NFL ‘Legacy Fund’ to Dying-Off Population of Retirees: Happy Holidays … NOT

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For anyone with an instinct to support the underdog, but who also wants to be thorough and fair, there is no more vexing challenge than the story of the broken-down National Football League players of generations past, stars and journeymen alike, who have been screwed by both the league and their putative union on retirement and disability benefits.

Months after consummation of the collective bargaining agreement that rescued the 2011 season, the NFL recently and finally announced some details of agreements on distribution of a “Legacy Fund” for retired players. At $620 million, it is obviously not chopped liver. But two new posts at the principled and persistent, if occasionally shrill and insider-y, site of Dave Pear’s Independent Football Veterans underscore why this is far too little, far too late – why this dying-off population of forgotten builders of the contemporary pro football colossus have no choice other than to seek justice in the courts.

For thinking football fans, these entries are required reading and viewing:

“Dan Pastorini Tells It Like It Is,”

“NFLPA: Your Check is NOT in the Mail,”

In the first — a recent television interview whose source does not appear to be identified — 1970s and 80s quarterback Pastorini breaks down the numbers of pre-1993 players. Here’s the money stat: only a third of the approximately 21,000-weak retiree community stuck long enough to get vested in the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan. Around 2,500 are the pre-1993 players who were, outrageously, passed over for improved benefits in the 1996 collective-bargaining round. Meanwhile, Gene Upshaw, the late and almost unbelievably corrupt Players Association boss, enriched himself and his cronies with royalties from NFL video games and other merchandise, which exploited the images and likenesses of older players for pennies on the dollar … as in zero pennies on hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now those couple of thousand pre-1993 guys are leaving this Earth. Pastorini says the death rate is 200-250 a year, but that number is surely accelerating as their occupational impairments compound the natural effects of seniority.

Against that backdrop, take a gander at the Pear blog’s second entry: the latest rambling missive, less than 24 hours ago, from NFLPA official (and former wide receiver) Sam McCullum. From time to time, Dave Pear has made, in my analysis, a mistaken decision to overemphasize ridicule, sarcasm, and the internecine battles of the NFLPA with various wildcat representatives of retirees’ interests. It becomes all too much for the casual reader to process, and it can come off as gratuitous and bitter.

But anyone who doesn’t think this guy has a point simply isn’t paying attention. McCullum’s new memo not only is painfully unprofessional and callous; it borders on illiteracy.

Twice in a row misusing the word “ironically,” McCullum starts off by complaining about commissioner Roger Goodell’s unilateral November 11 announcement of the Legacy Fund distribution while citing the work of outside pressure groups, and without giving the union due credit. Then, in the course of contorted disclaimers about what the fund means for individual benefit applicants, he advises inquiring minds: “The likely hood [sic] of you getting a check in December … is slim to not at all.”

And couch potatoes sleeping off their Thanksgiving turkey l-tryptophan and day-long orgy of NFL games still wonder why these guys are angry?


Irv Muchnick

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick