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Clarifying our position on retired players

488px-Jeff_Nixon

Retired player Jeff Nixon (pictured) has taken aim at yours truly today, based on my recent suggestion that the Tom Brady plaintiffs should amend their complaint given the expected retirement of linebacker Mike Vrabel to assert via Vrabel any legal claims that retired players may have, in order to render the Carl Eller class action moot.

And so I need to clarify my position regarding the men who made the game what it currently is.

First, and as I’ve said many times, today’s players and owners have a clear moral obligation to take care of the men on whose shoulders they are currently standing.  And we hope that they will.  The attitude once expressed by former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw — that he represents only the interests of the current players — was unfortunate and misguided.  Both labor and management need to recognize that, as we learn more about the long-term health consequences of playing pro football, the financial resources made available to former players need to be increased.

It would be easy to say that the former players should have negotiated better benefits packages or taken less money while playing in lieu of more money later.  But no one knew how big the game would become, and even fewer knew what we’d learn about the many debilitating conditions that create long-term expenses that weren’t considered during past labor talks.

That said, there’s no clear basis in law (as far as I can discern) for retired players to elbow their way into an already complex and delicate collective bargaining process and demand anything from the current players or the current owners.  I gave lawyer Michael Hausfeld a full and fair chance to articulate his position on Friday’s PFT Live, but nothing he said makes me believe that Carl Eller and the other named plaintiffs who now purport to represent all retired players have any legal standing to force their way to the bargaining table, and to potentially prevent the lockout from being resolved and football from returning.

Although Hausfeld said that the Eller plaintiffs don’t want to keep football from the fans, the power play that they pulled on Monday could have unintended consequences.  Regardless of whether Hausfeld, Eller, and company claim that they only want to be involved in the portion of the talks that relate to retired player benefits, either the league or the players — or both — could be disinclined to finalize a labor deal with that fairly important point unresolved.

The biggest problem, in our view, is the ongoing absence of a single voice that speaks for all retired players.  As we pointed out on Friday, three of the five players at the most recent labor negotiations are retired.  What makes them any less qualified to represent the interests of the retired players than the group of players who opted to file suit once the CBA expired?

The fact that Nixon has strong ties to the George Martin-led (and NFL-supported) NFL Alumni Association (indeed, his blog appears on the NFL Alumni website) suggests that Martin’s group endorses the efforts of the Eller plaintiffs, even if Martin has yet to come out and say so, possibly in order to preserve that no-interest-loan pipeline to the league office.  Still, there currently are too many voices purporting to advocate on behalf of the retired players.  At some point, the retired players need to identify — and defer to — one and only one voice.

Until then, I’ll continue to advocate for the NFL and the current players to take better care of the men who made this game great, despite Nixon’s not-so-subtle attempt to incite a former player or two to whoop my ass.  “I have an email list of 4,000 retired players that will be receiving my rebuttal to Mike Florio’s article,” Nixon writes.  “I would suggest that the next time Mike Florio is in the presence of older retired players, he wear a helmet.”

(Even Nancy Grace thinks that’s a little over the top.)

But I’ll also continue to believe that one small group of retired players has no legal authority or ability to bog down the apparently genuine attempts of the league and the current players to resolve the lockout.

We realize that football players often have a very linear approach to reality, and that problems typically are confronted by dropping a shoulder and running at them, full speed.  In many situations, however, a more careful and reasoned approach is required.

This is one of those situations.  After all, if the Eller class action delays or prevents a new CBA, the money lost by the league and the current players will include money that otherwise would have gone to the retired players.

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28 Responses to “Clarifying our position on retired players”
  1. CKL says: Jul 10, 2011 1:22 PM

    “It would be easy to say that the former players should have negotiated better benefits packages or taken less money while playing in lieu of more money later. But no one knew how big the game would become, and even fewer knew what we’d learn about the many debilitating conditions that create long-term expenses that weren’t considered during past labor talks.”
    ___________________________________

    I don’t blame the players of the past for not negotiating more. They did what they felt was best for them. As to the point of not knowing how big the game would become, I don’t think that’s germane. No one knew how big Microsoft , Google or anything else would become either. Should employees who COULD have bought stocks or taken stock options as part of their salary but chose not to get money retroactively because they were there working? Nope.

    Do I think players have health issues due to their profession? Yes and that’s why instead of nitpick over which injuries or conditions are from what (heredity vs playing days etc.) just let them have access to heavily subsidized insurance by the NFL if they choose. Beyond that, every single player know they are risking their physical well being and I believe that since the general risk is known, there should be no extra compensation for that. This isn’t like coal miners or people who worked with asbestos. Those people didn’t KNOW of some of the associated risks. They didn’t have a chance to make a decision on whether they wanted to risk their health or not. NFL players ALL KNOW they risk their health.

  2. drgfri says: Jul 10, 2011 1:26 PM

    Now all we need is for Mark Sanchez to clarify his position on High Schoolers.

  3. tommyf15 says: Jul 10, 2011 1:26 PM

    Seeing as Jeff Nixon apparently reads here, I’ll address him.

    Implying the threat of physical violence toward a writer for simply disagreeing with your stance makes you a dick, Mr. Nixon. An absolute, pathetic dick.

    From the PFT article:

    The attitude once expressed by former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw — that he represents only the interests of the current players — was unfortunate and misguided.

    Former MLBPA Director Marvin Miller wrote that it’s illegal for a union to represent anyone outside it’s own membership.

    So there goes that.

  4. airplayful says: Jul 10, 2011 1:33 PM

    Right or wrong, Jeff Nixon is a good guy and very passionate in his beliefs. Most Sundays at the Ralph, you can see him signing at the Bills Fieldhouse and he’s always great to fans. Was a great contributor on defense during Chuck Knox’s era in Buffalo.

  5. evrybdyhas1 says: Jul 10, 2011 1:37 PM

    All the players past, present and future would be better served if they could get a deal done efficiently and keep these matters behind closed doors.
    The fans are beyond sick of this Crap.

  6. kbballard says: Jul 10, 2011 1:39 PM

    I made an account just to say…Jeff Nixon, you just got served.

  7. profootballwalk says: Jul 10, 2011 1:43 PM

    My father was a retired cop. The policeman’s union did nothing for retired cops. There is a Retired Policeman’s organization that worked at the state house to get cost of living increases for their pensions. As long as there’s no dues-paying retired player’s organization to represent all retired players, there will be no changes.

  8. usmutts says: Jul 10, 2011 2:10 PM

    Nancy Grace is the one who should be wearing a helmet. Someday someone is going to hit her upside the head with a big book entitled “Law and Evidence.”

  9. bluefan204 says: Jul 10, 2011 2:14 PM

    This is right up there with the s—-for-brains morons who, after smoking cigarettes for 30-40 years, got sick, and sued the tobacco companies because they “didn’t know” it was bad for them to smoke.

    These guys got drafted, were paid handsomely(no matter what they want to claim, even back in the day, these guys made stacks of cash for their eras), suited up, and went out there and beat the snot out of each other for years. To play dumb and harbor this sense of entitlement because you now have health issues makes you look just as stupid and greedy as the people who were surprised to find out that they now have lung cancer from smoking cigarettes.

    You played the game, you were paid and lived the high life, and then you retired. What happened to you afterward, and where your money went, is YOUR problem, not the problem of the current players or the NFL. Should they choose to set money aside to help you, thats what you’ll receive, but until then, keep your big mouths shut and stop trying to throw a wrench into these negotiations. This isn’t about you and what you think you deserve.

    Thank you for building the foundation of the game, and I mean no disrespect, but enough is enough.

  10. giantrealist says: Jul 10, 2011 2:28 PM

    First, I do not believe a “News Agency” like PTF should have an opinion on anything. But that’s because I am an old school type who thinks the news should be presented in an unbiased manner.

    That being said, there needs to be a fund to bail out REAL hardship cases among the old era retired NFL players. But it should not go overboard. Why? Because every person in there space in time is solely responsible for their situation.

  11. bleedgreen says: Jul 10, 2011 2:33 PM

    Retired players should get the pension that they agreed to receive when they signed their contracts. They should also receive top notch insurance care of the NFL/NFLPA/whoever. You can’t go back and demand retroactive payment because ‘the people here now are reaping the rewards of my hard work’. Its just silly. You agreed to what you agreed to. Live up to it.

  12. hobartbaker says: Jul 10, 2011 2:40 PM

    Let me guess, Jeff Nixon played in the 70s.

  13. hobartbaker says: Jul 10, 2011 2:43 PM

    When Jeff Nixon tells people he was famous in the 70s they tell him they loved his films, and thought porn was a lot better back then.

  14. reidtardinthepound says: Jul 10, 2011 2:53 PM

    Nixon proves the out of touch, selfish athlete has been around for generations and is not limited to today’s athletes. Who forced these guys to “sacrifice”, they made their own choice to play. Why do they hit the lottery today, because the numbers they played 20+ yrs ago hit now?

  15. hobartbaker says: Jul 10, 2011 3:17 PM

    Jeff Nixon looks like the good cop in this situation, PFT. Don’t make him bring Carl Eller into the room.

  16. theravenlives2 says: Jul 10, 2011 3:24 PM

    First, I do not believe a “News Agency” like PTF should have an opinion on anything. But that’s because I am an old school type who thinks the news should be presented in an unbiased manner.

    ———————————————-
    It’s not a “News Agency,” its a pro football information AND commentary site. That’s why its called “pro football talk,: not “pro football news.”

  17. gimmeabruschi says: Jul 10, 2011 3:32 PM

    Hold on.

    The players didn’t build anything. The fans built everything. The whole damned shootin’ match is built on the bucks of the fan.

    Do any of these greedy pricks ever utter one solitary word about maybe the fan getting a break in all this? How about a $1 discount on stadium parking? No, sorry chumps! We are fighting over that $1 as you speak.

    They all sit around a table dividing our money while the puff their chest about how much of our money THEY deserve.

    Maybe the fans should get a seat at this f’n table too!

  18. ktfulmer says: Jul 10, 2011 3:40 PM

    I had to google this tool just to find out who he was and who he played for. Shouldn’t he let somebody that actually was any good at football be the mouthpiece for the retired players?

  19. vbe2 says: Jul 10, 2011 4:08 PM

    Everybody wants a piece of the pie. What about the men and women whose shoulders all of these toads stand on, we want our piece of the pie because we made it all possible for them to play a game and get paid. I’m speaking of Military Veterans. What about us?

    What about the beer and program sellers at the stadium too? Without them how would the fans spend their money at the stadium? Shouldn’t they have a piece of the pie too?

    What about parking lot attendants at the stadium? How would anyone park without them collecting the fees for the parking lots? Not to mention tailgating!

  20. tommyf15 says: Jul 10, 2011 4:37 PM

    gimmeabruschi says:
    Hold on.

    The players didn’t build anything. The fans built everything. The whole damned shootin’ match is built on the bucks of the fan.

    Do any of these greedy pricks ever utter one solitary word about maybe the fan getting a break in all this? How about a $1 discount on stadium parking? No, sorry chumps! We are fighting over that $1 as you speak.

    They all sit around a table dividing our money while the puff their chest about how much of our money THEY deserve.

    Maybe the fans should get a seat at this f’n table too!

    1. The fans didn’t build anything. That’s like saying car buyers “built” Ford Motors.

    2. Once you spend your money it’s not yours any more.

    3. Exactly what good would it do to have a fan at the tables? None. Nada.

    You’re just a consumer just like the rest of us, sir. Time for you to get over yourself.

  21. mrbigass says: Jul 10, 2011 4:52 PM

    Oh, so this really is a blog. For some reason I thought it was a law class at the learning annex……

  22. pappageorgio says: Jul 10, 2011 5:37 PM

    Two comments: 1st for mr. Nixon. You show yourself for an entitled spoiled brat athlete when you make veiled threats of physical violence when someone stays something you don’t like. If you don’t like someone’s opinion on business or other conversation pieces then dbate with them.

    Threatening violence for this make you a dolt…..and I would say that to your face even if you squashed me like a bug for saying so. Threats of violence (or actual violence) should be saved for self-defense of very personal insults, such as vulgar attacks on a family member…..you see it’s not that I don’t think that physical confrontations have no place in this world. It’s that threatening a physical beating for every little thing you don’t like makes you a thick-headed dolt.

    Next for tommyf15: Normally I would agree with you about the “rights” of the fan. We are consumers and do need to get over ourselves, but………in this case the league and the NFLPA both envoked the fan in the media. They used “the fan” as someone that they were fighting for…and that the other guy was trying to hurt the fan in some way. When in reality both sides are being greedy and only care about the fan’s dollar bills (or hundred dollar bills)

    I personally would have liked to have seen a fan sue for access to the room for strictly observational purposes. Not to say a word….but to sit there and listen and report to the media about who was really fighting for the fans in all of this. If I was wealthy and didn’t have a job or a family to support…I might have gotten a lawyer and tried it myself (but then again….if I was really wealthy, I would just buy a team and would have been in the loop anyway)

  23. nocryinginbaseball07 says: Jul 10, 2011 7:18 PM

    Maybe Favre could be the voice of the retirees….he’s practiced retiring more than anybody!

  24. pftstory says: Jul 10, 2011 9:46 PM

    Like most of us say here in different ways. The guy who wrote the code for Grand Theft Auto does not owe the guy who wrote Space Invaders a thing. Even though the Space Invaders guy laid the ground work.

    I think the biggest reason PFT believes the current players owe the retired guys something is PFT sees that the money will actually come out of the “profit motivated entity” and not the players.

    And as we saw in stadium railing piece, a profit motivated entity is the indirect approach to the term evil corporation.

  25. capslockkey says: Jul 10, 2011 9:59 PM

    Ex-football players not agreeing with something a nerdy writer-slash-lawyer’s take on legal issues that involve them, and their response is to kick his ass? Nothing like keeping the “dumb jock” stereotype alive and well.

  26. jskill3 says: Jul 11, 2011 1:41 AM

    Do the current stewards of the game have a moral obligation to take care of ex players? Right now, we ALL take care of the hundreds of ex NFL players that are on gov’t disability anyway – not to mention medicare. Isn’t that a bit of a problem? Unless you believe our gov’t budgeted for this?

    Denying that retired palyers helped build the game doesn’t solve the problem.

    Blaming the ex players for not negotiating or investing better in their 20’s and early 30’s, when no one knew about things like early onset Alzheimers, doesn’t solve the problem.

    Saying current players and owners don’t have a responsibility doesn’t solve the problem.

    Comparing NFL players to other types of workers in other businesses doen’t solve the problem.

    If you really research it, there is a valid and unique problem, and the some of the gap these guys can’t cover is paid by us taxpayers. I challenge some of you folks to really research it – sorry, but it is clear some of you have no idea what you ar posting about.

    And no, this issue should not bog down the CBA by uninvited ex players elbowing in.

    But should (and could) the NFL take care of its retired players, including better medical and pensions for the average current player – without costing today’s players and owners enough for them to actually feel? Yeah, I think so – but that is just my opinion….

  27. gimmeabruschi says: Jul 11, 2011 3:41 AM

    tommyf15 says:

    1. The fans didn’t build anything. That’s like saying car buyers “built” Ford Motors.

    2. Once you spend your money it’s not yours any more.

    3. Exactly what good would it do to have a fan at the tables? None. Nada.

    You’re just a consumer just like the rest of us, sir. Time for you to get over yourself.

    _______________________________

    1. Of course the customers built Ford. What the hell do you think, Ford had a money tree?

    2. So I guess fair is fair since “Once you spend your money it’s not yours any more.” then, once the player retires he gets what he agreed to because it’s not his right to negotiate anymore.

    3. What good? The fan could report for us just how this collection of greedy pricks really don’t give a shyte about the fan even though they blow smoke and say they do. How about the owners and players take 30% off tickets prices so a family can go to a game without having to take out a second mortgage? Or maybe we wouldn’t have to pay $150 for a $75 jacket that has a logo on it if we had a “negotiator”.

    I never said I was anything other than a fan just like the rest of us. I don’t know where you’re getting that delusion from.

    The fans have been getting the short end of this money stick right along. Prices have gone through the roof, and now we have to sit through this greedfest wondering if we will be lucky enough to be soaked some more.

    Get yourself a clue tommy.

  28. realtimeeyes says: Jul 11, 2011 8:13 AM

    I am so tired of the “they knew the dangers when they played” argument! REALLY…Does anyone know the #1 building material in the 60s? ASBESTOS! There were not any studies or concerns about the impact from playing the game in the early days. Their equipment was inferior and many played with major injuries; players got concussions and played the next play. The NFL has always been a meat grinder. Whether or not these guys made a good living and would have played the game regardless of the dangers, is irrelevant. These guys deserve better treatment, more respect, and more compensation for paving the way in the NFL.

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