Though they didn’t get in the way of a new labor deal, the class of players led by Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller isn’t getting out of the way completely.
A major dispute lingers between Eller’s faction of retired players and the NFLPA. Last week, a website with close ties to the NFLPA wrote an item in which other retired players, including Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood, complained that their names had been added without their knowledge or consent to a letter seeking support of retired players as the CBA process approached its conclusion. Over the weekend, Eller and NFLPA senior director of retired player services Nolan Harrison traded barbs over Eller’s allegation — possibly stirred up by the NFL — that the NFLPA redirected away from the retired players an extra $500 million. (The full article from Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times is worth a read.)
Now, Judy Battista of the New York Times (via SportsBusiness Daily) reports that the Eller plaintiffs, through lawyer Michael Hausfeld, have sent a letter to the National Labor Relations Board complaining about the manner in which the NFLPA negotiated on behalf of the retired players, despite the NFLPA not being a union.
“The Carl Eller class has learned that despite its representations to the contrary, the union bargained away significant and substantial retired player issues without any input from the retired players,” Hausfeld’s letter alleges.
The point that the Eller class continues to forget is that, if they secure the ability to negotiate directly with the NFL, the NFL simply can shrug its shoulders and say, “You’ll get whatever we choose to give you.”
The time for retired players to cut a deal for retirement benefit was when they were (wait for it) active players. Retired players have no legal right to ongoing benefits beyond that which they negotiated while playing, and they now have no leverage to get more, since they can’t go on strike.
Still, it’s an argument Hausfeld was advancing in the final days of the labor dispute, and it’s now clear that Hausfeld and Eller won’t be going away voluntarily. They need to be careful, or the fans may ultimately decide that they want Eller and the retired players to just go away.