Mike Ditka’s 2007 Senate Testimony on the NFL Retirement System

A lot of the most recent publicity around the NFL’s retirement plan and the NFLPA’s disability program (or lack thereof), came out of last year’s September 2007 Senate hearings. Mike Ditka provided some of the strongest testimony:

“I’ve talked about some of the things we know about the Bert Bell Plan.  But it’s just as important to point out what we don’t know, and what I hope this Committee can help find out through the hearing and oversight process. Right now, the Plan gives out virtually no information about the number of players receiving disability benefits, how many people get each type of benefit, even the total dollars paid out each year for disability. The information that gets handed out by the Plan– only in response to Congressional and media scrutiny – is fragmentary and unreliable. What we really need is full disclosure by the Bert Bell Plan of all the key information behind the disability benefits, so that the retired players, and the union, can negotiate for better procedures, changes in the way the Plan is administered, and more money for disabled retirees. I hope that this kind of necessary disclosure is one result of this Committee’s work, and I look forward to working with you so that the great men who built this league can lead lives of dignity after their retirement.”
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Read the rest of his testimony HERE.

And the entire day’s hearings are archived here:

Forbes Sports Money: The NFLPA should be ashamed of itself

Michael K. Ozanian is National Editor at Forbes and writes in his Sports Money blog today about the NFLPA’s ridiculous case against the NFL’s new debt plan. Thanks, Michael and Forbes. You get it. With so many people getting it, is Gene Upshaw the only guy on the planet who doesn’t?

Forbes Forbes Sports Money

NFL Players Association Fumbles

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An Open Request to All NFL PLayers Past and Present

Dear Retired Players (and Current Players):

I have been trying to obtain a complete set of original plan documents for over 4 months and I have not been successful. So far (The Groom Law Group) and (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld) have sent me the following plan documents (see attachment). The problem is they are different and none are the originals as I have requested. In fact, (The Groom Law Group) sent 2 different 1976 plans and (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld) sent 1 1976 plan but all 3 are different!

Many of you have asked what can I do to help?

Please go through all of your NFL retirement papers and see if you have any (bound booklets) that say (Plan Document) on the cover. Then email me and tell me which ones you have. Once I put together a complete list, I will then ask for these different (Plan Documents) so I can post them on DavePear.com. That way, we’ll all have easy access to this important information so we can move on to the next step.

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A Post on Retired NFL Players from Sandra Unitas

My e-mail back to a touching letter from Sandra Unitas, widow of NFL Great, Johnny Unitas.

Dear Sandra,

Thank you for your inspiring letter. You have my promise that Heidi and I will continue to fight the good fight.

Sincerely,
Dave & Heidi Pear

Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2008

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Not Like the Real World

Sports Business NewsIf any of you had even thought remotely that the NFL and the NFLPA is actually run like a real-world business, a new piece by Daniel Kaplan in Sports Business Journal should dispel any of those notions once and for all. After Gene Upshaw’s compensation last year was revealed to be over $6 million (including “bonuses”), newly disclosed tax returns from the league revealed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell received $6.5 million for his 7 months of work last year. That translates into a whopping $11.2 million annual salary for the new commissioner. I’m not sure what you have to do to earn almost $1 million a month in salary but a lot of us can list a lot of things he’s not doing. Read Daniel Kaplan’s article HERE.

Roger Goodell

Old Fans Send Encouragement

I’m getting more and more e-mails like this from old fans near and far. Thanks to each and every one of you for your good thoughts to Heidi and me!

Sir,

Thank you for including me in this e-mail. If the average fan could see how the league treats its former players there would be a backlash, thelikes that they have never seen.

This is an outrage that you have to fight for what any reasonable person can observe is your legal compensation for your service in the NFL. If there is anything I can do to assist you in this endeavor, please let me know. I live in Northern Virginia so if you needed my assistance, for whatever reason with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, just ask.

My retirement from the U.S. Army was approved two weeks ago. I will be able to work as a civilian in Mid-Late Nov 08. My passion is sports and specifically football. I can think of no better calling than to find some way I could use my 20 years of military experience to work on behalf of players such as yourself in the NFL.

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Full Video of GridIron Greats Press Conference Sept. 2007

Here’s the full 1 hour and 14 minute video from September 2007 with Mike Ditka. From the posting itself:

“Twelve ex-National Football League (NFL) players participated in a press conference, on September 18, 2007, at the 101 Lounge, near Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C. The session was sponsored by the “Gridiron Greats.” The players, led by the legendary Mike Ditka, ex-Chicago Bears’ tight end and coach, are outraged over what they perceive as the gross inadequacy, the unfair maintenance and the mean-spirited manner in which the retirement, health insurance, and disability plan/system, established by the NFL, supposedly, on their behalf, is set up and administered. Heard and seen on the video, but not necessarily in the order of their appearance, besides coach Ditka, are: Delvin Williams, Dwight Harrison, Dave Pear, Conrad Dobler, Gale Sayers, Eugene “Mercury” Morris, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Mike Pyle, Sam Huff, Brent Boyd and Walter Beach.”

Gene Upshaw says He & NFLPA Don’t Represent Retired Players

You know, after reading and re-reading Michael Leahy’s piece from the Washington Post, I started to focus in on another one of Gene Upshaw’s gems from the article:

Gene Upshaw Lies Again

A lot of the other retired players have talked to me about these comments and something just kept bothering us. Then the other day, I happened to pull my NFLPA membership card out of my wallet and did a double take. Check out the wording on the front and back of the card for yourself:

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NPR Interview with The Washington Post’s Michael Leahy

NPR

NPR interviewed Michael Leahy right after his piece came out in the Sunday Washington Post, The Pain Game, previously posted on this blog. From NPR’s site:

“Dozens of former pro football players say the NFL and the NFL players union should do more to help with pension and disability payments after their years of playing through pain and injury. Michael Leahy of the Washington Post tells the story of retired Super Bowl champion Dave Pear, who is disabled.”

Listen to the interview on NPR’s site HERE. [6 min 42 sec]

Total Pay at NFLPA Swells by 58 Percent!

By DANIEL KAPLAN
Staff writer – Sports Business Journal

Published February 18, 2008 : Page 01

Compensation at the NFL Players Association rose 58 percent in the 2007 fiscal year to more than $17 million, the group’s most recent tax return shows.

Some of that increase includes the previously disclosed doubling of Executive Director Gene Upshaw’s take, but pay to the union’s 93 other mployees during that year rose 41 percent as well, according to the return.

Upshaw said that a number of key executives left the union in the past several years, and they were entitled to take their retirement benefits upon their departure. And he added his pay reflected bonuses that he earned as far back as 2002. The departure of several key executives in recent years helped drive up the figures, Executive Director Gene Upshaw said.

The disclosure comes at a time when the union has been under heavy criticism for not doing enough about retired players with disability and other needs, so predictably, the compensation figures drew fire.

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Latest e-Mail Requests to Gene Upshaw

10th Request; Gene Upshaw; (Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan)

Feb 15, 2008

Dear Gene,

Please open (attached) and scroll down to the last paragraph. I will quote the wording, ” If you would like to review the official Retirement Plan document, please contact the Plan Administrative office at the above address.” When I follow these instructions I am told, “Contact The Groom Law Group”.

Question? Is The Groom Law Group now the Plan Administrator?

Question? It has been almost 4 months since I have contacted the Plan Administrator and I have not yet received the official retirement plan documents. What do you suggest I do?

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NFL Kicks Ailing Veterans While They’re Down

InsidebayArea.com

The title pretty much says it all.

“What about the others? The journeymen? They’re in the basement of this frigid home. There’s Donnie Green, the big tackle who blocked for O. J. Simpson during his great years in Buffalo. He now gets $400 per month and has become familiar with life in a homeless shelter.

And there’s Dave Pear, who spent most of his career with bad teams in Tampa Bay but retired a Raider, before his 30th birthday. His last game was Oakland’s win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV.

Pear had injured his spine but took painkillers and played anyway. He has since endured seven surgeries. Now 54, he needs a cane to get around. Takes 38 pills a day. His monthly pension check: $606.

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A Letter from Charlie McElheney to Gene Upshaw (CC: Dave Pear)

(Re-printed in its entirety  with permission to Dave from Charlie McElheney)

I had the opportunity and privilege to participate with the Gridiron Greats in their events recently in Arizona. I fully support this heart felt fund for retired NFL players, all including yourself Mr. Upshaw who inspired me throughout my childhood and my football years as a young man. This game of football taught me valuable lessons that prepared me for adulthood.

The greatest lesson of “TEAM” all working together to achieve one or more goal(s), responsibilities making the play, depending on each individual to execute their assignments, to play by the rules, to protect/respect each other on and off the field, and to be their for each other in time of need. It brings to mind the word “FAMILY” and those lessons learned apply in each of our daily life’s.

I would like to thank Mr. Pear and all of the Gridiron Greats for making my trip to Arizona an unbelievable /unforgettable experience.

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