USAToday: Chargers 'devastated' by ex-DB Paul Oliver's suicide at 29    League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, will air on FRONTLINE on October 8 & 15. Check your local listings    LA Times: Deion Sanders, critic of NFL concussion suits, seeks workers' comp    FOXSports: NFL, players reach proposed $765M settlement of concussion-related lawsuits    Sean Pamphilon's United States of Football in theaters starting Aug 23rd!    Washington Post: Do no harm: Who should bear the costs of retired NFL players’ medical bills?    You can catch all the posts and videos from our recent Third Annual Football Veterans Conference - everything now posted here on Dave's Blog!

Roger Zero Fund

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The 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is going into its third year. How has it worked out for you and your families? How will some of the most recent disability rulings affect future cases? And just how did that Legacy Fund work out for each of you? John Hogan has been advocating for a total reform of the current NFL/NFLPA Disability Plan and has been successful in many of his cases representing retired NFL players in their Disability and Social Security Disability cases. In this session, John discusses some of the most recent cases and their impact on all retired players. We were hoping to have Jimmie Giles join John on stage but his health and upcoming surgeries kept him at home. John discusses some of the strange details of how the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan and its Board actually runs under the dominant hand of The Groom Law Group with absolutely no checks and balances nor oversight from a so-called Board. If you have never had to apply for disability benefits from the NFL, this discussion is an eye-opener. And if you’ve applied for benefits, most of this information will sound eerily familiar. (You can read all Panelist biographies by clicking HERE.)
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YouTube Hints: You can enlarge the video to Full Screen mode simply by clicking on that Full Screen icon in the lower right hand corner of the video. You can also watch videos in HD (if available) by clicking that gear icon in the lower right and then selecting the highest resolution available. And each YouTube video can actually be paused or stopped at any point and you can also jump to any spot where you may have left earlier so there’s no need to watch through an entire video.
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BBPR Plan CoverAfter a few e-mail exchanges, Larry Lamade at Akin Gump graciously provided me with a bound copy of the latest Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan that was released in April 2012.
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He also sent me a cover letter with attachments that outline a proposed amendment and a new Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit that are in the process of being added to the Plan. We’ll be adding comments and observations shortly. If any of our readers find some interesting points, please feel free to share them in the Comments section below.
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We uploaded copies of the proposed changes and a full copy of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan to Scribd for easy viewing and to make it available for downloading and printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close):
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Outline & Proposed Additions to 2012 Bert Bell Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan from Akin Gump

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Bruce Laird: Mixed Messages

19 November 2012

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:

Joe DeLamielleure, Bruce Laird and Herb Adderley

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Random News

23 September 2012

Some bits-and-pieces of information that have come in, starting with an interesting observation from disability attorney John Hogan (if anyone has heard anything about these reps on disability improvements, please feel free to let us know):
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Article 61, Sec. 5 of the new CBA, which became effective over a year ago, provided for “further disability improvements” and that each side would appoint representatives not later than October 31, 2011 to consider these further improvements. I have no idea who was appointed and I have no idea if they have even met. Perhaps more importantly, no one we know has heard from ANY retired player who might have been consulted on what further improvements are needed.
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At Sean Pamphilon’s movie preview in Pittsburgh last week, Dave also had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with Leonard Marshall (1983 – 1994: New York Giants, New York Jets, Washington Redskins). Leonard’s book When the Cheering Stops: Bill Parcells, the 1990 New York Giants, and the Price of Greatness (co-authored with journalist William Bendetson) was released this past spring and provides a unique inside view of football from his days on the field interwoven with intimate stories about life after the game off the field. Here are two of Leonard’s interviews from last spring:
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Nothing more needs to be said.
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A year later, we’re still learning more about the Legacy Fund every day and most of it isn’t coming from the NFL or the NFLPA. Disability Attorney John Hogan recently came across the one retired player receiving disability benefits who actually also qualified for some Legacy Benefits. Will wonders never cease? We’re passing along John’s observations to keep retirees informed.
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Also attached is a copy of another document that Dave received last week actually detailing the ins-and-outs of adding Medicare Prescription Benefits. Seems they’re better at communicating how to get on the government dole than sending better instructions for navigating their own benefits system and process. Unbelievable!
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Here’s John Hogan’s latest information on the Legacy Fund first:
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A lot of guys on NFL disability have been asking questions about whether they’re entitled to receive any additional benefit from the Legacy Fund. The simple answer appears to be that most will not. Unless a player had a long career AND the amount of his benefit credits PLUS the Legacy Fund benefits is greater than the monthly amount he receives on disability, will that player get an increase. The only case where I have seen this happen is where the player is on the lowest-paying classification of Total and Permanent Disability – formerly known as “Inactive” – and has had his benefit permanently reduced by 25% for taking a one-time early pension draw AND if that player had a lengthy career (i.e. – 12 years in one case).
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Also, if the Legacy Benefit calculation comes to more than the amount of the monthly disability benefit, the player will only receive the additional difference – the total Legacy Benefit is not paid IN ADDITION TO the disability benefit.
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And here’s a copy of the NFL’s instruction sheet on Medicare Prescription Plan. We’ve uploaded this 6-pager to Scribd for easy viewing and to make it downloadable for printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close):
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NFL on Medicare & SSI
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Here’s the broadcast on Disability Issues from our Independent Football Veterans Conference this past April in Las Vegas at the South Point. This is definitely the other topic that generates the most questions from retired players.
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Disability attorney and retired player advocate John Hogan has been in practice for 35 years after also having worked inside the Social Security system. In this 54-minute open panel discussion, John discusses a wide range of topics regarding covering disability benefits, your rights, Social Security Disability, as well as the serious flaws within the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan.
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Dave joins John as a typical example of what most retired players have encountered in their battle to get access to their earned benefits that the NFL and NFLPA continue to deny.
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There are a lot of questions from retired players.
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We’re bringing you a two-part broadcast in this post from our Independent Football Veterans Conference this past April in Las Vegas at the South Point. Certainly, one of the most important issues that affects many retirees is Workers Compensation. In recent years, a lot more cases have been ending with better outcomes for retired players.
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Our second panel featured a discussion on some of the latest information and studies on Workers Compensation. Retired Hall-of-Famer and California Workers Comp attorney Ron Mix kicks off with a great overview of how Workers Comp applies to retired football players and some of the actions the NFL has taken to stem applications. Attorney Bryan Round talks about his representation on behalf of football players and working with the local NFLPA Workers’ Comp Panel in Kansas City. In Part 2, retired player George Visger shares his personal, long – and ongoing – battle over the years with Workers Comp. Dave Pear moderates.
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NFL, NFLPA Agree on Full Funding of Legacy Benefits for Eligible Widows and Survivors of Pre-1993 Players

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Now that some of the dust has settled from the fallout of George Martin’s 2-year tenure as Executive Director of the NFL Alumni, there are a lot of questions still left unanswered. Attorney John Hogan was an active advocate from the earliest stages of what started with the best of intentions. We’re also going ahead with including John Hogan and Dave’s discussion on Disability from the recent IFV Conference held in April in Vegas. The video is at the bottom of this post.

An Open Letter to the NFL and Retired Players Regarding the Alumni

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We just received another note from retired player and attorney Bob Stein with more clarification on the Legacy Fund Benefits. Many of you will already be familiar with Bob as one of the lead attorneys for the Dryer vs. NFL (Films) lawsuit. Dave also received a memo from Joe Browne out of the NFL offices that contains an interesting note about your Legacy Fund benefits as well as a proposal for widows that has apparently been on the table awaiting an answer from… yes – you guessed it: Your Union. Please call or write your Union to let them know they need to get off their collective butts and DO THE RIGHT THING! Pay the widows NOW!
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We’ll start off with Bob Stein’s notes:
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May 8, 2012
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To: Fellow Retired NFL Players
From: Bob Stein
RE: Legacy Benefit
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Men,
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I spoke to the NFL Player Benefits (“Plan”) office yesterday and got what I think is some clarity on two more issues regarding the Legacy Benefit which have many retired players confused. I am passing the conversation notees along in hopes of helping.
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Bob Stein
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LEGACY BENEFIT INFORMATION
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While I cannot provide legal advice on this matter, I would like to pass along the information I received by telephone on May 7, 2012 from the NFL Player Benefits Office for other retired players waiting for Legacy Benefit payments or wondering about their status.
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1. Players currently receiving NFL Disability payments – I was told these players would receive only THE GREATER OF:
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a) the amount of monthly disability payment they currently receive; OR
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b) the total of monthly pension payment they would now qualify for based on years of service, etc. plus the monthly Legacy Benefit they would qualify for under the 2011 CBA.
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They made it clear you only receive whichever monthly amount is greater. So players whose current disability payment is greater than the total of (b) would receive NO additional payment from the Legacy Benefit in the new CBA.
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2. Players who assigned all or part of their pension benefits to an ex-spouse in their divorce:
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I was told each of these situations would be reviewed individually by Plan attorneys and actuaries to see what payment rights that individual player’s divorce decree language assigned to his ex-spouse. Since the language on what divorce obligations are continuing can be different for every decree, based on what was agreed to or awarded by the court, the Plan advisors must go through them individually to see what should go to each ex-spouse and each player.
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I hope this information helps clarify some remaining Legacy Benefit issues. The number of the NFL Player Benefits Office is (800) 638-3186.
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And some of what was relayed to retirees from the NFL Offices today:
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Dear Retired Player:
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The following items may interest you:
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1. Attached is a four-page summary of the recent record-based study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of all retirees who played in the NFL for at least five seasons from 1959 through 1988. We previewed this study in the most recent NFL RETIRED PLAYER NEWS that was emailed to you on April 24. NIOSH also sent via regular mail a copy of this same information to the 3,439 players whose records were used for the study.
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2. More than 250 retirees who had been waiting to hear from the Pension Benefit office in Baltimore regarding their Legacy payments were mailed information on their individual cases in recent weeks. One of the last group of retirees to receive information will be those players who have QDROs and also receive Disability Benefits. Also, the 320 widows and other beneficiaries of vested pre-93 players who died prior to the 2011 CBA being signed still are awaiting word from the NFLPA regarding those Legacy benefits. The league is on record as stating it will pay 51% of the costs for the widows benefit if the NFLPA pays the balance.
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3. The NFL Alumni Association announced over this past weekend at a Board meeting in Arizona the resignation of Executive Director George Martin, who had served in that post since October, 2009. Ex-Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik, who serves as the non-salaried President of the Alumni Association, also will act as interim Executive Director until a full time successor is named.
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Incidentally, the Association’s annual Super Bowl of Golf, which matches winning teams from all local Alumni chapters, was held in conjunction with the Board meeting and was won by a team led by ex-Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. Congratulations.
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4. All of us in the NFL family mourn the death of NFL great Junior Seau last week. There will be a private memorial service and burial this Friday, May 11 in Oceanside, California followed by a public memorial that same night at QualComm Stadium, the home of the Chargers and site for many of Junior’s on-the field heroics.
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Joe Browne
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Senior Advisor to the Commissioner continue reading »

EDITOR’S NOTE: We just received this update from Bob Stein on the Legacy Fund Benefits. This will be one of the discussion issues at our upcoming Conference April 20 – 22 in Las Vegas. Be sure to register HERE and book your rooms and flight.
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I continue to hear from retired player friends wondering about ongoing delays in Legacy Benefit payments or information from the NFL Player Retirement Plan. Last week, I finally reached an AON actuary working on the Legacy Benefit. While I can’t guarantee the absolute accuracy of the information I received, I wanted to pass it on in hopes it will be helpful.
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Here’s what I was told:
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1. Though basic agreement and public announcement occurred with the CBA conclusion in August, 2011, the Plan Document, with precise terms and details, is still not complete. Amendments are being finalized and the complete Plan Document is to be finished by the March 31 end of the current Plan year. The “Summary Plan Description” is not required to be published until 7 months later, though he said they would try to have it out sooner.
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So I did not get what I requested which was a copy of the basic rules governing our Legacy Benefit payments.
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2. Regarding increased monthly benefits for those electing to defer payment, I was told even if we are now over age 55, our basic benefit calculation ($124/year for seasons through 1974, $108 per year thereafter) does not increase unless we now choose to defer payments due us from August, 2011 on. Meaning there is no added benefit from being over 55. If we defer payment NOW, we will receive a “small percentage increase for each year delayed.” However, by law we must begin taking payments once we reach age 65.
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To make it more confusing, I was told the percentage increases for deferring Legacy Benefit payments will be different than the percentage increase factor for deferred pension payments. He did not know if increases would be more or less than for deferred pension payments.
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3. Timing of Plan Response
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I was told most responses went out before the Super Bowl, including to players electing a survivor benefit. However, some “special cases” like those involving divorces have not yet been addressed.
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4. Questions/Problems
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Some ex-teammates have been waiting weeks or more for response from the Plan office. Apparently, all we can do is keep calling and writing. It’s been very frustrating. But I hope this information helps a little.
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Bob Stein
Kansas City Chiefs, LA Rams,
Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers
1969 – 1976
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With so many lawsuits being filed right now, we’ve been flooded with a lot of inquiries and questions on who to join and how to contact the various firms and groups. While Dave has taken a plaintiff position with Goldberg Persky & White in the concussion and helmet lawsuit and with Hausfeld LLP in the retired players benefits and representation lawsuit against the League and the NFLPA, each of you should make a conscientious decision to sign up with the firm that you feel represents your interests in the best way possible. While we’ve never dispensed any legal advice here, we’d like to post a list of common sense questions that you may want to ask any law firm you’re considering.
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And at the end of this post, we’re also attaching a copy of a letter that John Beasley sent to the Benefits Office that got some results.
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We have recently read the expose of George Martin and the NFL Alumni Association written by A. J. Perez and Alex Marvez for FOX Sports. We have also read the accounts of the Alumni’s press conference from the Super Bowl; and of their Board of Directors’ support for George Martin.
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I am not a former player and often wonder why and how I got involved in their issues. However, getting to know – and work with – many retired players over the past few years has been a personal and professional highlight of my life and career. I am proud to call many retired players my friends and most of them are a tremendous source of inspiration for me.
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That said, I have thought that I have had something worthwhile to contribute to the cause of retired players and their families – specifically my expertise in disability law. And it is with those thoughts in mind that I became actively involved in helping the NFL Alumni transition from Caring for Kids to a role as the primary advocate for the needs of retired players, their families and their widows.
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You will recall that several years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited several cities to meet with RETIRED PLAYERS ONLY to try to learn what was on their minds. Many of you will recall that Dr. Eleanor Perfetto was not allowed to attend a meeting on behalf of her husband, Ralph Wenzel, who suffers from dementia. You may also recall that I was allowed into the meeting in Dallas – but not allowed to speak. I was very skeptical about what Commissioner Goodell and the NFL were up to.
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Not long after, I got a call from Bruce Laird, President of Fourth and Goal – one of the first retired player advocacy organizations who were raising money on behalf of – and advocating for – retired players. He told me that Goodell had called him and asked if Fourth and Goal would work with the NFL Alumni to refocus their efforts towards retired players and become one unified and representative advocacy organization. As we envisioned it, we would have one truly representative group that would speak on behalf of retired players’ issues – from intellectual property rights to significant pension improvements and much needed disability reform – with both the League and the Union.
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It was a tremendous effort on the part of many men to establish the new Alumni Association and hire George Martin as their executive director. Many of us involved in the effort took a lot of heat from all sides. The PA would not have anything to do with this, as they felt (as many others did) that this was a ploy by the NFL to curry favor with retired players as the League and Union moved towards the new CBA. While the men of the PA had little regard for what I had to say about needed disability reforms (which would only have served to help their members), I continued on, hoping that I would have the opportunity to discuss cases, problems, ideas and solutions with the League or various owners. I pressed on, hoping that Bruce Laird, Jeff Nixon and others well-versed in the pension plan, the CBA and all issues facing retired players, would also have the chance to meet face-to-face with the CBA decision makers.
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It never happened.
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Fast forward to where we are today – a CBA that did not come close to adequately addressing the needs of retired players. As all of you know, those failings are the subject of a lawsuit pending in Minnesota against the Union. While the League and Union think they have a 10-year period of “labor peace” to look forward to, they will clearly be kept busy by retired players who continue to feel left out, bruised and abused – in light of what they did to make the game what it is today and in light of the almost unimaginable amount of money the NFL is now generating.
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The Legacy Fund (anyone get their checks yet?) is but a drop in the bucket of what was needed. The League and Union are now scrambling to decide what to do about the disaster of leaving widows out of the picture.
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Which brings me back to the Alumni Association. What have they done for retired players and their families? Were they a significant role-player in the CBA as we had hoped? Are retired players happy with what they are doing? Has the membership grown or decreased since George Martin was hired? (We hear from a former employee that membership was down significantly but we really don’t know.) I do know that there are a number of NFL cities where there is no longer an Alumni chapter – including here in Atlanta – where there are between 700 and 800 retired players.
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The Alumni has had three major programs – all highly touted: the Satcher Leadership Institute of Morehouse School of Medicine and their mental health awareness program; their partnership with the Gay Culverhouse Player Outreach Program; and the Long-Term Care Insurance program. All of them great, helpful programs. But they weren’t really the Alumni’s – they were the League’s and the Alumni’s role in them appears to be little more than lip-service.
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I am sure that Commissioner Goodell and the League expected the Alumni to be self-sustaining by now. At least when we started down this path, that is what those of us at Fourth and Goal had expected. To the best of my knowledge, they are not. They have been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in “interest-free loans” from the League.
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The point of this letter is that at this point in time, I don’t think it really matters what I think of the Alumni or George Martin’s leadership. I don’t think it really matters what the majority of retired players think about them. And although the Board of Directors is supposed to be in charge, I don’t think it really matters what they think, or how much confidence they have in George Martin and the Alumni’s direction.
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The only one who really matters is Roger Goodell. Is he willing to continue to invest multiple millions of dollars to try to prop them up on their feet – or is it time to close the checkbook and see if they can stand on their own feet?
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John Hogan
Disability Attorney
Retired Player Advocate
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