This weekend, I received an insightful e-mail back from our SS Disability attorney friend, John Hogan, with his observations about the proposed Alliance Plan from Commissioner Goodell. I told him I’d try calling Sarah Gaunt again on Monday morning.
So this morning, I called the Union office again to ask about this new plan and the call was picked up by a ‘CJ’ who apparently runs the front desk (or screens our calls). I told her who I was and asked to speak with Sarah regarding some questions I had. I was put on hold for about 5 minutes. When she finally came back on the line, she told me that Sarah was “busy” (again) and couldn’t take my call. So I asked her if I could pose the questions to her instead, to which she told me that she was “busy with other calls.” To which I asked her what the difference was with MY call and any other calls she might have. She again put me on hold and then hung up on me a couple of minutes later without coming back on the line.
After posting Dave’s application to Commissioner Goodell’s Alliance, we felt it was as good a time as any to follow up with an old interview Sports Blogger, Michael David Smith, had with Dave in 2006 for Football Outsiders.
Remembering Those Who Paved the Way
I got a lot of e-mails and one phone call in response to my column on Al Davis this week. That phone call was from Dave Pear, a former Raiders lineman who disagreed with the kind words I had for Davis. My column this week stems from my conversation with Pear.
I sent this to Mr. Lawrence Lamade at the law firm of Akin Gump, who has represented the League for over 30 years and was directed by the Commissioner’s office to assist me in providing information from my union (the NFLPA) because I have been unsuccessful in obtaining my benefits. To date, Mr. Lamade has also been unsuccessful in obtaining this information for me. If you look over the attached documents, you’ll see that in 1981 and in 1984, my injuries were well-documented by reputable doctors and clinics (my surgeon was no less than the Dean of Neurosurgery at the Stanford Medical Center) and clearly football-related. Additionally, the Social Security Administration has already recognized and acknowledged my work-related injury with their documentation and I’ve been receiving Social Security Disability since July 2004. Although the NFLPA disqualified me for disability in the 80’s, when I finally submitted my application to Social Security in 2003, they completed their review quickly and with certainty that my injuries were work-related and therefore qualified for SS disability. And the letter from the NFL’s own neutral doctor in 1995 acknowledged the extent of my deteriorating condition and permanent disability as a substantial disablement, as well as the limitations to my mobility and activities.
Two questions come to mind: 1) Was the NFL & the NFLPA clearly incorrect in their arbitrary decisions to deny my claims in 1983 and 1995 and 2) Should my compensation be retroactive if decided in my favor now that I’m re-presenting my documentation with an irrefutable ruling from the Social Security Administration (and the Court of Public Opinion)?
Additionally, I would hope that an affirmative ruling in my favor will make it easier for all of my fellow players who are suffering with me.
In helping Dave out with his blog, I often get really caught up in everyone’s frustrations. So yesterday, I posted a call-to-arms to The Donald himself. We need to bring the big guns in to help the disabled players in their battle to get justice. And it starts with firing Gene Upshaw. A little bit of levity doesn’t hurt either. My post is HERE.
I’m scratching my head after reading a new article in Business Week today about Vikram Pandit, the new CEO of Citigroup, the largest bank in the world. Apparently, for his stellar performance in steadying the company after its mortgage-related crisis, the new CEO was paid a princely total of $3.16 million in salary and perks. I keep coming back to Gene Upshaw’s salary of $6 million+ for heading the NFLPA last year and wondering what incredible feats of management he must have performed to deserve an even more generous salary than the CEO of the largest bank in the world. I mean, I’m sure the guy also knows the law and can certainly read but… Ah, inquiring minds want to know.
With so much being posted in the media and on blogs, we somehow missed this incredible piece by Dennis Schaal from CRO (Corporate Responsibility Officer). The article is detailed analysis of the history and evolution of how the NFL and NFLPA ended up in the antagonistic position they find themselves today, along with some suggestions and solutions for resolving a lot of the problems they’re facing with the increasingly visible and growing number of disabled retired players.
Keeping all of the various participants separated and uninformed is no longer an option now that everything is available for everyone to see at the push of a button. It seems that the Internet continues to prove itself as a field-levelling tool, often in surprising ways.
“The NFL and the union are no longer adversaries but instead complicit.” When the owners gave the players the power over the money, that took the responsibility away from the owners and put it on the players.
Morris says, “So the first thing a player does is act like an owner. Putting the NFL and particularly the NFLPA and its trustees in charge of the welfare and benefits of the retired players is like putting the Klan in charge of civil rights. It fundamentally cannot work.”
Tony Davis (No. 25 Huskers in ’74!) sent in additional comments on key points in the proposed NFLPA Disability Plan:
Not only does the NFLPA feed informaton to the Active players that is inaccurate. (You’ve heard Upshaw say that the benefits WE get come out of the pockets of Active players.) That is a lie and he knows it, although he can also say, “he meant that any moneys allocated for the Retired Players come out of the Active players’ share.” Again BS, because those same Pension allotments and the Disability Plan are all a negotiated settlement made by Upshaw in the last CBA and are for the Active Players as well. All this does not even take into account how Upshaw has the conventions separated for Active and Retired Players. (What is the reason for not having your experienced Retired Players at the same table as your Active Players?) This goes against all conventional wisdom and there are definitely reasons why Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA Board want to keep Active Players away from Retired Players. This culture of “Separation and False Dichotomy” has got to stop.
We just received a letter from Fredia Jackson, a close friend of Dwight Harrison. As most of you know, Dwight played in the NFL for 12 years with the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills, the Baltimore Colts and the Oakland Raiders during the old glory days when OJ Simpson was a rising star. Dwight was in the news video with Mike Ditka.
A letter about my friend, Dwight Harrison.
I am writing this letter to highlight the struggle Dwight has had attempting to get compensation from one of the world’s largest networks. As many of you know, Dwight played professional football for 12 seasons and he currently suffers from multiple illnesses. He has no income from the NFLPA and has run into endless objections from the Social Security Administration.
John Hogan – an Attorney who specializes in Disability for over 25 years – asks: What is a promise?
Subject: Commissioner Goodell’s Alliance 2/29/08
In June of 2007, NFLPA representative Doug Ell testified to the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law ( Washington DC) that the NFL and NFLPA, “recently agreed to immediately grant T(otal)&P(ermanent) disability benefits to players already receiving social security disability”. However, this has not been the case. More than 7 months have passed and we are still waiting. This is contrary to what was promised to Congress. My suggestion is, “make your yes mean yes and your no mean no”.
The Lowell Sun covered the public panel that John Hannah and a group of former NFL players held on March 4th at UMass’ Lowell Hall. The two-hour meeting publicized the ongoing battle between an increasingly vocal group of retired injured players who have been consistently ignored and sidelined by their former teammates and union reps who now oversee the distribution of assistance funds. Gene “Hog” Upshaw (as John Hannah and several other players now call Upshaw) was a no-show and was the subject of much discussion regarding his $6 million salary and his lack of concern for the very players he’s supposed to be representing. Read the article HERE.
NFL great John “Hog” Hannah is transferring his name over to Gene Upshaw so we can now officially refer to him as Gene “Hog” Upshaw.
In a scathing interview by Bill Burt of the Eagle Tribune, Hannah talks about the never-ending injuries that continue to plague him and a countless number of his former teammates in their lives after football. He also announced a media event that was hosted at University of Massachusetts Lowell Hall with other panelists that included NFL Hall of Famers and ex-Patriots John Hannah and Andre Tippett, ex-Patriots Don Hasselbeck and Ted Johnson, ex-Seahawk and Redskin Peter Cronan and ex-Colt Bruce Laird. Read the rest of the story HERE.
RetiredPlayers.org has done an analysis of the upcoming Expanded Disability Plan that was apparently hashed out on February 2008 with the NFL, the NFLPA and the NFL Alliance. From their post:
“The National Football League and National Football League Players Association announced an “expanded disability benefits program” through a press release on February 29, 2008. A copy of the release may be viewed by clicking HERE.
The changes to the disability plan were reviewed at a downtown Washington law office during a meeting of the NFL Alliance on Thursday, February 28, 2008. Ten “former players” attended the meeting, according to the press release, including Troy Vincent, who currently serves active players as NFLPA President. Other attendees included Roger Goodell, Gene Upshaw, NFL Alumni President Frank Krauser, and Pro Football Hall of Fame President and Executive Director Steve Perry.
Through the press release, the NFL and union announced four agreements which they claim would “significantly expand eligibility for disability benefits and increase the amount of the benefit paid to certain recipients.”