Sep. 11, 2015
80 Hall of Fame Players Sent a Message to Veteran Players
On April 19, 2010, just three (3) days before the NFL draft, I posted a letter on the website - Fourth & Goal Unites. The website was administered by Bruce Laird and the Baltimore Colts Alumni organization.
It was a tremendous honor for me to be the official blogger at Fourth & Goal and write articles about retired player issues. I wrote a letter (below) that was signed by 80 Hall of Fame players. You can see their names at the bottom of the letter. I want to thank Joe DeLamielleure for assisting me in getting each of the guys to authorize the use of their name and their endorsement of the message.
The letter was emailed to key veteran players and NFLPA Executive Committee members and player representatives. It was also emailed to the leadership at the NFL, NFLPA and Former Player Chapter Presidents at the NFL Alumni and NFLPA. It was also sent to thousands of former players that had been asking our most influential alumni - our Hall of Famers - to get more vocal on a particular issue of vital importance to former players.
I thought I would post this letter again, just to remind everyone what former players are capable of doing when we unite on an issue. In this case, we had 80 Hall of Fame players that came together to ask for the institution of a Rookie Salary Scale - and the use of savings generated from that scale to increase pre-1993 player pensions and veteran player income. The money for the two benefits are identified on page 32 of the 2011 CBA Article 7, Section 9 under the title “Rookie Redistribution Fund”
As you know, we accomplished all three of our goals:
• A Rookie Salary Scale was instituted in the very next draft;
• The “Legacy Benefit” increased pre-1993 player pensions
• The “Veteran Player Performance-Based Compensation Pool” increased veteran pay
There is more work that needs to be done, but I want to thank all of the Hall of Fame players that came together on this critical issue. Some of the HOF'ers didn't even receive an increase in their pensions because they played after 1993. That, my Alumni brothers, is what you call sacrificing for the good of the team. They understood that the needs of the many - outweighed the needs of the few! If you don't see a particular HOF member on this list, it does not mean they were not in favor of the message. In some cases, me and Joe D just couldn't reach them for one reason or another.
Sadly to say, a number of these great men are no longer with us.
Here is their letter:
Dear NFL Veteran Players:
On April 22, 2010 the NFL will conduct its annual draft and once again the 32 players selected in the first round will become multi-millionaires before they have played a single down in the NFL.
In last year’s draft, the first 32 players selected received $462 million in guaranteed bonuses. Another $100 million in signing bonuses was paid out to players drafted in rounds two through six. This does not include salaries or other performance bonuses that these players will potentially earn through the duration of their contracts.
It is disappointing that this system of rewarding unproven players with guaranteed bonuses has been allowed to continue for another year. Player agents are also reaping the benefits of the current system and do not want to see it change. If bonuses were standardized, there would be no need for a player agent to get paid for negotiating that part of a contract. Last year player agents received approximately 14 million just from the bonus portion of the 32 rookies selected in the first round. We are concerned that player agents might have some influence over the NFLPA and its decision to continue this system. There was a clear conflict of interest when Gene Upshaw was at the helm and was represented by player agent Tom Condon. We hope that DeMaurice Smith is not influenced by the power, privilege and perks that these agents and their agencies have wielded in the past.
As you know, the NFLPA and the NFL were unable to come to an agreement on increasing retired player pensions. The NFL proposed a new rookie wage scale for this year’s draft, with players paid a fixed amount based on draft slot. The NFLPA countered with its own rookie salary proposal, but tied it to an extension of the current CBA. The savings generated from either of those proposals could have been used to boost retired player’s pensions by $100 million annually. There were also discussions on using some of the savings generated by the rookie wage cap to improve veteran player salaries. We think that is a proposal worth fighting for and we would be honored to be part of any Team that includes that in their Game Plan.
The NFLPA has stated that it wants to increase pre-1993 player pensions by establishing a “Legacy” fund, but they want the NFL owners to fund it with “new” money. We have been told by the NFLPA that if there is no “new” money there will be no increase in retired player pensions or benefits.
It is apparent that the NFLPA does not want the money to come out of the 60% of revenues that owners have been providing, because under the current system any money that is set aside for retired player benefits takes away from what active players can give themselves in salary and benefits.
While we are grateful for the previous increases to retired player’s pensions, the donations to the PAT and Dire Need Funds and the new benefits provided through the NFL Alliance, we know that more can be done to help the pioneers of the NFL, particularly those players that had no meaningful NFL Disability Plan and have had to struggle with medical bills that have negatively affected their finances. The current NFL Disability plan does not cover most of the former players and as such, a substantial increase in the pension plan is the best way to address the “quality of life” for professional football players that laid the foundations of the NFL.
We are concerned that instead of increasing the Pension Plan to help ALL vested players, the NFLPA has established other “retirement type” accounts and benefits that are only available to post-1993 players. Five free years of medical benefits after retirement and a Health Reimbursement Account are wonderful benefits that post 1993 players enjoy. The Annuity Plan and the Second Career Savings Accounts have approximately 1.5 Billion in assets. Those plans have only been in effect since 1998 and 1993 respectively, but the combined assets of those two plans are already greater than the assets of the NFL Pension Plan – which has been in existence for over 50 years! The NFL Pension Plan has approximately $927,400,000 in assets based on the most recent reports.
You can see why NFL owners are reluctant to provide “new” money. If the NFL owner’s payments to the Annuity Plan and Second Career Savings Plan had been put into the Pension Plan to help ALL vested players, we would not be having this discussion today and we would not be writing this letter.
Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not NFL owner money that goes into the Pension Plan and benefit packages. DeMaurice Smith recently said “individual owners and teams have spent exactly nothing on retired player benefits.” Mr. Smith may not like a portion of the salary cap money going towards retired players instead of active players, but as the Executive Director of the NFLPA he should at least understand where the money comes from. The fact is all retirement funds for both active and retired players come from owner money allocated under the league’s salary cap. In 2008, this amounted to $23 million in benefits per team, or $736 million. Only $80 million of that $736 million is currently being paid out to retirees – or their beneficiaries - because they have died. Former players are dying at a rate of about 130 per year. Let’s help those that are still with us live with the dignity and pride of knowing that veteran players have stood up for them.
To his credit, Mr. Smith has stated that “We have a moral obligation to the retired players, we have a fiduciary obligation to the retired players. That obligation has to be both in words and deeds. If you fail in either one, you fail.” Nonetheless, we all know that actions speak louder than words.
Please tell DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA Executive Committee and your individual team Player Representatives that you want them to follow through on their fiduciary obligation to the retired players.
The NFL owners and the NFL Players Association have discussed ways to pay for a Pension plan increase and a veteran player wage increase.
We don’t care how they get it done........we just hope that you, as veteran players, can convince them to get it done!
PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME PLAYERS
Anthony Munoz - Class of 1998
Art Donovan - Class of 1968
Art Shell - Class of 1989
Bart Starr - Class of 1977
Billy Shaw - Class of 1999
Bob Brown - Class of 2004
Bob Lilly - Class of 1980
Bob St. Clair - Class of 1990
Bruce Smith - Class of 2009
Carl Eller - Class of 2004
Charlie Sanders - Class of 2007
Charlie Taylor - Class of 1984
Dan Dierdorf - Class of 1996
Dan Fouts - Class of 1993
Dan Hampton - Class of 2002
Dan Marino - Class of 2005
Dave Casper - Class of 2002
Dave Wilcox - Class of 2000
Dwight Stephensen - Class of 1998
Elvin Bethea - Class of 2003
Eric Dickerson - Class of 1999
Floyd Little - Class of 2010
Fran Tarkenton - Class of 1986
Franco Harris - Class of 1990
Fred Biletnikoff - Class of 1988
Fred Dean - Class of 2008
Gale Sayers - Class of 1977
Gino Marchetti - Class of 1972
Harry Carson - Class of 2006
Herb Adderley - Class of 1980
Jack Ham - Class of 1988
Jack Youngblood - Class of 2001
Jackie Smith - Class of 1983
Jan Stenerud - Class of 1983
Jerry Rice - Class of 2010
Jim Kelly - Class of 2002
Jim Taylor - Class of 1976
Jim Langer - Class of 1987
Joe Delamielleure - Class of 2003
John Elway - Class of 2004
John Hannah - Class of 1991
John Henry Johnson - Class of 1987
John Stallworth - Class of 2002
Kellen Winslow - Class of 1995
Ken Houston - Class of 1986
Lawrence Taylor - Class of 1999
Larry Little - Class of 1993
Lee Roy Selmon - Class of 1995
Lem Barney - Class of 1992
Len Dawson - Class of 1987
Lenny Moore - Class of 1975
Leroy Kelly - Class of 1983
Mel Blount - Class of 1989
Mel Renfro - Class of 1996
Mike Ditka - Class of 1988
Mike Haynes - Class of 1997
Mike McCormack - Class of 1984
Mike Munchak - Class of 2001
Nick Buoniconti - Class of 2001
Paul Hornung - Class of 1986
Paul Krause - Class of 1998
Randal McDaniel - Class of 2009
Randy White - Class of 1994
Rayfield Wright - Class of 2006
Raymond Berry - Class of 1973
Rod Woodson - Class of 2009
Ronnie Lott - Class of 2000
Ron Yary - Class of 2001
Roger Wehrli - Class of 1983
Sam Huff - Class of 1982
Sonny Jurgenson - Class of 1983
Stan Jones - Class of 1991
Ted Hendricks - Class of 1990
Thurman Thomas - Class of 2007
Tom Mack - Class of 1999
Tommy McDonald - Class of 1998
Tony Dorsett - Class of 1994
Willie Brown - Class of 1984
Willie Davis - Class of 1981
Yale Larry - Class of 1979