In what arguably amounts to a concession that their current lawsuit against the NFL is borderline frivolous at best, a group of retired players represented by the same lawyer who filed the retired players’ initial lawsuit has filed a new action against the NFL, the current players who have filed suit against the NFL, and NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times.
Well, at least someone involved in this mess was working on Fourth of July weekend.
The lawsuit claims that the NFL and the current players are violating antitrust laws by negotiating a settlement that would bind the interests of the retired players. Among other things, the retired players claim that the current players “are conspiring to depress the amounts of pension and disability benefits to be paid to former [NFL] players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current [NFL] players.”
“We feel we have a seat at the table, but we’re having the chair pulled out from under us,” lawyer Michael Hausfeld told Battista. “Both sides are saying, ‘We’ll decide what’s in your best interests.’”
But when it comes to retired players, that’s how it always has been. They have no standing; they are former employees who get whatever the current employees and the employers choose to give them. Besides, the current employees have every incentive to take care of the former employees because the current players eventually will be former employees.
The lawsuit seeks a court order forcing the two sides to stop negotiating the issue of retired-player benefits absent their involvement in the discussions. As Battista points out, the actual goal is to persuade Judge Susan Nelson to include the retired players in the ongoing mediation, which resumes today.
Though we realize that the NFL and the current players must, from a moral standpoint, make good on their promises to take care of the retired players, the retired players have no real legal rights here. They have been paid for their service, and if they wanted better retirement packages they should have negotiated better retirement packages when they were current players. After the retired players filed their initial lawsuit, both sides opted to be courteous and respectful to their legal claims, especially since both sides at the time were hoping to get the current players on their side.
With the settlement talks at a critical juncture, the NFL and the current players can’t afford to be distracted by this apparently toothless power play from the former players. And if that means no longer being courteous and respectful to the former players’ legal claims, so be it.