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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The long-awaited private screening of filmmaker Sean Pamphilon’s latest movie, The United States of Football, will be in Pittsburgh later this month (read more about USoF - click HERE). In collaboration with Sean, former New Orleans Saints’ offensive tackle turned country rock star Kyle Turley composed and wrote a new song called Fortune and Pain that’s part of the soundtrack to the movie. Sean and his crew filmed the music video for the song.
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You can check out the tracks from Kyle’s latest album on his website - click HERE – or on his label Gridiron Records - click HERE. All proceeds from downloads of his new song will go to benefit the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund.
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Most members of the NFLPA received the first announcement in their Inboxes earlier today along with different variations from many sources. The second, more detailed announcement comes out of the NFL Communications office. If you note in the league’s release, credit is graciously being given to several retired players who took part in later discussions held directly with Commissioner Goodell and the owners, something that’s clearly missing from the NFLPA’s announcement. In fact, the NFLPA and its representatives did NOT attend that meeting held in Washington DC.
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We’re posting both announcements here exactly as received:
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A quick update from Shannon Jordan on Gordon and Dora Wright in Florida:
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Thank you to Joe Muley, Keith Ledford and Greg Deardorff at Carrier Enterprises for donating the HVAC unit. Thank you to George at Frank Gay Plumbing for installing and thank you to Kevin Worthy on our Gridiron Greats team for getting us in contact with Carrier. We were able to get this new unit for Gordon and Dora in less than a week after waiting for a full year! Attached is a video from Dora Wright getting her unit installed right now.

God Bless you all!
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Shannon Jordan
President
Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund
(847) 509-3086 office

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Dora used her cell phone to show their old air conditioner being removed and the new one being installed by the good folks at Frank Gay Plumbing from Orlando. We wish it was this easy to change things out at the NFL and the NFLPA!
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With the Hall of Fame ceremonies coming up once again, we have more stories on the lives of retired players that the League and the Union can no longer hide. And who better to let everyone know about what really goes on behind the scenes in the lives of retired players than to hear it from Hall-of-Famer Joe DeLameilleure? Unfortunately, Joe De’s story is more the norm among retired players than current players like Drew Brees would ever care to acknowledge or challenge:
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Most people seem to think that anyone who played in the NFL is wealthy. In today’s world, that’s probably true – but not for the guys who played before 1993. As one of those pre-’93 guys, I feel passionate about improving pensions and benefits for all retired players.
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In the early 90’s, I had the NFLPA check out somebody that I was thinking of doing business with and they endorsed him as a financial advisor. Ultimately, he ended up going to prison for embezzlement. And my family lost almost $300,000. In the years that have passed – by the grace of God – we were able to pull ourselves out of a deep, dark financial home (but that’s another long, terrible story for another day). Like the rest of you, we deal with mortgages, car payments, medical bills and education loans monthly. So far, we’ve been fortunate not to be dealing with any physical disabilities that prevent us from being able to work. We’re fine living in our middle-class neighborhood and driving 5+ year-old vehicles that we’re still making payments on.
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We don’t need – or have:

  • $19 million in deferred compensation
  • $2+ million in a checking account
  • 8 luxury vehicles
  • 1 yacht
  • 2+ expensive homes.

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Over the weekend, the retired players and the attorneys involved with the Eller et al vs. NFL et al class action lawsuit released a letter addressed to all retirees to outline a call for unity as well as to provide an update on the facts and actions to date.
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Dear fellow retired players,
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We have been asked by many of our fellow retired National Football League (“NFL”) players to provide more information about what the Eller v. NFL lawsuit is meant to accomplish and how the lawsuit will help benefit all retired NFL players. What follows is our attempt to do so.
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On March 28, 2011 the national law firms of Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP and Hausfeld, LLP, filed a class action on behalf of all retired NFL players against the NFL in federal court in the District of Minnesota to bring about wholesale improvements of the NFL player retirement system.
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This lawsuit came after the CBA negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA broke down, the Union decertified and the League subsequently locked the players out. The complaint seeks to do for retired players what the Reggie White class action lawsuit did for current players in the early 1990’s: create an organization and system whereby retired NFL players are able to advocate on their own behalf and therefore vastly improve the current landscape of the NFL retirement system. This class action – known as Eller et al., v. NFL – was consolidated with the class action on behalf of current players called Brady, et al vs. NFL. (Consolidated simply means that the cases are heard together and the NFL is better positioned to try and resolve both cases simultaneously – although the retired players are asking for and addressing different issues than the current players.)
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Recently, the largest collective group of representatives of various organizations for retired players or who have mass online audience met in Minneapolis. The group included representatives and/or members from the NFLPA, NFL Alumni, the Retired Players Association, Fourth & Goal, Gridiron Greats, Dignity after Football and DavePear.com/Independent Football Veterans. Most of the participants agreed to present the League with united proposals for changes in key areas affecting the well-being of retired players:

  • (a)    pensions;
  • (b)   disability benefits;
  • (c)    medical benefits;
  • (d)   medical monitoring; and
  • (e)    vesting calculations.

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On April 4th, representatives of the National Football League acknowledged the need to provide “important improvements in retired player benefits.” They stated it was the “fair” and “right” thing to do in “respect” and “recognition” of their contributions to the game. The League said the retirees “voice” needs to be heard.
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On May 25th, the largest collective group of representatives of retired NFL Players ever assembled met a second time to reach a consensus on a series of united proposals for these needed improvements.
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The League has said that everyone needs to “focus on negotiations” because “there is a deal to be made.” We agree. The retirees therefore unanimously agreed to submit to the League a detailed framework for changes in retiree pensions, medical coverage and benefits, and disability programs. The framework will also include a component of medical monitoring for retirees that is designed to detect or prevent illness or disease at its earliest stages and provide for timely treatment.
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The retirees invite the League to be available for meetings beginning as early as Tuesday, May 31, to discuss this framework, exchange ideas and comments, and be best prepared to reach resolution when mediation formally resumes on June 7th and 8th in Minneapolis.
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As expressed in the April 4th letter from the League to the retirees, the League wished to hear the “voice” of the retirees. We are speaking. It’s now time for the League to listen.
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Any questions concerning this press release should be directed to Michael Hausfeld at Hausfeld LLP (202) 540-7200 or Daniel Mason, Mark Feinberg, or Shawn D. Stuckey at Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason (612) 336-9100.
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Retired NFL Players’ Representatives’ Unite!
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The largest collective group of representatives for retired NFL players ever assembled met yesterday in Minneapolis, Minnesota and agreed to unanimously support the class action litigation brought by retired NFL players against the League and its member clubs. That lawsuit is now pending before Judge Susan Nelson in federal court in Minneapolis.
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Among those present were:
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Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner:

THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS .
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
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BY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
COMMENTARY
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Portions of this column are by Evan Weiner and Heather Rascher from ”A Business History of Professional Football,” unpublished manuscript (2005).
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The biggest game on the NFL season starts on April 6 when National Football League owners and the remnants of the now defunct National Football League Players Association face off in a Minneapolis courtroom. In a script that looks like a sequel to the days after the National Football League Players Association imploded in October 1987 when the NFLPA decided to sue NFL owners for free agency, the NFLPA is back in a Minneapolis courthouse and suing NFL owners. Ten players, including one college player who was not even a part of the defunct NFLPA, Von Miller, are suing the league in an antitrust action hoping the court will lift the owners lockout.
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Miller’s name is on the suit but he is planning to attend the National Football League Draft, an act that restricts the freedom of college players in finding jobs. The only reason the draft is legal is through collective bargaining. The owners and players have agreed to a draft. Miller plans to be in the courtroom while New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, one of the 10 plaintiffs, will not attend the opening day festivities. Brees will be at a golf fundraiser.
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Brees last week sounded a conciliatory note to retired and discarded players after being blasted by Sam Huff for criticizing former players who are down and out because of football related injuries. Brees apparently learned well from the late Gene Upshaw (who was the NFLPA Executive Director) who once said that the association could not worry about every problem. While the NFL and the NFLPA duke it out in Minneapolis, the former NFLPA may be involved in another action as former New Orleans and Miami defensive back Gene Atkins is suing the NFL’s retirement board after being denied additional health benefits by the group which included the late Dave Duerson. The former defensive back, Duerson, was on the board which said ‘no’ to Atkins’ football degenerative claim in 2006. Duerson’s suicide in February 2011 raises questions according to the brief filed about Duerson’s competence in light of statements that came out after the suicide that he had memory loss and difficulties spelling words.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Gordon Wright played for four seasons: 1967 – 1968 for the Philadelphia Eagles and then 1969 – 1971 for the New York Jets. Like most retired players, Gordon’s been trying to access his full disability and pension benefits for years now and it’s finally reached the courts.

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Reprinted in its entirety with permission from Evan Weiner:


Discarded NFL players are often forgotten in retirement

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Memo to DeMaurice Smith,

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Watch Blood Equity Here

5 February 2010

Thanks to the folks over at Hulu, the documentary Blood Equity is now available for viewing online. Read our earlier post about the video – click HERE. (You can expand the video to Full Screen by clicking on the enlarge button in the upper right corner of the screen after the first sponsor clip finishes.)

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So producing a film about life after football for many of the old warriors should speak volumes. The documentary Blood Equity has been out since 2007 and is available on DVD. We haven’t heard much more about it since it came out but noticed it was playing this weekend Laemmle Sunset 5 theater in West Hollywood (read the story HERE).

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AARP Bulletin Today

You know it’s getting really serious when the AARP features a comprehensive article  on the sorry state of benefits as it applies to the NFLPA’s seniors. As long-time advocates for the retired, the AARP represents a large and vocal bloc of seniors with votes who generally get the attention of our government representatives. The article starts with Willie Wood’s life after the NFL and includes quotes from Mike Ditka and John Hogan. You can read the entire article by clicking HERE.

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