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Retired NFL Players Call for AFL-CIO to Expel NFLPA

Washington, DC (June 20, 2012) – Twenty former NFL players, including seven Hall of Famers, have signed a letter requesting that the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) be expelled from the AFL-CIO. The players—including Joe DeLamielleure, Paul Krause, Lem Barney, Bruce Laird, John Hannah, Elvin Bethea, Ron Yary, Conrad Dobler, John Riggins, Al “Bubba” Baker, Reggie McKenzie, Billy Joe Dupree, Ken Stabler, Roman Gabriel, George Visger, Tommy Nobis, Fred Smerlas, Art Sill, Myron Pottios, and Lou Piccone—filed the grievance with the AFL-CIO on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated retired NFL players.

The grievance details the Union’s continued failure in its professed “moral obligation to… retired players”. The letter emphasizes that for years the NFLPA has acknowledged the growing gap between the needs of its retired player members and the current benefits programs under the NFL Retirement System. This gap was, in material part, the result of the NFLPA’s history of sacrificing and subordinating the interests and needs of the retirees to the advantage of the Union’s active player members.

The letter details Congressional hearings which occurred in 2007, 2009, and 2010, whereby evidence

was presented that demonstrated the hardships confronting retirees who had “the greatest financial and medical needs.” Congresswoman Linda Sanchez stated in 2007, that “evidence suggests that the vast majority of former players needing benefits do not receive them.” In 2009, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers added, “The NFL’s treatment of its retired players with respect to disability and pension benefits is problematic.”

In 2007, then NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw told the Charlotte Observer, “the bottom line is I don’t work for the retired players. They don’t hire me, and they can’t fire me.” While the face in the Executive Director’s office has changed, the results, despite public statements by current Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the contrary, have not.

Focusing on one of the most vivid examples of the Union selling out retired player needs, the request details the Union’s failure to negotiate for and/or agree to a comprehensive program to address the full implications of the “life and death” issues resulting from brain injuries. In 2009, while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, NFLPA Executive Director Smith admitted that “[f]or far too long, our former players were left adrift” and that the Union was “complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability.”  Smith pledged to build and implement a “road map that leads to preventative measures…” to cover “a wider array of mental and psychologically debilitating conditions such as traumatic brain injury, severe depression and other neurological diseases.” Instead, at a critical juncture for retired NFL players, the NFLPA remained silent.

As eloquently written by Robbie Fergusson, in the International Business Times on June 17, 2012:

More and more evidence is linking concussion blows with depression, and health problems after players retire. Studies have shown that the equipment worn in the NFL is woefully inadequate to protect the head, yet the issue isn’t resolved with the same gesto as a contract that looks a little light in guaranteed money. During the lockout last season, one of the real losers of the new [CBA] were ex-players, who arguably needed union help more than the players of today.

It won’t surprise or shock anyone for me to conclude by saying that it’s a sad indicator that one of the strongest and most powerful unions in America is driven by pure greed and the accumulation of money, but what really bothers me is the lack of critical media and public reaction to the greed. The apathy of the man on the street towards the rights of spoiled millionaires is quite baffling to anyone on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The grievance points out that the moral lapse of the NFLPA is in direct conflict with the core principles of the AFL-CIO Constitution, as well as the Mission and Vision which seeks to improve the conditions of workers of all ages, former and current.

The full letter can be found HERE

Hausfeld LLP has an active sports and entertainment practice and represents retired football players, as well as former NCAA college athletes, suing over the use of their images and likenesses.

Hausfeld LLP is one of the leading litigation firms in the world with offices in Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and London, UK and affiliated offices around the globe.  


Supporting Documents

» 6/20/12 Letter to AFL-CIO (PDF)


Related Case

» NFL- Eller v. NFL


Practice Areas: Sports and Entertainment