League decries “rampant abuse” of California workers’ compensation system

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Earlier today, we shared some tidbits from an internal NFLPA memo regarding player opposition to a bill that would make it much harder for pro athletes to obtain workers’ compensation benefits via the state of California.  Based on the union’s perspective, it appears that California plans to go too far to close a loophole that has allowed players to recover benefits based on tenuous connections to California.

The NFL has provided its position via a series of questions and answers.  In short, the league claims that players have engaged in “rampant abuse” of the California workers’ compensation system.

“There are the players who recovered in multiple jurisdictions for the same injuries,” the league explains.  “There are the players who had barely any connection with California at all but still collected   There are the players who last played in 1952 but recently filed.   There’s Don Davey — a Jaguars player who recovered a six-figure settlement in California and then competed in several professional triathlons immediately thereafter.  There is no question there’s rampant abuse.”

The NFL also disputes the union’s contention that the California workers’ compensation benefits come from the players’ share of the revenue generated under the 2011 labor deal.

“Absolutely not true,” the league said regarding the NFLPA’s position.  “Workers’ compensation is treated under the CBA the exact same way playoff salaries are treated and the minimum salary benefit for veterans is treated, and players don’t pay for those either.  Moreover, it’s illegal in every jurisdiction for employees to pay for their own workers’ comp.  Our NFL CBA protects the players’ ability to recover workers’ comp in their teams’ home state but it in no way guarantees — or even contemplates — a double recovery of ‘regular’ workers’ comp and California workers’ comp.  If our CBA guaranteed California workers’ comp, our arbitrators that oversee our CBA would have invalidated contractual provisions in player contracts that expressly confine players from filing cumulative trauma claims in California, and that hasn’t happened.”

As a result, the NFL and other pro sports leagues “support closing the [California] loophole because it currently leads to nonsensical results, rampant uncertainty and nearly unlimited exposure for the teams.”  The NFL describes the system as a “free for all” that permits players with limited time playing in California to seek compensation for “cumulative trauma” suffered over an entire career of games primarily played elsewhere.

California has become a magnet for these types of workers’ compensation claims because the players have had a better record of success there than elsewhere.  And if the money to pay for the claims truly were coming only from the players and not from the teams, the NFL wouldn’t care.

The fact that the NFL cares so much means that the NFL is getting pinched by the California workers’ compensation system.  So far, the pro sports leagues’ lobby has done a better job than the union lobby regarding legislation that will make it harder for pro athletes to recover benefits in California.

In the end, the powers-that-be need to strike a fair balance that allows players who have suffered injuries in California to recover workers’ compensation benefits there, but that slams the door on the “me too” mentality that so often applies when a favorable forum provides an seemingly easy path to a payday.

28 responses to “League decries “rampant abuse” of California workers’ compensation system

  1. Owners decry abuse of system, athletes getting too much. Wonder how many owners have been injured? Compare that to the number of teams that have pressured players to play when injured.

  2. California is already dead. Tax base is fleeing the state. They have a debt that they will never recover from.

  3. Seems as if they were hurt playing in stadia across the country, they could make claims across the country and let the comp systems work it out.

    I thought it was totally the employers’ responsibility to pay for the workers’ comp insurance?

  4. California is such a joke. I’m a lifelong resident of California, I love living here, but the taxpayers here are screwed. No wonder this state is broke when they give away money as freely as they do. What gets me is the legislators want us to pay more taxes while they blow money on stuff like this.

  5. this is HIGHLY disturbing to read. all over this country we let the rich get richer and totally ignore the fact we overpay athletes by an average of any number above one hundred thousand. the list of these frauds should be released and the fact the union is defending this highly immoral practice shows the greed and arrogance of that FRAUD sensitive smith and the union as a whole. this disgusts me and is an insult to every blue-collar worker that spends their hard on money on overpriced tickets, beers, and parking passes to pay the outlandish salaries these athletes are paid. shame on all of you.

  6. Professional athletes work under guaranteed contracts, in the sense that they don’t have their game checks withheld due to injury. Therefore, they should not be eligible for workers comp, period! The point of workers comp is to provide working individuals with income when they can NO LONGER RECEIVE income. Players still receive their income and this is abuse of the system. This is NOT what workers comp was created for, so multi-millionaires can double-dip and suck the system dry. Taking it even further, no one hired on a contractual basis at any job should be eligible for workers compensation when they will still be receiving their contract-based income. Workers comp was set up for hourly employees, not contractual ones. This is one of the many, many reasons why our economy is destroyed. Too many double, triple, quadruple dippers who are richer than anyone needs to be, still gluttonously suckling at the teet of federal-government-funded programs not designed for them. Personally, I don’t not feel that any person making more then $500,000 a year should be eligible for any type of benefit whatsoever, with the exception of going permanently disabled. No workers comp, no social security, no Medicare/Medicaid, absolutely no federal or state program that was designed to help those in need. Someone making half a million dollars a year or more is NOT a person in need! They’re sucking the system dry while those who really NEED help can’t get it and those of us in the younger generation watch them sap systems like social security so its not around when were their age. Its absolutely disgusting and pathetic.

    Thank you for listening to my rant; I just wish I could have the chance to say this to congress. Oh yeah, half of them are the culprits that I speak of. Lawmakers aren’t going to change laws they’re benefitting from, even if its for the betterment of our nation. Where are we to turn? I’d run for political office but I believe political correctness is what has destroyed this country; and you’re not getting anywhere in politics with that attitude. Feels like a helpless situation. :/

  7. Worker’s compensation for overpaid entertainers? This country has officially fallen off of the cliff.

  8. Do you mean to tell me, these NFL players –with their minimum salaries– apply. for. AND. COLLECT. welfare payments???? MY GOD!

    I’ll never look at the NFL the same way again.

    And all this social agenda crap?

    Yeah. It’s over. Not For Me.

  9. I’m stunned that a union is opposed to closing a loophole that lets their members commit fraud while simultaneously refusing to take responsibility for certifying financial advisors who cheat their members. It figures they would get right on this one because they could blame others instead of taking their share of responsibility for something they did. The cherry on top is the union people apparently either ignoring the CBA provisions that pertain to this or wanting to find some work around that blames others because they don’t know the provision is there or don’t care that it’s there.

  10. Just one of the many reasons California is broke and falling a part in grand fashion. Good businesses have left in droves, and I will be checking out within ten yrs.

    Couldn’t be more well deserved for the cast of characters and interest groups running the place. It will be both fun and sad to watch.

    Sad to say, but if the NFL Players Union does not get their fill, some other group will, so get it while you can.

  11. This so called NFL players union is the pits. First they negotiate the worst deal for their players in the history of professional sports. They are for breaking the law by way of fraud, and are against drug testing. What’s next loan sharking with union funds?

  12. Not surprising to see the usual suspects commenting on a topic they know nothing about. You believe “political correctness” has destroyed this country? You can’t possibly have any idea what that terminology actually means.

    Many of the issues this great Nation faces and will face will more effectively addressed simply because of attrition. As the Baby Boomers and so called Greatest generation fade into oblivion, they will take with them their bigotry and chauvinism. The future looks bright. If you don’t love this country, you are free to leave. We’ll be better off without you. Thanks!

  13. Another case where ca law and the courts are happy to approve this and let the NFL pay for it. If the money was coming out of the States Coffers, they would scream bloody murder.

  14. Well the way the state of California hoses its residents, I would say to this, good. The fact is, if you create a system that lacks sufficient state control, people will take advantage of it. This is not a surprising situation, California is run by a bunch of morons, elected to thier positions by a bunch of morons. Rolling black-outs, bankruptcy, rediculous taxes, “safe-haven” cities, double taxation on personal property, misguided money-wasting programs, literally everything a state could do wrong is being done.

  15. hatesycophants says:
    May 4, 2013 11:09 AM
    As the Baby Boomers and so called Greatest generation fade into oblivion, they will take with them their bigotry and chauvinism.

    What about those of us whose generation is between the greatest and the boomers? Basically born during the depression?

  16. One of MANY things wrong with the way things work in California. Clean it up!

  17. Let me start off by saying, you are all ignorant and should probably have some knowledge before you speak.

    Why shouldn’t a professional athlete be entitled to workers compensation? Every game they play in the state of California they are taxed, just as any other employee in California, at California income tax.

    Let’s be clear, the cost of workers’ compensation for NFL players is not paid for by the State of California. The cost is paid for out of the dollars generated by the sport. The active players have even agreed in their current Collective Bargaining Agreement that the cost of workers’ compensation benefits for all players, both current and former, is to be charged against their salary cap. The end personal result is lower salaries.

    The claims are not paid for by California or our tax dollars. Instead, they are paid for by the insurance carriers for the teams with contributions from the teams if there is a deductible.

    California collected roughly $171 million dollars in taxes from professional athletes last year. People may not realized that out-of-state football players are double-taxed – if they travel to California, they pay taxes in their team state AND California for the money earned for that game. The state benefits from these players coming into their state but now state reps want to pass a bill that would deny these players workman’s comp benefits.

    What many of you fail to realize is the average career of any professional athlete is approximately 3 years. Only few are lucky enough to make 7 figure salaries you accuse them ALL of making. You fail to realize there are players in the minor leagues and practice squads that are lucky to make a salary of $36,000 per year.

    The duration of most NFL contracts are 1-4 years. These contracts are not guaranteed, and players often move from team to team after being cut or their contracts expire. It’s the well-known transient nature of the league.

    If a player on an NFL practice squad reports an injury to get medical care, the team will release them at the flick of a finger, leaving them injured, jobless, and without remedy. There are numerous amounts of athletes who are injured on the job, who aren’t making anywhere near $100,000 per year, and are fired because of their injuries.

    What about the women in professional sports leagues? Do you really think they are all signing million dollar guaranteed contracts? The average WNBA player makes $37,500. Should a WNBA player who tares her achilles tendon, and can never play again be precluded from filing workers’ compensation in California if she is entitled to it?

    So before you make ignorant statements like “this is why the state is broke,” and ask questions like “why are millionaires collecting workers comp?” please educate yourselves.

    Athletes are hard working employees too, and the super star millionaires you accuse them all to be are few and far between.

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