February 20, 2020
Eugene “Mercury” Morris
(Editor’s note: Some things stand the test of this time and this article is one of them. Mercury wrote it several years back and his words are just as true today as they were a decade ago.)
One of my favorite cable TV shows is called, Modern Marvels on the History Channel. With today’s vast advancements in modern technology, you can now see what an ancient building erected 2,000 years ago would actually look like, as if it were built today.
Some ancient Cities that have been buried under dense rain forests for thousands of years have unveiled the very foundations of these ancient structures, which can now be seen directly from space, with the use of high tech satellite imagining, while orbiting the Earth. Somehow this new technology can re-create what a building would look like today, using only the foundation as a guideline, from the history of that ancient structure.
So, it can be said,in parallel, that the importance of the ‘’Foundation’’ is the key factor in the re-creation of a structure that was built thousands of years ago. Or, in the 1993 collective bargain agreement.
“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:
“The Owners don’t want to pay benefits. It’s practically impossible for anyone to qualify for the benefit you are seeking. “The NFL sets the benchmark so high that I have never given an impairment that would qualify someone for this benefit.”
Dr. Nevaiser was talking about the lowest Disability Benefit available to a Player called “Line of Duty.”
It was a career-ending injury and should have been classified as total and permanent.
Dr. Nevaiser continued, “The NFL doesn’t want to pay a lot of money, not even Dennis Byrd would qualify for Line of Duty benefit based on the Board’s requirements but the NFL would give it to him anyway because they would not want the bad press.’’ (Dennis Byrd broke his neck during an NFL game which ended his career) Chris Geotz said, “I was dumbfounded and the conversation between the doctor and I was concluded.”
Chris said that he was informed by the Retirement Board that based on Dr. Nevaiser’s report; he did not qualify for the benefit he was seeking. He called his long time NFLPA Benefits Director, Miki Yaras Davis, and she never returned his call.
The NFLPA Attorney told him that the ‘’settlement offer was $23,000’’, (less the 5,000 that the NFLPA Lawyer took for his legal fees, he said he could either “take it or leave it.”) Keep in mind this was 1993 “BG.” (Before Groom) – And where was Groom? They were wrapping up the 1993 CBA negotiations, on behalf of the NFLPA. The legal fees paid by the Owners to the Groom Law Group, in 1994 were $195 Million.
October 20, 1994. Groom went to work for the Owners, while still working for the NFLPA. In the 1994 letter to the Owners, outlining their fees and costs, Groom counsel Doug Ell said the fact that the Groom law Group would now be working for both the NFLPA and the Owners, at the same time did not represent a ‘’Conflict Of Interest’’ and if a conflict of interest did occur Groom would notify the ‘’Parties of Interest’’ of such ‘’conflict of interest.’’
At that time, the NFLPA was represented by a Law firm Lindquist and Vennum. and the owners were represented by Baker and Hostetler in Washington, DC. Of course that was in 1994, who could have known that in 2009 The NFLPA would ‘’relieve’’ The Groom Law Group of it’s ‘’representation’’ of the’’ legal Affairs’’ of The NFLPA. De Smith, at a Super Bowl press conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2009, cited the ‘’appearance of a conflict of interest’’ with the Law Firm and the NFLPA. That didn’t stop the Groom law Group from now representing The Retirement Board. [Editor’s note, though known representation by Groom of the NFL ceased, despite the narrative put forth the NFLPA’s LM-2s as recently as last year, indicate, as well as a filing in the Lane Johnson lawsuit, that the NFLPA continues to use Groom Law Group as part of their legal counsel.]
That way there is ‘’no conflict of interest’ ’between the Committee Members who represent The Owners,(since 1994) and the NFLPA Committee Members, who fired Groom in 2009. -Wait a minute! ‘’As lawyers for the Plan, ERISA Laws support the ability of lawyers representing unions to also represent the Plans themselves.
This is not only permitted but is a distinct advantage to the employees and beneficiaries of the plans themselves’’ For the record; that statement came from Groom in 2006. These people work for the ‘’Trustees’’ hired by the people who are in charge of your benefits.
The following is quoted from the Department of Labor ERISA Law Code Regulations: The Retirement Board Duties:
Its ‘’duties with respect to the Plan and Trust is to work solely and exclusively in the interest of the Players and their beneficiaries and with care, skill, prudence, and diligence under the circumstances then prevailing that a prudent man acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters would use in the conduct of an enterprise of like character and with like aims’’.
Just so you know, the above statement is the language under ERISA Law and section 8 of the Plan Document. This basically means that The Groom Law Group is ‘’running the Show’ ’and has been since October 20th, 1994. Their job is to find ways to prevent you, Pre-1993 Players, from getting benefits and to prevent you from having the Owners improve your benefits.
In addition to finding ways to get that 195 million back for the Owners, Groom is also directly responsible for conceiving ways ‘’around the law’’ to prevent you from receiving disability benefits by changing the plan’s terms to work against the plan participant. All of this because, as Dr. Nevaiser said in 1993, ’’the Owners don’t want to pay benefits.’’
‘’The biggest expense incurred by the plan is the Groom Law Group, when players who are denied disability benefits sue the plan’’ That’s not me talking, that’s The Dept. of Labor, taken from interview notes when I filed for a Freedom of Information Act in 2005 and 2010. [Editor’s note: This is also confirmed by a recent Advocacy for Fairness in Sports’ audit of a decade’s worth of Plan Form 5500 filings.
The majority of the lawyers who now work for Groom come from; Yep, The Department of Labor. That is how the Retirement Board gets around the Law; they hire the people who help them while they are still working for the Government. Man, that ‘’conflict of interest’’ thing keeps popping up everywhere.
When is a Fraud not a fraud? When it is still a lie, it’s not a fraud. That is the ‘’Foundation’’ of the actions of the people who are in charge of paying you your benefits.
I’m going to drop you off here, because this conversation is the ‘’foundation’’ for what you see now, and you don’t need a satellite to see it, or modern technology to uncover it. All you have to do is look at your pension check and see for yourself; “The Owners don’t want to pay benefits.”
Don’t be satisfied or fooled. The ‘’Owners’’ and the ‘’Co-Owners’’ (The NFLPA,) figured out what we were going to get before The 2011 CBA was signed. That way they could get down to the serious negotiations dealing with benefit improvements for the current and future players. After all, the NFLPA receives 60% of their revenue share from the NFL.
The NFLPA cannot, by Law, negotiate on behalf of Retired Players because it’s against the law. Why didn’t we get more? The Owners don’t want to pay YOU benefits, and they never have. Why do Rich people hire undocumented workers? Because the less they have to pay them, the more they get to keep for themselves. Sound familiar?
“YOU CAN ONLY LEARN WHAT YOU KNOW.”
Reprinted with permission
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Eugene "Mercury" Morris
Eugene "Mercury" Morris is a former running back and kick returner who dazzled for eight years in the NFL. He was known for his swiftness, earning him the nickname, "Mercury," alluding to the wing-footed messenger god of Greek mythology. Morris played in 3 Super Bowls, winning 2, and was a key player on the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins roster.
Like many former players, Morris was forced into retirement due to career-ending injuries to his neck and knees. In retirement, he has been and continues to be a fierce advocate for NFL Disabiity Plan reform.