NFL Pension & Disability Reform
In recent discussions leading up to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFLPA and the NFL were unable to come to agreement on increasing retired player pensions. The NFL proposed a new rookie salary scale for this year’s draft, with players paid a fixed amount based on draft slot, a proposal the NFL Alumni Association fully and publicly supported. The NFLPA countered with its own rookie salary proposal, but tied it to an extension of the current CBA. The savings generated from either of those proposals could have been used to boost retired player’s pensions by $100 million annually. There were also discussions on using a portion of the savings generated by the rookie salary cap to improve veteran player salaries. The NFLPA has stated that it wants to increase pre-1993 player pensions by establishing a “Legacy” fund, but they want the NFL owners to fund it with “new” money. We have been told by the NFLPA that if there is no “new” money there will be no increase in retired player pensions or benefits. It is apparent that the NFLPA does not want the money to come out of the 60% of revenues that owners have been providing, because under the current system any money that is set aside for retired player benefits takes away from what active players can give themselves in salary and benefits. While we are grateful for the previous increases to retired player’s pensions, the donations to the PAT and Player Care Funds and the new benefits provided through the NFL Alliance, we know that more can be done to help the pioneers of the NFL, particularly those players that had no meaningful NFL Disability Plan and have had to struggle with medical bills that have negatively affected their finances, and ultimately their families. The current NFL Disability plan does not cover most of the former players and as such, a substantial increase in the pension plan is the best way to address the “quality of life” for those forgotten professional football players that laid the foundations of the NFL. We are concerned that instead of increasing the Pension Plan to help ALL vested players, the NFLPA has established other “retirement type” accounts and benefits that are only available to post 1993 players. Five free years of medical benefits after retirement and a Health Reimbursement Account are wonderful benefits that post 1993 players enjoy. The Annuity Plan and the Second Career Savings Accounts have approximately 1.5 Billion in assets. Those plans have only been in effect since 1998 and 1993 respectively, but the combined assets of those two plans are already greater than the assets of the NFL Pension Plan – which has been in existence for over 50 years. The NFL Pension Plan has approximately $927,400,000 in assets based on the most recent reports. The fact is, all retirement funds for both active and retired players come from owner money allocated under the league’s salary cap. In 2008 this amounted to $23 million in benefits per team, or $736 million. Only $80 million of that $736 million is currently being paid out to retirees – or their beneficiaries because they have died. Unfortunately, former players are dying at a rate of about 130 per year. Many of those die under serious financial strains due to minimal pension payments and an inability to be fully insured due to injuries sustained while playing in the NFL. With this in mind, we the undersigned, as former players of the National Football League call on both the NFL and NFLPA to stop the meaningless rhetoric and political pandering concerning issues related to our quality of life. We further call on the NFL and NFLPA to begin serious and meaningful dialogue, outside the constraints of a new CBA, on an immediate increase of pensions for ALL retired NFL players. Finally, we call on the NFL and NFLPA to make significant improvements to the disability plan (Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan) that will reflect a strong adherence to ERISA laws and give retired NFL players the due process afforded by the plans own Rules.