With the NFLPA* not responding to a Friday offer from owners that, per the league, includes “funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2000 former players by nearly 60 percent,” some former players are getting antsy, and some want answers as to why talks aren’t continuing. One man who is antsy to get some answers is NFL Alumni president, and former Giants defensive end, George Martin (pictured).
The NFL recently pointed out that Martin can’t get a meeting with NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith. Martin has now pointed that out to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
“It’s disconcerting because, yet again NFL Alumni, although we appear to be in the discussion, we’re still treated as if we’re second-class citizens or an afterthought,” Martin said. “We definitely feel there’s a moral imperative for those of us who have paid such an extraordinarily high price to help build this industry to be in the discussion.”
Martin says he was invited to the upcoming NFLPA* meeting in Marco Island, Florida, but that he wasn’t promised a meeting/audience with Smith. Martin also claims that he had to fill out a questionnaire detailing his relationship and dealings with the league.
“To me it was a bit insulting,” Martin said. “Here’s a guy who played 14 years in the NFL, a 10-year veteran as a player representative, and was the president of the NFLPA for two years. Now my loyalty and allegiance is being called into question before I can come and address the very organization I spent 14 years officially supporting?”
But here’s the thing. NFL Alumni has strong ties to the NFL, and the NFLPA* has its own relationship with retired players, including two of them (Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett) as non-voting members of the Executive Committee. The league gave NFL Alumni a $1 million loan, interest free. And the fact that the league has been supporting the idea of Congressional pressure to force Smith to meet with Martin suggests that the league views the group as a possible tool for driving a wedge between current and former players, in the hopes of getting the players to eventually cave.
As to the “questionnaire,” we’re told that Martin was asked questions via e-mail exchange regarding whether he supports the Legacy Fund and the union’s efforts at the bargaining table. Given the possible ties between the league and NFL Alumni, it’s not unreasonable (in our view) for the union to be interested in ensuring that the motives of NFL Alumni are pure, and that the group isn’t being manipulated by the league.
Though Martin is a former player, there’s a history of acrimony between former players and the NFLPA. The late Gene Upshaw once said that he doesn’t represent former players. Though De Smith has taken a more conciliatory tone, the effort has coms at a time when both sides have been trying to win the hearts and minds of the fans, perhaps first by winning the hearts and minds of the game’s greats.