ plight today. Read his article by clicking HERE.

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Pat Shea
    June 1st, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Pat Shea

    Big YES on that.

    Pat Shea #64
    San Diego Chargers
    1962 – 1966

  2. Marilyn Bishop
    June 1st, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Bill Bishop

    Yes, I would certainly sign a petition for the widows’ benefits!

    Marilyn Bishop
    widow Bill Bishop (1931 – 1998)
    Chicago Bears 1952 – 1961
    Minnesota Vikings 1962

  3. Rick Sanford
    June 2nd, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    Rick Sanford NE Patriots

    Absolutely will sign! How does the NFLPA continue to get away with continued denial and betrayal of former players? Where is Congress in all of this? About time – actually overtime – for them to step in, isn’t it?

    Rick Sanford
    New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
    1979 – 1985