In many respects, the Bengals have become a model NFL franchise. From the perspective of the NFL Players Association, the Bengals have become a target for scorn.
In an email sent to all NFLPA members, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the union has alerted players that “Bengals ownership is attempting to strip all athletes in Ohio of their workers’ compensation benefits.”
The email contends that the Bengals have asked the Ohio legislature to restrict “Bengals and Browns players of their workers’ compensation benefits that all other employees in the State of Ohio are entitled to for the injuries they suffer at work. . . . Simply put, it is an attack on your rights as an American and a player covered by the CBA. They are doing it to increase their profit.”
The email cites the proposed language that the union contends the Bengals are supporting: “Athletes who are under contract to play for a professional athletic team are not eligible to file for or receive a permanent partial disability award under this section.”
The email then provides three facts to the union members:
First: “You are entitled to workers compensation as an American and a worker in the State of Ohio. In fact, under the CBA we actually count the cost of workers’ compensation paid by your club as a benefit to be paid out of your share of revenues.”
Second: “This change to the law would prevent any injured professional athlete from pursuing their workers’ compensation rights to future medical treatment or compensation. Let’s be clear, workers’ compensation can provide our players, all of whom who get injured, with lifetime health care for these injuries including concussions and joint replacement without out-of-pocket cost to the player.”
Third: “If this amendment passes, any active player, whether they remain with the Bengals, Browns, or move to another team, will not be able to prevent the Statute of Limitations from expiring on their claims for workers’ compensation. That would mean that if this amendment is passed any athlete who remained under contract with an Ohio team, or any another team, would have their claims expire five (5) years from the date of their work-related injury.”
Although the change would also impact Browns players, the NFLPA has pointed only to Bengals ownership as pushing the change.
The email has landed at a time when free agency is, as a practical matter, a day away. Could it become a factor in the decisions players make? It’s likely something not sufficiently immediate or tangible to make players who are intent on maximizing their pay and/or their chances of winning to write off the Bengals. And good luck getting the agents, who don’t get a percentage of the workers’ comp benefits, to care. (They absolutely should, but good luck making that happen.)
If the union wants to get Bengals ownership to abandon the current proposal, there’s one person who can shut this down with a single text message. And it’s obvious who that player is that I don’t even have to type his name.