When retired players sound off about their current financial and/or medical conditions, the blame primarily lands in the lap of the league. Indeed, the thousands of players who recently have sued the NFL have not (yet) sued the NFLPA, even though the union had a seat at the table from the moment the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee was created in 1994 — and thereafter allegedly covered up the true consequences of concussions.
But some former players aren’t happy with the NFLPA, and one of them sounded off on Tuesday. Loudly.
Former Giants receiver Phil McConkey, a popular member of the Super Bowl XXI-winning Giants, complained about the union and a high-profile current member of its Executive Committee.
“I see so many of my colleagues suffering terribly,” McConkey told Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton of WFAN. “And I don’t blame — I really don’t blame the owners and the management. I don’t. It’s the Players Association, they’re the ones that should have taken care of the guys that went before them. And they didn’t, and they still don’t.”
For McConkey and plenty of former players, a comment made by Saints quarterback Drew Brees in 2009 still resonates.
“There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions,” Brees said at the time. “They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They’ve had a couple divorces and they’re making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically saying, ‘Please make up for my bad judgment.’ In that case, that’s not our fault as players.”
“All [the 1987 strike] benefited were some of the guys of today,” McConkey said. “There are some guys today that have absolutely no clue and that run their mouths. And Drew Brees is one of them.
“I know he’s canonized and people think he’s great,” McConkey also said regarding Brees. “If he got in front of a group of ex-players, I don’t know what would happen. . . . It’s just — it’s disgusting, but that’s some of the mentality that’s around.”
As to the concussion lawsuits, McConkey thinks the NFLPA should be a defendant, too. “I don’t understand why they’re not suing the Players Association also,” McConkey said. “I think they’re more responsible than the NFL.”
The problem is that it’s not easy for a member of a union to sue the union. Also, highlighting what the union knew about concussions tends to exonerate the NFL, since the NFL could then defend itself by saying, “If the NFLPA knew, we didn’t keep it from the players because the players are the union and the union is the players.”
As far as some former players are concerned, the union only cares about the current players. And that tension will exist for as long as pro football does.