Bruce Laird: Mixed Messages
EDITOR’S NOTE: Fourth & Goal’s Bruce Laird sent in his comments and observations after reading the recent ESPN article from last Friday, Mixed Messages on Brain Injuries. (Click HERE to read the post that includes a link to the article.) Bruce and Sam Havrilak were also unceremoniously kicked out of the Baltimore chapter of the NFLPA for their outspoken and proactive activities for retired players. Here are some comments and observations from Bruce:
RE: Mixed Messages on Brain Injuries. This is the what, how and why those few retired players have spoken up for those who cannot speak for themselves. That is the only reason we founded the Fourth and Goal Foundation.
(And for that very reason, the NLFPA and its former Retired Players Board have now told Sam Havrilak and Bruce Laird that they must now step down as officers of the Baltimore Chapter of the NFLPA.)
For years, this Foundation and its board has cared enough to pursue the truth. Digging through the NFLPA and NFL spin was like peeling an onion so to speak. All this work only to realize what we already knew: That the NFLPA has never truly wanted to fight to change a disability system that has fought against retired players’ rights just for a clean shot at the disability benefits that so many retired players rightfully deserve.
You ask why? It’s always all about the money – TONS of money! So who should pay for those retired players’ benefits that they rightly deserve? The answer: The active players. Or rather the active players’ funding. (All the pre-1993 players have lost their chance; their 15 years of eligibility has long since passed as a result of arbitrary rules set up against them at every step of the way.) With the salaries today, each active player could easily take a little less now in the present so they can be taken care of in the future when they’ll need that money the most. But that won’t get De Smith re-elected. That won’t get the NFLPA Active Players Board members re-elected. It’s all about NOW, baby! The NOW generation. I get it because I lived it too. My friend and great Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure said it best: “We retired players had a chance to live our dream. Now our families and our love ones must live our NIGHTMARE!” Could that be a true statement for so many of our families? Ask the wives whose husbands are now in the 88 Plan. Ask the widows how they were denied their Legacy Benefits by their so-called union for 11 months. Who spoke for them? I know we did here in Baltimore. No one else cared: Not the NFLPA leadership. Not the local NFLPA chapters across the country. Not the Former Players Board of Representatives. For those few of us who spoke up, it was the right thing to do.
Joe D. and I had the best love hate/relationship that I can think of playing against each other. Joe D. was the great competitor that he was and is to this day. Twice a year for ten years we went at it never saying much to each other than, “Man, that was a great hit!” (Good solid plays and not cheap shots just to hurt anyone in those days. And hundreds of them!) I’ll admit I didn’t get the better of him often but it was close. And today we laugh and respect each other 30 years later.
To read what is written in this article and see this union – our so-called retired player leadership – say nothing and do nothing gives me no hope for my children. For those of us over 60, it will not matter who’s President, who’s your Senator or Congressmen. Take care of your family because there is no other retired player community that will take care of you unless you live in Baltimore. That was our tradition started here in Baltimore in 1954 with our football team, way before I knew who Pete Retzlaff, Ordell Braase, Jim Mutscheller, Alex Sandusky, Tommy McDonald, Willie Davis, Conrad Dobler, Mike Ditka, Harry Carson (and a few others) and what they have done: Men who put it on the line for the players of their time and after their time.
The few exceptions to the rule that NO ONE will help are:
- Gridiron Greats
- Dave Pear
- George Visger
- Harry Carson
Fourth & Goal Foundation