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This week NFL Players are faced with the daunting and unenviable task of accepting or rejecting a new 10-year CBA and electing a new president. Thus far the only player to announce a run at the presidency is former Chargers left tackle Russell Okung who was traded to the Carolina Panthers this week.
Okung is an extremely smart, well-informed, reform-oriented player who staunchly opposes the proposed CBA that owners seem almost desperate to shove down players’ throats. In a New York Times article, Ken Belson relates that Okung is ready to “disrupt the NFL establishment,” and this is precisely what needs to happen if players are ever going to be seen as a partner instead of a product that views them as wind-up toys for the owners’ profit and pleasure.
Not long ago, the issue of player discipline loomed as a high-priority item for the NFLPA when it came time to negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement.
Sometimes the best move is No Move.
Facts are Facts. Math is Math. Opinions will vary on their impact on an individual’s unique circumstances around the Globe. However, that doesn’t change the Facts or Math that sometimes No Move is your best move.
As the NFL/NFLPA bargaining continues to be a hot topic of debate on social media many are taking a position on if the terms are good, bad or just “meh”. In giving some thought to where things stand between the Owner and the Players coming to an agreement, I found myself wondering more and more why anything had to be agreed upon or voted on at all? Sometimes the best negotiating move is, in fact, No Move at all.
This letter if from our mailbag from the wife of a disabled player. I feel it explains the devastating impact of the disability changes in the proposed CBA far better than anything I could write. ~ Sheilla
Some things stand the test of time and this article by Mercury Morris is one of them. Unfortunately, little if anything has changed regarding the NFL Disability Plan except added efforts to prevent players from qualifying and/or purging them from their previously approved awards.
“The Owners don’t want to pay benefits” is not only a statement of fact regarding Retired Players and what we are now experiencing, that statement is also the very ‘’Foundation’’ of who these people are right now.
In fact, the affidavit I have from Chris Geotz, a former player who suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in the early 1990s validates my point. Dr. David Nevaiser, a ‘’Neutral Physician’’ from Atlanta in 1993 told Chris Geotz the following:
Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the NFL. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has been quoted as saying in support of ACA and in opposition to Workers’ Compensation scale-backs that all NFL players will leave the game with preexisting conditions. In view of that, it’s puzzling as to why he finds the proposed CBA that will leave many who wind up disabled acceptable and has even gone so far as to recommend it despite a 7-4 vote by the Executive Committee against.
In Part I of my series on the CBA, I explained how Article 39 will essentially strip players of their right to sue in the same vein as the waiver Colin Kaepernick refused to sign prior to a league arranged workout.
Russell Okung, an offensive lineman who was recently traded to Carolina, said that the proposed collective bargaining agreement should not have been sent to the full membership to vote because the deal was rejected twice by a majority of the executive committee.
Whether you speak of a nation or football league, class warfare is a lethal weapon when deployed effectively. For the past 10 years, the NFL has game planned and executed that plan through the CBA now up for voting by NFLPA members. The strategy is simultaneously brilliant and despicable. In my view, they’ve managed to lock players into a chess match against the devil with life-and-death consequences for those who are left behind. The provisions contained in the proposed agreement have gone so far as not only dividing active membership but also retired players, pitting the needs of one group of players against the needs of his alumni brothers.
Having led and been directly involved in successful union side pro football CBA’s covering the Arena Football League and AFL China over the last 7 years has given me a unique opportunity to witness and participate in the delicate ballet we call collective bargaining. Specifically, as it relates to professional sports which has similarities to other labor industries but also has some very unique qualities not experienced in other industries. In my experience, the Labor/Management collective bargaining process is foreign to most workers and managers even for those that are covered by a CBA or attempting to reach mutual agreement on a contract.
Advocacy for Fairness in Sports’ first video demonstrates how the NFL lets nothing stand in the way of reaching their next billion, especially retired players. It also has a message for actives as they work to negotiate a new CBA.
The 1985 Chicago Bears are considered to be one of the best rosters ever to come together in professional football. There was an intense rivalry between head coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan—a rivalry so dysfunctional that it actually fueled the team. The offense, though thrilling, has been referred to as “aim, fire, shoot,” as alluded to in quarterback Jim McMahon’s line in the team’s Super Bowl Shuffle call to arms, “When I hit the turf, I’ve got no plan. I just throw my body all over the field. I can’t dance, but I can throw the pill.” From the defensive side, future Hall of Famer, Richard Dent is credited as saying that Ditka “is the reason we won Super Bowl XX and the reason we didn’t win three.”
The NFL/NFLPA Blitz Special Edition brings you up to speed on everything related to the proposed CBA.
According to multiple reports, New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft has been trying to convince Rob Gronkowski to end his retirement and rejoin the team. Since Gronkowski has not yet submitted formal retirement papers, he would be eligible to return prior to November 30 if he chose to do so. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “Kraft told Gronkowski that he wants him to return for November, December, and a playoff run. If that happened, the team not only would welcome him back but would remain hopeful that it happens.” That conversation is said to have taken place in March when Gronkowski announced his retirement. As recently as October, Kraft expressed his desire for Gronk’s return, “We all love Gronk and I think the bottom line is, he hasn’t put his retirement papers in. We can pray and hope. … I think that’s a good academic argument that there is hope with Gronk.”
It’s unclear if additional overtures have been made, but if so, Kraft should take a few steps back and consider what he’s asking.
It was an interesting 24 hours. During this time the NFL voted to adopt a proposed CBA and a vote was to be taken 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.
Having covered the NFL’s Disability Plan for going on four years, I’m well accustomed to seeing the litigation mitigation tactics used there, of revising Plan Documents with new language annually to close the “loopholes” in which a player prevailed in court, overturning the denial of his claim. Now it’s turning up in the CBA.
When Colin Kaepernick first tweeted about the invitation he had just received via his team, from the NFL to participate in a private workout in front of franchise executives 4 days later, to many it sounded like a step in the right direction from a league that had essentially turned its back on him for the past 3 years. It came out of the blue, however, and that alone was enough to invite skepticism as to the motivation behind it. There has been speculation that Jay-Z, who with his Roc Nation agency has embarked on a partnership with the NFL earlier this year with musical and social justice angles, had something to do with the decision, but that has neither been confirmed or denied by Jay-Z, his representatives or the league.
There’s a saying, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” As people began to grapple with the realities of a pandemic and a world largely without sports, elite NBA/New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson announced that he’d cover the salaries of largely minimum wage venue workers while Gayle Benson, the owner of the Pelicans as well as the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, who is worth multiple billions compared to Zion’s single-digit millions remained silent. In contrast, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban almost immediately pledged to take care of the team’s hourly workers and began an initiative to provide daycare for the children of healthcare workers. He has also shown leadership in urging that people are not rushed back to work too quickly.
We are drawn to big headlines that flash across the bottom of our TV screens and the dramatic music accompanying developing stories, whether we are watching CNN or the NFL Network. Not to mention the grave facial expression, the solemn tone and delivery of the information by the correspondent or “insider” as they constantly glance at their cell phones as if waiting for more details. Just as quickly as news breaks, someone jumps on Twitter in hopes of being first to report, as other reporters scramble to get to press before their competitors. As the frenzy in frantic in newsrooms and on social media ensues with various reporters competing to be the first to report any additional detail associated with the news item, often fact-checking, and investigation is a luxury many do not have time for in today’s click hungry-media environment.
On Tuesday, Kamrin Moore was cleared of the domestic violence charges against him, but on July 15, he became the latest NFL player accused of domestic violence.
Sometimes what you see tells a story. Sometimes what you don’t see tells an even bigger one. Both statements are true when it comes to the NFL’s Bert Bell-Pete Rozelle Retirement/Disability Plan.
Players have a very difficult task in qualifying for disability benefits, especially if their injuries are related to their careers, and the most difficult level of all to qualify for is “Active Football,” which means the player became disabled within six months of the end of his career. Often players leave the game injured and think they’ll get better. Often they try to rehab for more than six months before they give up and decide to apply for disability, but should they wait six months and a day after their last game, they’ll be forever locked into a lower benefit tier without extensive litigation and often even when they litigate.
New York Jets offensive guard Kelechi Osemele’s ongoing and now public dispute with the New York Jets, highlights a problem anchored deeply within NFL culture. In case you somehow missed it, the Jets threatened to discipline Osemele for “conduct detrimental”—and then on Saturday afternoon followed through with the threat by imposing a fine.
What conduct did the Jets organization deem to be detrimental? Mr. Osemele wants to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder
November 29,1992, is a day I will never forget. I was a member of the NY Jets and we were playing the Kansas City Chiefs, the team from which I had been traded the year before. I was excited to be playing against my old team and it was a home game for the Jets to boot. It didn’t take long for my excitement to turn to sadness and despair, not because we lost the game but
because we lost a teammate that day.
For every year of absorbing the pounding and repeated head collisions that comes with playing American tackle football, a person’s risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease, increases by 30 percent. And for every 2.6 years of play, the risk of developing CTE doubles. These new findings from an analysis of 266 deceased former amateur and professional football players—reported in Annals of Neurology by a team of researchers from the Boston University CTE Center—are the first to quantify the strength of the link between playing tackle football and developing CTE.
Covering the NFL concussion settlement litigation as it plays out, it’s easy to get caught up in the dockets and the numbers. It’s essential to remind ourselves that behind those figures and words are families and personal stories.
One of the individuals who was instrumental in beginning the story was former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Mike Webster through his family. Webster, who anchored the Pittsburgh offensive line through a dominant stretch of the middle and late 1970s, passed in 2002. Webster was also one of the first former NFL players to be diagnosed post-mortem with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Witnessing most of Webster’s story was his son, Garrett.
Andrew Luck and Amon Gordon are two Stanford alumni whose NFL options were very different. Over the weekend Colts’ quarterback, Andrew Luck startled the NFL world with his decision to retire at the relatively young age of 29. As Ken Belson writes, in the New York Times, “Luck belongs to a young generation more carefully weighing the dangers of the game against the financial rewards.
“I stayed in the game but was struggling to remember what the play call was when I was coming out of the huddle. Our quarterback would give us the play, but I’d forgotten once I got to the line of scrimmage. I kept tapping the center on the leg when we’d get into our stances: “What’s the call?”
Quarterback Ken Stabler, also nicknamed “The Snake”, played in the NFL from 1968 to 1984. He was the 1974 NFL MVP and was selected as the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. These accomplishments came with a price though, as he experienced multiple health conditions when he retired. The late Hall of Fame quarterback was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) seven months after his death in February 2016. While he had died because of complications related to colon cancer, family members reported that he exhibited classic signs of cognitive decline in his later years. He would repeat himself, get lost in familiar places, be sensitive to simple sounds, and have difficulties navigating intersections while driving.
Boston University conducted a now famous or perhaps infamous study, depending on the perspective, of NFL players finding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in 110 of 111 brains studied. Two researchers decided to crunch some numbers to see what the data really means and submitted their report to Neurology on July 20, 2018. It was made available to the public on November 28, 2018. Dr. Zachary O. Binney of Emory University, Atlanta and Dr. Kathleen E. Bachynski of NYU Langone Health, New York obtained a database of all former NFL Players who died between February 2008 and May 2016, the timeframe of the Boston University study. What they found, using only basic arithmetic is startling.
Over the last month or so I have watched several of the games from the new spring league, the Alliance of American Football. I found many of the games entertaining and if the “logo” bias were removed the games would likely be more appealing to a wider audience.
I am pulling for the league to flourish for several reasons. Number one, I always like pulling for the underdog, second I like anything that gives young players another opportunity to pursue their dreams and lastly watching AAF brings back memories of the three most enjoyable years I had in a different spring pro football league called the USFL.
Tamarick Vanover’s opponents on kickoff and punt coverage teams used to grasp at him in futility as he raced toward the end zone. Now nearly two decades later, Vanover feels that same futility in having anything to show for the days given to the NFL that he will never recoup.
For many NFL players, the biggest challenge they will ever face is not being a pro football player; it will be the challenge of transitioning into the regular workplace. There is a common public perception is that most NFL players play for ten plus years, make hundreds millions of dollars and have all types of career opportunities awaiting them as soon as they remove their pads for the last time. Nothing could be further from the truth. The average NFL player has a career of less than four years and certainly does not collect tens of millions in income within what is in average about 3.7 years. The reason the public is misled by the large contracts they see in the media is because those contracts are portrayed as normal, not as exceptions to the rule. That is not to say NFL players are not very well compensated, they are relative to the general workforce, but in most cases they will receive that money for a very short amount of time and most NFL contracts are not guaranteed. Obviously the ability to successfully transition from a career in the NFL to other careers is dependent on financial stability but there are other factors that greatly affect a players ability to make a successful transition.
The story of Bill Cesare demonstrates how little the NFL and NFLPA do to take care of former players
December 10, 2017
Derek Helling Many former NFL players are challenged to deal with the physical toll of playing football along with all the other struggles that life can present. The story of former NFL defensive back Bill Cesare is one such narrative. As a result of brain trauma suffered …
Excerpt from Hamza Abdullah’s book, “Come Follow Me” “Scoot over!” “What?” “I said scoot over!” “Who are you?” “I’m Hamza Abdullah, who are you?” “I’m Madriga.” “Well Madrigal, why are you so close to me?” “Because there’s no room in here.” “Yes there is. Scoot over.” “I can’t, I’m squished.” “Squished?” “Yeah, someone’s on the …
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live a fairy tale dream come true? And then see it unravel thread by thread? This is Cyndy Feasel’s reality. Cyndy was married to Grant Feasel who was center and long snapper in the NFL from 1984 – 1993, and was a starter for most of his career. I caught up with her recently and we discussed her experiences.
March 5, 2015 Last week at the Combine, the NFLPA presented a request for a rule change to the NFL Competition Committee. As first reported by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, NFLPA President Eric Winston said: The jumping over on the field goal, I think, is just …
By Sheilla Dingus November 7, 2016 Rewind the NFL game clock to 2011; Commissioner Roger Goodell has entered the five-year mark of his tenure and is now beginning to assert his authority as the emperor-like ruler of the league. DeMaurice Smith, ascending to his second year as Executive Director of the NFLPA, is not a …
Mehri’s report “chronicles the reckless spending of the NFLPA, following the money trail from NFLPA leadership to law firms with anti-union agendas on the receiving end.” November 16, 2017
Sheilla Dingus Every year a new NFL/NFLPA controversy makes news, casting a shadow on professional football. Legal showdowns in which the players’ association without fail seems …
There appears to be a black hole in the vicinity of 345 Park Avenue and apparently it has devoured NFL free agent Mike Neal.
As you may recall, about a year ago, as the Denver Broncos were gearing up for a Super Bowl run, Al Jazeera America released a documentary in which Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Green Bay Packers, James Harrison of the Pittsburg Steelers, and NFL free agent Mike Neal, among other athletes, were implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. To make a long story short, the NFL appeared to push it aside in the wake of Super Bowl 50 and then announced an “investigation” into the matter.
September 11, 2017
Sheilla Dingus In late August, Cyrus Mehri was scheduled to interview with Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports. The night of the interview, he had dinner with NFLPA President Eric Winston out of respect and as a courtesy; to announce his plan to challenge DeMaurice Smith for …
Intriguing thoughts from 3X Superbowl Champ Matt Chatham by Sheilla Dingus September 27, 2016 The 2016 NFL season is barely four weeks underway and at least 183 players representing almost every team in the NFL are dealing with injuries in varying degrees according to ESPN. Of the 1,696 active players composed of thirty-two …