(Ken Belson, March 25, 2020, New York Times) Ed O’Neil left the N.F.L. four decades ago, and over the years he has spent less and less time following professional football. He joined the league in 1974 as a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions, and he learned last week that …
Permanent link to this article: https://advocacyforfairnessinsports.org/2020/03/27/help-for-disabled-nfl-players-is-sacrificed-for-pension-deal/
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.
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“Hating labor and labor unions is America’s unofficial pastime. When a star athlete signs a multimillion-dollar contract, the talk radio lines explode with fans deconstructing the value of the deal, protecting the billionaire team owner’s money as if it were their own. Striking teachers immediately face the cries that they shouldn’t complain about their wages because they get the summers off. When football players, after years of providing entertainment for couch potatoes nationwide, sue their league for not disclosing the devastating health risks accompanied with the fame of stardom, those same fans, who bought the jerseys and asked for the autographs, turn coldly against their former heroes and say things like “Nobody put a gun to their head.” Americans expect workers to take what they get. If you don’t like it, leave. Or as they say in the NFL, next man up.” These are the opening lines of Howard Bryant’s essay entitled “What Colin Kaepernick Taught Us”, part of a collection of essays recently published in his latest literary masterpiece, his book Full Dissidence: Notes From An Uneven Playing Field. Labor talks and fights in regular life are not popular, especially when unions are involved, but the sentiment is exacerbated when it comes to people who play a game for a living, whose contracts and salaries (usually with numbers starting on six-figure step of the financial ladder) are being widely reported on and dissected in all forms of media by experts and fans alike: pro athletes.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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