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February 23, 2020

Dear Retired Players and Families,

It was an interesting 24 hours. In the window between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon, the NFL voted to adopt a proposed CBA and a vote was to be taken on Friday by the NFLPA executive committee.  Conflicting reports sprang from there.  The NFLPA’s official statement is that no vote was taken, however, according to Tom Pelissero a vote was taken and it was 6-5 against adopting the proposed CBA.
Just as I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief, I saw this tweet from NFL Alumni and of course, you can see my reply.

While out of one corner of their mouths, NFL is promising added benefits to retirees, they're fighting concussion settlement claims tooth and nail and purging numerous disabled from their collectively bargained disability pensions.  This development prompted my first-ever alert newsletter to retired players less than two weeks ago, and now, here I find the need to send out a new alert because it's come to my attention that a well-known alumni sent the following message out in a newsletter on Friday:
"Someone was listening! For the past 10 years I have been calling for this to happen. It’s about time they took care of these guys, don’t you think? This would also have a secondary benefit. Many of the approximately 500 players in this group would also become eligible for other benefits like the 88 Plan, Long Term Care, NFL Disability and the Neurocognitive Disability Benefit. Establish a $50,000 HRA for vested veterans with no HRA Folks, this is icing on the cake! If we can get a $50,000 lump sum put into a Health Reimbursement Account, it would do wonders for those players that are having problems paying for medical insurance, insurance premiums, co-pays prescriptions, and other out-of-pocket expenses. It’s really not that much to ask for when you consider current vested players can accrue up to $350,000 in their reimbursement account - and the new CBA proposal would increase that to $450,000. Creation of new network of hospitals in each team city for former players to receive no cost physicals, preventative care, mental health counseling, and out-patient orthopedic services. Coverage of common surgeries to be phased in during course of deal. Is anyone against this? If you are, then I suggest you apply for the Neurocognitive Disability Benefit, or put in a claim under the NFL Concussion Settlement. (Just half-joking on that)"

This was one of the same people who worked overtime to convince players what a great deal the concussion settlement was, so I felt I'd better make like Toto and pull the curtain back for a clearer view.  Step forward for a moment and look closely at what's behind the curtain.

I ask you, what good is any of this if you can't collect on what's already been bargained? 

I also ask you, "Why would the NFL push this so hard if it wasn't favorable to them?" 

I hate to break this to everyone, but they're not pleading for an immediate CBA because they're anxious to start passing out money to retired players.  It would be nice if true, but it isn't.  We can't let history repeat and be deceived yet, again!

There's a story in the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that tells of a fellow named Esau, who was his father, Isaac's first-born son.  In those days, the eldest son stood to inherit the bulk of his father's wealth through his birthright, but one day Esau came home famished and saw his brother, Jacob cooking a pot of stew.  Esau asked Jacob for a bowl, but the wily Jacob wasn't intent on giving it away for free and told Esau that he'd sell him a bowl of the stew in exchange for his birthright.  Feeling faint from hunger, with the aroma of the hearty stew tantalizing him, Esau hastily agreed to the deal.

His ill-thought decision turned out to be a tragic mistake.  Esau is now mostly remembered for his short-sightedness and is said to have spent most of the remainder of his life wandering the wilderness in obscurity, whereas Jacob inherited his father's wealth and through his twelve sons, went on to father a nation.

I can assure you that the people urging retired players to embrace the proposed CBA haven't seen the complete document-- just a brief, incomplete fact sheet that's making the rounds.  No, I haven't seen the complete CBA either, but I'm attempting to obtain but.  unfortunately, very few people, including those who are supposed to vote on it have access.  Don't you wonder why that is and what they're trying to hide?

What's needed is not a hastily done deal like Esau's trade, but instead, new leadership in the NFLPA.  Elections are in March and there is a contingent terrified of new leaders who will challenge the status quo.  That's the real reason the NFL wants this done yesterday and why they're cashing in on media favors and friendly alumni to pull out all stops to get it done.  But once it's done, if it's not a good deal, all of you -- active and retired -- will be stuck with it for at least a decade and for some it will be the rest of your lives.

I've heard from several attorneys who've voiced major concerns.  One of the biggest of which doesn't show up on the fact sheet.  It's a waiver similar to the one that the league tried to push on Colin Kaepernick.   A prominent labor attorney who happens to be an expert on LMRA preemption AND has beaten the NFL in court on this indicated if this goes into effect no one is going to stand any kind of chance in federal court on any issue against the NFL.  The lawyers can all pack their bags and go elsewhere and as your advocate, there won't be a damn thing I'll be able to do to help either.

Groom Law Group, who has been paid over $50 MILLION in the past decade to see that retired players get as little as possible is still very much alive, well and in the game.  Don't delude yourselves that the NFLPA as it presently exists is independent and all these anti-retiree decisions are made against their will. 

Groom is still on NFLPA's payroll.  Think hard about this:  The single entity that has done more harm to retired players than any other is on the NFLPA's payroll!

The NFLPA has repeatedly approved MAP doctors who have approved few if any players for disability benefits.  If you think DeMaurice Smith and those in power are looking out for retired players, like yourselves, consider and try to come up with a reasonable answer to these questions.:
  • "Why did NFLPA approve the appointment of Dr. Aakash Shah as Medical Director of the Disability Plan, since appearances indicate he's never found a single player to be disabled?"
  • Dr. Silvana Riggio is the head of the NFL’s Neurological Program at Mt. Sinai and also a MAP neurologist for the Disability Plan.  How does the NFLPA allow her to make final and binding decisions on disability appeals while on the NFL payroll? 
  • Why is Dr. Kevin Kessler, who is a team physician for the Miami Dolphins acting as a neutral orthopedist for the Plan?
How many more conflicts of interest must be pointed out before it's apparent that retired players need more than bandaids and empty promises?  Retired players need new, disruptive leadership from the top down.  New leaders who will dismantle the obstacle course that retirees are accustomed to.

The NFLPA needs new leadership in place before any lasting and meaningful change is going to take place, and that, my friends, is why the NFL is having its fire sale and desperate to get the CBA deal done before this can happen.  We all know the sales pitch of "buy it now or the deal goes away."  Typically the buyer is left with nothing but remorse.

What happens if that free medical care they're promising turns out to be a reinvention of the BAP?  What if they use the records from their chosen doctors to keep you from qualifying for any other benefits?  What happens if they corral and suppress all the data that might be gathered to slow science down and keep public knowledge of what happens to retired NFL players from reaching the public?

The newsletter that went out to alumni was correct in one observation and that is that people have been listening.  There's a growing awareness among some active players as to what's going on in the retired community, and Advocacy for Fairness in Sports' reporting, has played a role in this, I'm pleased to say.

This may be the last chance to get it right.  Please use your influence to delay an agreement on the CBA. I strongly feel that if a deal can be delayed and strong, intelligent disruptive leadership emerges from the March election, the cartel will be dismantled and retirees will begin seeing the kind of change that will make a real, lasting difference.  Don't settle for a bowl of stew when there's something so much better to be had with a bit more patience and perseverance.

I tweeted extensively in the 24 hour period between Thursday and Friday afternoons giving numerous reasons to reject current leadership and the proposed CBA they wish to cram down players' throats.  I also retweeted some prominent and respected voices who agree.  If you'd like to check it out, I saved most of the tweets from that span into a file you can access here:  

The work Advocacy for Fairness in Sports is doing isn't cheap but it's beginning to have an impact.  Please help to keep the momentum going by making a donation of any size that you can afford, and to those of you who've donated in the past, please accept my sincere and humble thanks.  None of this work would be possible without you!
Onward and upward,


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