We got this terrific commentary from another NFL great – none other than Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson. His letter speaks for itself:
An Open Message from Hollywood Henderson to Roger Goodell and Gene Upshaw on the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan
In 1987, Gene Upshaw convinced me to accept the lesser non-football disability benefit. He told me that Darryl Stingley was the disability standard for the league. I broke my neck in a Miami Dolphins uniform. I broke vertebrae C-1 with a burst and cracked C-2. He said the Board was not gonna give me the FOOTBALL Benefit. So at that point, I was afraid an arbitrator would deny me everything. So for 18 years, I collected the non-football disability benefit. It averaged around $1,200.00 a month. My rightful benefit should have been $4,000.00 a month.
The problem has always been that my disability was FOOTBALL. I still remember the day I BROKE MY NECK AT THE ORANGE BOWL on a tackle against the Chiefs in a pre-season game wearing a Dolphins uniform in August 1981. I was never hurt anywhere else. I never played another down of football. I deserved that $4,000.00 a month benefit then and still do now. I’m still disabled. On top of it all, my insurance company calls my neck injury a pre-existing condition and doesn’t cover my neck at all.
Never one to pull any punches, Cleveland Browns’ all-time great, Bernie Parrish, calls it like it is in this e-mail I received just last week:
The Pellman-Aon Corporation (Bears owner Patrick Ryan’s company our retirement plan actuary) Alliance meets again today. Elliot Pellman who falsified his medical resume and got caught by the NY Times saying he had a degree from SUNY Stony Brook that made him qualified as an expert on brain injuries when he did not. Dr. Pellman is a rheumatologist with a degree from Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico not from SUNY Stony Brook appointed by Paul Tagliabue to be the NFL’s concussion expert. Elliot Pellman heading up another NFL PR farce is a cruel joke. He knows too much for the owner’s or their current puppet in the Commissioner’s office to fire him so they created a joint replacement scam to fit his degree, if in fact he really has one. Though almost any full service hospital in America have doctors who can replace joints. This new Goodell sham limits disabled players to 14 hospitals around the country who give the Pellman-Aon Alliance Program a special deal after you, the disabled retired player put up the first $5,000 for your surgery.
When I was building hotels, office, medical buildings for the government, and college dorms and other institutional buildings around the mid-West, the South West in my general contracting company I carried disability insurance, even though the premiums were high. When one of my workers was injured he went to the nearest hospital or one of his choice and got the treatment he needed and my disability insurance carrier paid for it. That might have been in Chicago, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Indianapolis, St. Louis, San Antonio, Galveston or Atlanta or wherever else I was completing a construction project. All NFL Clubs should be carrying their own disability insurance paying their own premiums like every other business in America; not dumping their employee’s disability insurance on those employees retirement plan to escape the cost as well as avoiding paying any disability insurance premiums.
Goodell’s Pellman-Aon Alliance allows them to get part of the expense from NFL Alumni and other entities thus reducing the cheap skate NFL owner’s costs even further.
Last Friday, February 29th, I made another attempt to get some clarity and answers to a few questions regarding my NFL Retirement Plan. I’ve been careful to document and note each of my calls and faxes so you’ll see my notations on the copy of my original request letter to the Retirement Board. I sent the details over to my friends at Gridiron Greats with a cover e-mail:
Dear Gridiron Greats,
When I called our Retirement Board today at (1 800 638-3186) requesting administrative answers they hung up on me. Please read my attachment which I fax to Sarah Gaunt (I asked for her email but I was denied) and let me know if – in your opinion – she is following the terms of the Bert Bell Plan. My opinion is, “No, she is not.”
Now the Union Review’s blog has picked up on our plight and covered two recent stories in their synopsis. Gene Upshaw (and hi new protegé, Domonique Foxworth) looks to be among the very few people who still just don’t get it. Unions are supposed to repreent their card-carrying, union-dues-paying members!
Maybe it’s just too simple for you but even the other unions agree: We’re all getting screwed! We need better representation now. (Hey – did anyone else notice that Domonique is actually normally spelled ‘Dominique’? But I guess knowing how to read and spell is a prerequisite to be head of the NFLPA, right? My spell checker keeps trying to correct it.)
Last Sunday (February 24th) in The Denver Post, the Bronco’s Domonique Foxworth chimed in with his comments on what he calls Gene Upshaw Bashing. It didn’t take long for Fourth and Goal’s Bruce Laird to post a response to Foxworth’s idiotic statements (see below). Having personally known Dave for several years now and watching his dramatic deterioration over that time, I also couldn’t stop myself from adding my two-bits worth as well. Guess this guy wants to be Gene Upshaw’s protegé when he leaves the field (some other players might call it something else…). I can’t wait to see what HE looks like in 20 more years.
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.” . Read the rest of his testimonyHERE.
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?
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.
If 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.
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!
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.
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.”
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:
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]