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The NFL’s Proposed CBA – #JustSayNo

cba titanicFebruary 22, 2020
Sheilla Dingus

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.

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.

It wasn’t so long ago that players were urged to accept a settlement that turned out to be defective based on a summary similar to the one that has been distributed via the internet.  You can read it here.  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.  Nevertheless, it’s come to my attention that a well-known alumni representative 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.

What good is any of this if players can’t collect on what’s already been bargained?  I also ask you to consider, “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 alumni.

  It would be nice if true, but it isn’t.  We can’t let history repeat and fall for fanciful speculations and misrepresentations.

I can assure you that the person who sent this out hasn’t seen the actual CBA, just a brief, misleading fact sheet.  No, I haven’t seen it either, and am attempting to obtain it but right now very few people have access.  Don’t you wonder why that is and what they’re trying to hide?  Don’t you wonder why De Smith is trying almost as hard to push this through as the NFL is, even though it’s clear that most players, starting with the executive committee aren’t sold on it?

What’s needed is not a hastily done deal but 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 and the DeMaurice Smith contingency wants this done pronto and why they’re cashing in on media favors and friendly alumni to pull out all stops.  But once it’s done, if it’s not a good deal, all players — active and retired — will be stuck with it for at least a decade, which for some, will be the remainder of their lives.

I’ve heard from several attorneys who’ve voiced major concerns.  One of the biggest which doesn’t show up on the fact sheet is 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 a player 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 by the Plan 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 Law Group compensation

As you can see from the NFLPA’s most recent LM-2 filing, Groom is also collecting a paycheck from the NFLPA.

The NFLPA has repeatedly endorsed 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, consider and try to find 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.  Why 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?  They need new, disruptive, forward-thinking 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 of the reported provisions of the pending CBA can be considered trustworthy, and this, my friends, is why the NFL is having its fire sale, desperate to get the deal done before that 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.  Can any player afford to gamble his future and that of his family on unsubstantiated words?

What happens if that free medical care they’re promising turns out to be a re-tooling of the BAP?  What if they use the records from their chosen doctors to keep players 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?  Don’t be so naive as to think it can’t happen, because that’s exactly what’s taking place in the NHL players’ settlement.  Don’t think the NFL didn’t keep a watchful eye as to what their counterparts on the ice were doing.

Until Thursday, I’d been limiting my time on Twitter recently, to focus on other things but in view of a CBA vote which stands to impact all players for the next 10 years, I felt it was best to man my social media post and it’s probably a good thing I did. I spent the next 24 hours or so urging caution and quite a few folks seem to be paying attention.

Unfortunately, things are not always as they seem and since the same parties who too quickly embraced the concussion settlement are pushing this proposed CBA, I felt I should address it both on and off the Twitter platform, thus this post.  Rather than recapping all of my arguments and reasoning from Twitter, I’ll simply embed a pdf of my tweets spanning the subject including re-tweets from some pretty sharp people whose opinions should carry weight.  From here, I’ll leave you to consider this considerably long and hopefully informative tweet string.

Tweets About Proposed CBA (Text)

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Sheilla Dingus founded Advocacy for Fairness in Sports in October 2016, after a stint with Defenders of the Wall, a New England Patriots based blog where she dived deep into the legal aspects of Deflategate. Along the way, she observed many inequities in sports and felt a need to address some of the under-reported stories in sports law. She draws from her background as a former professional dancer, who like many of the athletes she writes about, took an early retirement due to orthopedic injuries. After a return trip to college she worked for a legal software company, with seven years as a Project Manager and Analyst. She brings her analytical skills to the table in breaking down complex lawsuits, and enjoys pursuing her longtime interest in journalism.

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