PDA

View Full Version : NFL leaves its Legends behind.....


Deberg_1990
01-31-2007, 08:56 PM
Good read.....

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=dw-retiredplayers013007&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Mike Ditka is spitting fury and frustration, words hitting harder than a South Beach hangover.

He surveys the scene here for Super Bowl XLI, takes one look at the giant billboards, the corporate sponsors, the overflowing hotels and restaurants, the four-figure ticket prices and he doesn't see smiling faces – just old ones.

Like the one of Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler who died broke and sick and had spent time homeless, living in his pickup truck.

Or Willie Wood, a Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer, who played in the first two Super Bowls no less, currently struggling with a mountain of medical bills from myriad surgeries to repair back, neck, spine and hip problems almost all assuredly related to the violence of football.


Or Herb Adderley, another of those old Packers, who is so disgusted at his $126.85 per month pension in the face of all the NFL's profits that he refuses to wear his Super Bowl or Hall of Fame rings anymore.

When you spend your days hearing sad stories from all your old friends who helped make the Super Bowl the extravaganza it is, helped lay the foundation for a league now filled with millionaire players and billionaire owners, you don't have to have Mike Ditka's legendary fire to want to blow up at the owners, at the NFL Players Association, at the current players, at someone or something.

"It's a disgrace," Ditka said, starting to tick off his culprits. "The owners ought to be ashamed of themselves. The owners are financiers, and they are all about making money. They don't care about the history of the game.

"[NFLPA executive director] Gene Upshaw?" Ditka continued. "Come on. You can get somebody off the street to do what he is doing, and you will pay him a whole lot less. You've got [players] today making millions of dollars.

"All we are saying is we got a lot of guys that started this game that have a lot of problems health wise and mental wise. I say help them out. Help them out. Let them die with a little dignity and a little respect."

With that Mike Ditka is about out of breath. But not out of will.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Here is where the issue gets as complicated as it is emotional.

Two things are undeniable. First, many older players (especially pre-early 1980s) are suffering financially, physically and, often, mentally and emotionally. A great deal of that comes from playing the game. Second, the NFL is now awash in cash, a $6 billion industry.

The problem is that the retirement deals cut back in the day were reflective of the fiscal realities of those times. Older players look at today's Super Bowl as a cash cow and argue it wouldn't have been possible without Super Bowl I.

"You see we've got a $4 billion contract, we've got a 59-percent increase in income, franchises are now worth a billion and a half dollars and you're going, 'hey, hey, excuse me, you forgot something back here,'" said Hall of Famer Packer Jerry Kramer, who played in the first two Super Bowls.

"This era is what founded the foundation of the league."

Indeed it is. But, then again, that first Super Bowl in 1967 didn't sell out the Los Angeles Coliseum.

"The pension for the current players is quite good," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday. "And those benefits are a factor of the economics at the time. [For] guys who played years ago, the economics of the league weren't as great. Therefore their benefit package isn't what the benefit package is for the players today."

The NFL currently pays out $61 million in pension, but most of that goes to post-1977 players. The NFLPA recently upped its contributions to older players, but people such as Ditka claim it is woefully insufficient.

And while you'd love to see the NFL just step up and cover every player in need, it deserves at least some nod of respect for bucking every known trend in corporate America – rather than trying to abandon its legacy costs to retirees, it actually is upping its contributions and commitments.

"Every collective bargaining agreement we've negotiated with the players has included improvements in the pension plan for retired players," Aiello said. "Which is unusual in industry for the bargaining unit to go back and improve the benefits."

Of course, it isn't enough. Nor is the NFLPA's weak claim that it can only do so much because it legally represents only current players, not retired ones. Both the NFL and NFLPA could and should do more. Both could and should act as examples of what is right here.

That they defend their current actions says there is a lot of semantics here, a lot of buck passing, just not enough to the old players.

But the real problem here isn't exploding revenue or left-behind senior citizens – we've had that in most major sports. It is the inherent nature of the NFL, too violent, too painful, too destructive for any traditional definition of right and wrong to apply.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Willie Wood had an operation on his high spinal column, on his high shoulders, on the narrowing of the spinal canal, on his lower back and on his hips," Kramer said of his old teammate.

"You know any one of those [surgeries] could wipe out a modest savings."

You don't have injuries like that playing basketball or baseball. You probably don't have them as a coal miner, or a lumberjack or a jackhammer operator even.

If the NFL were just any old industry – and not our national sporting obsession – it is quite possible the federal government would all but outlaw it for the safety of the workers. The NFL can provide all the helmets, trainers and team doctors it wants, but this still is a game that essentially can ruin anyone who plays it at the highest level.

"Football is a great game until you turn 45," former San Francisco wide receiver Mike Shumann told the San Francisco Chronicle in a story that detailed how at least 20 members of the 1981-82 49ers already cope with serious physical issues.

Which is why this is such an issue for the NFL. Common sense tells you that many players retire from football due to disabling injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives, be it a blown knee or the double-digit concussions. But unlike most industries, players have been unable to prove it in court, and as few as two percent of retired players receive disability from the NFL.

With near-crippling injuries suffered from this massively violent pursuit, they struggle to make ends meet on meager pensions, hit-or-miss health care and limited employment prospects.

But the NFL, as rich as it is, can't afford to have 1,000 players suddenly on disability, sometimes for forty and fifty years. The league, as a business, can't operate if it admits that so many employees who do only what their job requires – tackling, blocking, being tackled, being blocked – wind up disabled.

It is not an understatement that the entire league's existence would be at stake. The federal government would have to pass some kind of legislation protecting it from such claims so it could continue to operate. That's why the NFL vigorously fights disability claims.

Moreover, the post-retirement life of a NFL player is full of non-physical challenges. According to the Kansas City Star, two-thirds of players have "emotional problems" within six months of retirement. And eighty percent of their marriages end within four years – another huge financial drain.

The NFL now works with current players about preparing for life after football, understanding that many players arrive from coddling college programs where there was little actual education and few thoughts spent on anything but playing ball.

"We have programs in place that never existed years and years ago to help prepare players for their transition," Aiello said. "They first hear about it at the rookie symposium and then they go to their teams, and they know about all of the resources that exist to assist them in their life off the field including continuing education, internships, life skill programs."

But that is too late for the older players who often mismanaged parts of their lives. Ones such as Adderley, who was one of 324 former players including 40 Hall of Famers who (foolishly, he admits) took early retirement, which explains his pathetically low pension. Not that it would have been much better. Kramer gets just $358 per month.

But the question remains, should it really be the NFL's job to care for all these players for all these reasons?



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


That debate is sure to get more contentious and litigious. The former players aren't backing down. There are lawsuits and press conferences and fights to be had. Ditka is just one of the combatants. The battle promises to be long and nasty, high stakes, high emotion.

In the meantime, Ditka and Kramer can't wait. And they won't. Both are fortunate to be in good health and enjoy prosperity from post-playing careers. But they won't forget their old teammates.

"I don't know if it is anyone’s fault particularly," Kramer said. "Some guys took retirement. Some had bad information. A lot of us got [information] indicating we would die at an average of 54. A lot of guys didn't, but a lot of guys got caught in bad decisions financially or medical decisions. The medical thing has gone so through the roof."

Whatever. Nothing can change that now.

"I've got guys in the hospital, guys in homeless shelters, I've got guys who need help in days," Kramer said. "I can't believe the owners and the union won't correct this problem. [But] that's not my concern this week.

This week he is acting. Kramer, Ditka and a host of former players and franchises are holding an online auction to raise emergency money for players in need.

It's called the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund and the memorabilia and experiences are one of a kind. Ditka is auctioning his 1975 NFC championship ring. There are celebrity experiences with Harry Carson, Howie Long and Merlin Olsen. Hand-drawn plays from Vince Lombardi. All kinds of stuff.

The information for the auction and the fund can be found on jerrykramer.com.

And whether you think the NFL and NFLPA should do more, whether Ditka is right or wrong, you can't argue with the need.

The Super Bowl is upon us – a celebration of the game. But not for those whom football chewed up and forgot.


Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Buck
01-31-2007, 08:58 PM
Thats way too long.

Cliffnotes: NFL is screwing retirees.

88TG88
01-31-2007, 09:00 PM
that is a good read. it sucks to hear about hall of famers pawning their super bowl rings to pay the rent. i respect those guys a whole lot more than the losers like TO and moss

Extra Point
01-31-2007, 09:03 PM
Mike Ditka sure is a nice guy.

boogblaster
01-31-2007, 09:54 PM
Money is the word..just another story.. left behind because they can..its in every field..not just football..look into your retirement plan closely..it probably won't be enough when the time comes....

RedNeckRaider
01-31-2007, 10:20 PM
It is a outrage for sure. The NFL will stall and they will die off. I still love the game but have cooled on it. Thugs and idiots making millions and Hall of Famers making a couple hundred a month. How in the hell do they get out of paying disability to these guys? Wow just wow!

Count Alex's Losses
01-31-2007, 10:22 PM
The government needs to step in.

Baconeater
02-01-2007, 01:22 AM
That's why I don't have a real problem with football players making a lot of money, you leave a piece of yourself on the field each time you play. With that said, a little more money spent helping out the guys who made the game what it is, and a little less given to today's primadonna players, wouldn't hurt anything.

'Hamas' Jenkins
02-01-2007, 01:56 AM
It all comes down to the weakness of the NFLPA. This isn't a problem in baseball.

acesn8s
02-01-2007, 02:32 AM
It is a outrage for sure. The NFL will stall and they will die off. I still love the game but have cooled on it. Thugs and idiots making millions and Hall of Famers making a couple hundred a month. How in the hell do they get out of paying disability to these guys? Wow just wow!
Blame it on Carl.

Dammit Carl!

RedDread
02-01-2007, 03:27 AM
Brilliant article, rep

MichaelH
02-01-2007, 05:51 AM
My Dad played in the NFL from 1958 to 1968. I grew up in a modest 3 bedroom house, not a mansion like kids of players do today. He died in 2003 from a severe stroke indirectly caused by arthritus medication he needed to be able to move. I can't remember what his pension was but it wasn't much. I also have no problem with the players today demanding so much money. The problem I do have though is the way they blow it.

Fidel
02-01-2007, 06:09 AM
The only thing I see as a problem with taking care of these guys, and I think the NFL needs to handle this situation, is the current players that squander their money while they are playing and have nothing later in life will benefit from any plan the NFL has to work with the currrent list of former players.
The current players should not be included in the change in the NFL's heart should they find one.

HMc
02-01-2007, 07:21 AM
frankly i think that if modern day players need a pension plan or whatever then theyre totally retarded. if you play long enough to get all these medical problems, or play long enough to discount the possibility of developing another career, then you've made enough $ that with wise investment you should be set. If you play 5 seasons you've made what 1.5 million bucks (minimum) and you're still only 28.

the old guys should be getting the $ though, and plenty of it.

InChiefsHell
02-01-2007, 07:46 AM
They should have the current players "taxed" a portion of their salaries...0.5% or something...that's a ton of jack right there and that would go to the old boy's fund. It wouldn't kill them to help out the original players of the league...even if they made it voluntary, they'd probably get some guys who would help out.

...holy crap, when did I become a democrat?

HMc
02-01-2007, 07:57 AM
0.5%?!?! mofo T.O has a family to feed, don't be suggesting craziness like that

/sprewell

Skip Towne
02-01-2007, 08:06 AM
My Dad played in the NFL from 1958 to 1968. I grew up in a modest 3 bedroom house, not a mansion like kids of players do today. He died in 2003 from a severe stroke indirectly caused by arthritus medication he needed to be able to move. I can't remember what his pension was but it wasn't much. I also have no problem with the players today demanding so much money. The problem I do have though is the way they blow it.
Who did your dad play for? What position?

BigRedChief
02-01-2007, 08:11 AM
Blame it on Carl.

Dammit Carl!
Get it right n00b. Read the shirt. It's

Damnit Carl! :cuss:

HonestChieffan
02-01-2007, 08:36 AM
I wonder would the players who are playiong be willing to set a portion of what they get paid aside for the old guys? Why is it only the owners responsibility?

Chief Roundup
02-01-2007, 08:57 AM
There should be some type of a cut off as to who gets a pension and who don't. That may seem unfair in some ways, but if you think about a lot of the players who never have had the big payday but still play for a lot of years at the "vet minimum" deserve a pension more than the players like TO, Kearse, Strahan, and such who have had huge paydays.

Mile High Mania
02-01-2007, 09:00 AM
Maybe they could take a percentage of the proceeds earned overall by the NFL during the preseason games and the SuperBowl and make that a contribution to a type of "legends fund". Rather than tax the current players, the NFL and the teams should take care of the players that built the league to what it is today.

Chief Roundup
02-01-2007, 09:05 AM
I wonder would the players who are playiong be willing to set a portion of what they get paid aside for the old guys? Why is it only the owners responsibility?
Because the owners make up the various boards that run the NFL. Also because the owners make more than the players do. It shouldn't be on the "players" to take it out of thier own pockets. But it should be up to the NFLPA to make or cause changes in order to protect the futures of the players after the game.
And I don't think it should necessariy be just money. There should also be some type of lifetime medical responsibility for injuries sustained playing football.

HMc
02-01-2007, 09:07 AM
There should be some type of a cut off as to who gets a pension and who don't. That may seem unfair in some ways, but if you think about a lot of the players who never have had the big payday but still play for a lot of years at the "vet minimum" deserve a pension more than the players like TO, Kearse, Strahan, and such who have had huge paydays.

even guys playing at vet minimum are on what, 800 grand? hell you get 260 grand in your rookie season. Anyone who can plan a dinner party should be able to make a nest egg from that sort of income.

The old guys deserve some pay, they werent getting much back then. The others that deserve it are those who are permanently handicapped from playing in the league, like mike utley.

htismaqe
02-01-2007, 09:09 AM
We've had 2 or 3 threads about this very same thing in the last couple of weeks.

Lynn Dickey was on Mancow earlier this week and he said that out of ~9600 retirees, 144 get benefits from the NFL.

He's mad about it and he damn well should be.

Brock
02-01-2007, 09:10 AM
Gene Upshaw is a turd who openly admits he doesn't care about retired players because they can't vote him out of office.

jspchief
02-01-2007, 09:13 AM
My heart says these guys should be cared for, but my head makes me question why they feel entitled to money from a businees they no longer work for.

When they took jobs as Pro football players, they knew the salaries and pensions involved at the time.

It's like saying the butcher of the first Hy-Vee deserves a huge pension because 40 years later the company has exploded into a billion dollar national grocery chain.

There's a lot of people in this world that work very hard, physically demanding jobs that provide little or no retirement. Are football players different simply because the fans have put them on a pedestal?

Chief Roundup
02-01-2007, 09:25 AM
even guys playing at vet minimum are on what, 800 grand? hell you get 260 grand in your rookie season. Anyone who can plan a dinner party should be able to make a nest egg from that sort of income.

The old guys deserve some pay, they werent getting much back then. The others that deserve it are those who are permanently handicapped from playing in the league, like mike utley.
Yeah that is a lot of money still. But did you know that the players have to pay for all expenses out of thier own pockets?
Things like air fare, hotels, uniforms, pads, shoes, etc.

HMc
02-01-2007, 09:27 AM
Yeah that is a lot of money still. But did you know that the players have to pay for all expenses out of thier own pockets?
Things like air fare, hotels, uniforms, pads, shoes, etc.

Is that right? Air fares and hotels? Seriously?

Chief Roundup
02-01-2007, 09:28 AM
not to mention all of the medical expenses.
Now there is not much of that money left.

HMc
02-01-2007, 09:29 AM
i have a very difficult time believing any of that.

Chief Roundup
02-01-2007, 09:30 AM
Is that right? Air fares and hotels? Seriously?
That is what they told us when we took a tour of the stadium.

Mile High Mania
02-01-2007, 09:31 AM
jspchief - I think you have a valid comment, but the only thing I would say is that the NFL (pro sports in general) is a little different to me. I don't know what their financial numbers are, but I would guess that the NFL, NFLPA, etc has the money and the ability to invest in funds to properly take care of these guys. Are they mandated to do it? No. Would it be something good (even charitable) for them to do? I think so.

This is a bit of a similiarity, but I know churches have similar funds set up for retired preachers, etc. There was a guy that spoke to our church a while back that heads this group that takes care of preachers (many from smaller churches in the middle of nowhere). It's just a nice thing to do.

Many of the older players in the NFL held other jobs during the offseason to actually feed their families. Some wrestled, others cut meat, some were plumbers... every day jobs. The NFL just didn't pay players much.

There's a lot of merit to the discussion in my opinion.

Brock
02-01-2007, 09:31 AM
i have a very difficult time believing any of that.

Me too. That's completely incorrect. The Cardinals used to be one of the cheapest franchises in the league, probably the cheapest, and they used to charge players laundry fees. But I doubt very seriously that any player pays to fly on a team's chartered flight.

HMc
02-01-2007, 09:34 AM
Me too. That's completely incorrect. The Cardinals used to be one of the cheapest franchises in the league, probably the cheapest, and they used to charge players laundry fees. But I doubt very seriously that any player pays to fly on a team's chartered flight.

Yeah i don't buy it. Maybe if you wanted to get your own Doctor you'd be paying for that. But hotels flights pads shoes? No way in hell.

boogblaster
02-01-2007, 09:36 AM
Something like a "Old-ProPlayers Home" if they were totally broke with no help they'd have a place to go and maybe still be in the limelite..people could come and visit and icon in his later-years..Hell put it in Canton...

Mile High Mania
02-01-2007, 09:51 AM
Something like a "Old-ProPlayers Home" if they were totally broke with no help they'd have a place to go and maybe still be in the limelite..people could come and visit and icon in his later-years..Hell put it in Canton...

They have something similar for old movie actors... the lady that played Lilly Munster recently died and she was living in a similar place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_%26_Television_Hospital

htismaqe
02-01-2007, 10:22 AM
My heart says these guys should be cared for, but my head makes me question why they feel entitled to money from a businees they no longer work for.

When they took jobs as Pro football players, they knew the salaries and pensions involved at the time.

It's like saying the butcher of the first Hy-Vee deserves a huge pension because 40 years later the company has exploded into a billion dollar national grocery chain.

There's a lot of people in this world that work very hard, physically demanding jobs that provide little or no retirement. Are football players different simply because the fans have put them on a pedestal?

Most employers that ask their employees to sacrifice their health for the good of the company are REQUIRED BY LAW to provide at least some kind of compensation.

MichaelH
02-01-2007, 10:51 AM
Who did your dad play for? What position?

Here's two links I found. There's not a lot of information on the internet about him that I can find.

http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=HUDOCMIK01

http://www.thetimes-tribune.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13341550&BRD=2185&PAG=461&dept_id=416049&rfi=6

acesn8s
02-01-2007, 11:05 AM
They should have the current players "taxed" a portion of their salaries...0.5% or something...that's a ton of jack right there and that would go to the old boy's fund. It wouldn't kill them to help out the original players of the league...even if they made it voluntary, they'd probably get some guys who would help out.

...holy crap, when did I become a democrat?
NFL Social Security Fund?

InChiefsHell
02-01-2007, 12:25 PM
Here's two links I found. There's not a lot of information on the internet about him that I can find.

http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=HUDOCMIK01

http://www.thetimes-tribune.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13341550&BRD=2185&PAG=461&dept_id=416049&rfi=6

Cool! He played for the Chiefs too... :thumb:

Brock
02-01-2007, 12:27 PM
Here's two links I found. There's not a lot of information on the internet about him that I can find.

http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=HUDOCMIK01

http://www.thetimes-tribune.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13341550&BRD=2185&PAG=461&dept_id=416049&rfi=6

Wow, cool.

StcChief
02-01-2007, 02:03 PM
NFLPA and owners should do more, the yearly SB week rant about it isn't enough.