Letter from Jim McFarland regarding NFLPA Election

By Jeff Nixon
Mar. 09, 2017


In all the years I've been blogging, I have never endorsed anyone vying for a seat on the NFLPA Former Player Board of Directors. This year I will make an exception. 

I know there are other fine gentlemen that have thrown their hat into the ring, but I would ask that you consider casting your vote for Jim McFarland as our At-Large member in the upcoming election. 

I have known Jim McFarland for about 10 years and during that time he has communicated with me on a regular basis. We haven't always seen eye to eye, but I know that he's always had our best interests at heart and most importantly, he's a man of his word.  As most of you know, Jim represented former NFL players on the Active Player Executive Committee in negotiating the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, so he has a lot of experience and knowledge that will come in handy as we head into the next CBA negotiations.      

Here is a letter Jim sent me that lays out his platform.  

Dear Fellow Former NFL Player Brother:

As a candidate in the March 10 -16 NFLPA At Large Board of Director Election, I wanted to express my priorities if elected to the Board. I respectfully appreciate your consideration.

With the March 17-21 NFLPA Former Players Convention next week and with discussions already beginning about negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by 2021, I believe it is time for ALL Former NFL Players to focus on two primary goals: (1) Increasing Former NFL Player Pensions; and (2) Accountability and Transparency by the NFLPA Former Player Board of Directors.

Former NFL Player Pension Increase

While there are diverse programs to benefit former NFL players, many former players do not qualify for specific programs. As a result, funding for such programs is underused and limited to players with special needs. As one former Chapter President said to me, "Give me the damn money for my pension increase. I know how best to spend it for the needs of my family!"

To that end, I believe that ALL former players including the NFLPA Board of Directors should support Hall of Fame Member Tom Mack's Pension Parity Petition to increase Pre-93 Player Pensions by $305.00 per credited season. With the increasing amount of revenues generated by the NFL, such increase could easily be part of the NFL's pension funding beginning in 2021 or before.

Moreover, I believe ALL former players should advocate for a equivalent increase in pension funding for Post-93 former players as well. Compared to the scheduled pension payments current NFL players will receive when they retire ($760 per credited season in 2018), such an equivalent increase would bring more equity to pension benefits for ALL players.

In addition, I believe ALL former players should qualify for a pension if they have 3 Credited Seasons in the NFL. As you indicated, Pre-93 players need 4 Credited Seasons. As a result, such Pre-93 players with 3 Credited Seasons get no pension benefits whatsoever, while as you point out in one of your previous columns, current practice squad players (who never played in a regular season game) can qualify for a pension. It is absurd that such current practice squad players may qualify for pensions requiring only 3 credited seasons, when Pre-93 players who actually played in regular season games for 3 credited seasons get nothing.

Finally, I believe ALL former NFL players should work toward a goal achieved by the Major League Baseball Players Association who according to one of your columns included all 1, 2, and 3 credited season baseball players in their pension benefits. As of April 21, 2011, all Major League Baseball Players who have one or more credited seasons apparently now receive pension benefits. So should all former NFL Players who have one of more credited seasons.

Accountability and Transparency

During my tenure of the NFLPA Former Player Board of Directors (2007-2013), we achieved some significant advances for former NFL players. First, the previous Steering Committee who only acted in an "advisory" role was transformed into an official Board of Directors to make policy decisions on behalf of former NFL players. Second, we provided that 2 of our 9 member Board of Directors would be elected At Large by a vote of all former NFL players, not just by a vote of those who could afford to attend the annual Conventions. Third, we succeeded in having our annual March Conventions overlap with the Active Player Rep March Conventions to be held in the continental United States so former players and active players could interact to share their concerns and objectives. Fourth, we achieved having two of our Board members included on the NFLPA Executive Committee that negotiates with the NFL owners. It was my honor and privilege to serve as our Chapter Presidents Representative on the Board along with our Board Chairman Cornelius Bennett in representing former NFL players on the Executive Committee in negotiating the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

To my dismay, since my departure from the Board, it appears that the Board is relapsing to the Steering Committee of the Gene Upshaw Era (The bottom line is, I don't work for them. They don't hire me, and they can't fire me. They can complain about me all day long.... But, the active players have the vote. That's who pays my salary!).

Like the Upshaw Era, NFLPA Staff are apparently making decisions often in conjunction with the NFL in allocating how funding from the Trust and other sources is to be used to increase pension funding for certain former player groups and not others, in determining who qualifies for certain program benefits and who doesn't, and in determining the amount of funds allocated to particular programs without any real input from the Board and without any formal vote or action taken by the Board to make or approve these decisions. According to a few Board members with whom I have spoken, the NFLPA Staff make their unilateral decisions first, then inform the Board of their decisions later. Board members are apparently being treated like an Advisory Steering Committee on many important policy decisions.

Like the Upshaw Era, recent Conventions of Active Player Reps and Former Players have returned to Maui where most former players, particularly those on the East Coast, cannot afford to travel even if it they have the time. Fewer former players attend and fewer objections to the NFLPA Staff's unilateral decisions are heard. With fewer former NFL players attending the Maui conventions, NFLPA Staff are apparently more successful influencing who gets nominated and elected to the Board.

Conclusion

I believe that the Board of Directors, particularly the At Large Board members, should represent ALL former players. I believe that there should be 3 (not just 2) At Large Board Members, one being elected to a 3 year term each year. I believe the Board should declare as its first priority increasing pension benefits for ALL former players. I believe that the Board should not permit the NFLPA Staff to make unilateral decisions concerning former player pensions and programs without Board approval and consent. And I believe that the Board should be accountable and transparent to ALL former players. As one former Chapter President said to me, "We have to provide copies of our Chapter Minutes to the Board and NFLPA Staff. Why can't the Board provide copies of their Minutes to our Chapter Presidents?"

Sincerely,

Jim McFarland