WP: NFLPA Dispute Heads to Congress

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

    74,208 Messages
    22,998 Likes Received
    Disability Payments Will Be Debated

    By Les Carpenter
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, June 7, 2007; Page E08

    The simmering dispute between retired NFL players and the NFL Players Association is heading to Congress. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law has scheduled an oversight hearing on June 26 to look into the way benefits are paid to disabled former players.

    The issue of disability payments has been contentious for several years but has only recently received much public attention as former players have stepped up to say they believe the pension and disability plan, managed in part by the NFLPA, routinely denies benefits for injuries suffered while playing in the NFL. Among the accusations is that the plan's administrators have created a system that makes it almost impossible for a player to claim disability.

    Several former players, including Mike Ditka, Jerry Kramer and Joe DeLamielleure, have complained in recent months that the pension plan does little to help retired players who can't afford to pay their bills. They said the players' association under Executive Director Gene Upshaw has abandoned retired players in order to cut a more lucrative deal with the league's owners, providing more money for Upshaw's main constituency -- active players.

    "The NFL is a billion-dollar industry and yet the players who built the league are too often left to fend for themselves," Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.), who chairs the committee, said in a statement last night.

    "The subcommittee has seen recent reports that the benefit plan offered to retired players may be stacked against players who need serious medical care."

    At his traditional Super Bowl news conference in February, Upshaw said balancing the payments to current and retired players was impossible.

    "That's never going to happen," he said. "We do what we can do. We will continue to do what we must do and we have not turned our back on anyone."

    Upshaw has been invited to the hearings along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Neither has accepted at this point. Upshaw did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

    Also invited are Ditka, ex-Giants star Harry Carson and former Raiders guard Curt Marsh, whose right foot and ankle were amputated in 1994 for what he has said was a football injury.

    The relationship between the two sides has become more contentious recently. Upshaw was quoted in the Philadelphia Daily News as saying "a guy like DeLamielleure says the things he said about me, you think I'm going to invite him to dinner? No. I'm going to break his damn neck."

    DeLamielleure, who has criticized the union's pension and disability plans under Upshaw, told the Charlotte Observer that he was taking the comments seriously.

    "My wife was petrified," he said. "We grew up in Detroit. You know what unions are. You hear about it. She goes, 'Hey, this guy is a head of a union, a powerful union and [when] he makes a threat like that, you better take it serious.' "

    Upshaw declined to comment on the remarks he made about DeLamielleure.

    Sanchez also said in her statement that the subcommittee will look into the arbitration process the plan uses to determine benefits for retired players who are severely injured. Many former players claim the process does not fairly assess injuries and is designed to keep them from receiving benefits they deserve.

    Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.

  2. Angus

    Angus Active Member

    5,097 Messages
    16 Likes Received
    NFL, union called to Congress
    Hearing to be held on approval process for disability claims
    By Ken Murray and Jeff Barker
    Sun reporters
    Originally published June 7, 2007

    With a questionable record for approving disability claims by former players, the NFL and its embattled players association will be asked to explain the process in a June 26 congressional hearing, a former NFL star and congressional sources told The Sun.

    The House Judiciary Committee confirmed yesterday that it is inviting witnesses for an "oversight" hearing, which means it is not necessarily tied to any legislative action and is intended to educate members.

    The hearing is to be held by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, chaired by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, a California Democrat.

    Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson, who played for the New York Giants, said he has been asked to appear.

    The NFL recently announced that 284 former players are receiving disability payments totaling $19 million this year. Some of those recipients, the league said, get as much as $224,000 annually.

    But that's from a pool of approximately 9,000 retired players. Many former players say they distrust a system that sometimes takes two years for a resolution and often sends them to doctor after doctor.

    "A lot of these players are losing when they are before the [retirement] board," said a committee staff member. Because the hearings have not been announced formally, no aide from the committee would be quoted by name.

    Among the things the panel wants to look at is whether cases should come to arbitration sooner than they do, and whether players were disproportionately losing cases related to benefits.

    Some retired players get lost in the system. Jennifer Smith, executive director of Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which provides temporary help for former players in need, pointed to one such case.

    She said her organization is supplying money for rent, food and prescriptions for the family of a 35-year-old former player with two children who "is as crippled as anybody I have ever seen."

    Smith declined to identify the player but said he had been trying for four years to get a response from the union and "hasn't been assigned a doctor to go see."

    "This is a fairly significant NFL player who spent the money he had left after his career on his personal medical care," she said. "He was unable to work. So we have come into the picture and stabilized the situation. We paid their rent for them; not just one month, but for four months.

    "If the guy had been collecting disability, the family wouldn't be in this situation."

    According to committee staff, interest in the process did not originate with any single lawmaker, but rather from a general concern over whether the system is working fairly and effectively to resolve issues related to retired players and disability.

    The National Football League Players Association's retirement board consists of six trustees who render disability judgments. Three are management representatives: Ravens president Dick Cass, Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt.

    The other three are considered player representatives and include former players Tom Condon, Jeff Van Note and Dave Duerson.

    NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Philadelphia Daily News last week that all disability rulings must be unanimous or they go to an independent arbitrator. In the past 14 years, only one disability claim has gone to an arbitrator.

    Yesterday, Aiello acknowledged that the league had been contacted by the subcommittee, but he deferred comment on details to the committee.

    The NFLPA did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

    It is believed that both commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw will be invited to speak, along with several players who either have gone through the process or are familiar with it. A university professor or other arbitration expert also may be asked to testify.

    Former players who already have been asked to participate are Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka and Carson.

  3. Sam I Am

    Sam I Am Unfriendly and Aloof!

    37,566 Messages
    5,501 Likes Received
    I'm thinking if Upshaw cut down his multi-million dollar salary it would help pay at least some of the medical bills. :rolleyes:
  4. sago1

    sago1 Active Member

    7,789 Messages
    0 Likes Received
    Maybe now we'll find out what, if anything, the NFLPA is really doing to address some of the medical disability concerns of those great older players. Upshaw is full of it when he said "balancing the payments to current and retired players was impossible". Normally I don't like to see Congress get involved but at least this way there's a chance we really might find out what's going on.
  5. DallasEast

    DallasEast Cowboys 24/7/365 Staff Member

    33,491 Messages
    8,237 Likes Received
    The retirement benefits issue is a very serious one, but it's not the most serious issue confronting the country right now. There are far more serious problems which Congress should be addressing before they should even consider holding hearings about the NFLPA and ex-players. Politicians should stop playing politician and start acting like legislative leaders for ALL the people.

    /rant off
  6. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

    43,820 Messages
    3,379 Likes Received
    Actually, considering the competence of most of Congress, maybe we don't WANT them trying to solve important problems.
  7. DallasEast

    DallasEast Cowboys 24/7/365 Staff Member

    33,491 Messages
    8,237 Likes Received
    Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Every so often, they hit a home run. However, if Congress stopped trying to solve important problems altogether, no important problems would be solved.
  8. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

    43,820 Messages
    3,379 Likes Received
    I really wonder if Congress is needed to solve problems since it can be argued that screwed up laws and such cause quite a few problems.
  9. DallasEast

    DallasEast Cowboys 24/7/365 Staff Member

    33,491 Messages
    8,237 Likes Received
    The logic behind a three-branched federal government is fine. It's the people in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches that are often the problem. People get elected or appointed and many times lose their minds for various reasons. That's the basic underlying problem with the federal government, imo.
  10. Rockytop6

    Rockytop6 Well-Known Member

    2,076 Messages
    84 Likes Received
    Knowing the record of government's ability to solve problems, do you think the gov will help solve or muddy/muddle the picture. It is obvious that this situation should and must be addressed. Too many times when the gov gets involved, it (whatever the situation is) becomes a political football and in this case I don't know but that the NFL, the union, and the retired players don't
    all wind up in deeper +++ (mud).

    The NFL/Union should have addressed this many years ago. Unfortunately, it is too late for some but hopefully congress will put politics aside and made fair and equitable decisions for all concerned. Some of these present players should realize that they will be in the same boat one day.
  11. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

    4,162 Messages
    1 Likes Received
    Former NFL players are facing the same thing that former steelworkers, miners, millers, heck, even military personel, have been learning to deal with for years. Companies built on the backs of past 'employees', now reaping the benefits of being a multi-billion dollar industry today....while pensions are taken or reduced, and health care not exactly what was promised and often denied.

    I hope they do well in getting what they need, but seeing this same story that has already affected literally millions of average joes in their respective industries....with little or nothing at all done about it....I would only be a little hopeful for them and only because the NFL is more marquee than say...Republic Steel or some coal giant.

    These people have done been swept under the rug and forgotten....I won't be surprised if the same happens to them.
  12. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

    43,820 Messages
    3,379 Likes Received
    The pension thing is a whole other matter- the companies there truly did do their employees wrong. BUT the health coverage is another story- no one 20 years ago thought that health insurance would get so expensive so fast and keep rising like it has. Many companies would go bankrupt if they tried to keep up the promises made back then. Its not all their fault on that one.

Share This Page