The NFLPA is losing the “Trust” of Legacy Players

Dear Alumni: 

The NFLPA just recently decided how they would spend the $240 Million that was set aside in the 2011 CBA for former player programs and services. 

They have established another “Trust.”    

As you know, we already have the Gene Upshaw PAT (Player Assistance Trust). That “Trust” fund was set up to benefit former players in need, but several years ago the Trustees said that not enough former players were applying, so they started using the money for other purposes. Here is a link to my article about this issue: Where does the Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust fund money go?

It is interesting to note that the NFL Films Settlement has also established a “Common Good Fund” for retired players in need. But why would they do that if the NFLPA can’t even find enough former players in need of their Trust funds.  Is that why the NFL put language in the NFL Films Settlement saying that any unspent money from the “Common Good Fund” would revert back to them?  My guess is yes.

Now, getting back to the Trust………

Andre Collins, the Director of Retired Players for the National Football League Players Association, sent me an email message on October 31, 2013 saying “Hope all is well – Can we schedule a quick call tomorrow? I want to have a phone introduction between you and the Executive Director of the Trust – Bahati Van Pelt.”  

I responded by saying “Call me around 11:00 am.”  

I’m still waiting for my call.

I don’t know what Andre and Mr. Van Pelt wanted to discuss, but I’m sure it had something to do with selling me on the benefits of the new “Trust.”

I probably won’t be getting a call after this article is posted, but that’s ok because my ideas and opinions – and that of a majority of older retired players – don’t really matter to the men that are calling the shots at the NFLPA.  I don’t blame Andre for not getting back to me.  He serves at the pleasure of DeMaurice Smith and that is where he gets his marching orders.

Unfortunately, the NFLPA leadership still doesn’t seem to understand why the older generation of former players has lost so much “trust” in them.

I will give the NFLPA credit for making the services under the “Trust” available to non-vested players with at least two credited seasons, but the types of services they are proposing appear to be duplicative and just more of the “same old – same old.”

The services are predominantly targeted toward the more recently retired players – many of whom already qualify for numerous other benefits like the Annuity Plan, Second Career Savings Plan, Health Reimbursement Account, Tuition Assistance, 5 free years of medical after retirement and the option of staying on the NFL’s Group Health Insurance policy. Here’s a link to read more about those programs and the extraordinary amount of money that is already being pumped into those benefits: NFL Player salaries and benefits under the CBA.    

Obviously, the recent retirees are more “marketable” and therefore more valuable to the NFLPA. I get that, but even so, they should do more to level the playing field. The fact is, the Trust just creates more imbalance that favors the recent retirees over the older generation of former players.      

This is how the $240 Million under the “Trust” is being used:   

Brain and Body Evaluations:  

This service is only available to players that have retired within the last 15 years.  Isn’t that special! The proposed Concussion Settlement will provide $75 million for baseline brain and cognitive evaluations for all former players, including those that have retired in past 15 years, so why are they paying the Trust to do this?  

The Player Care Foundation also has the Neurological Care program that provides retired players with access to comprehensive brain evaluations. Read about it on Dave Pear’s Blog at this link: Another new playa care benefit.  

And last, but not least, the NFL Alumni Association has set up the Maximized Living Program to help with brain and body evaluations and health services.

That’s four different sources providing essentially the same types of services. Duplication at its finest! 

Career Transition Services: How many former players really need this?  Thousands of former players have already made the transition from football to a career. Actually, there are more former players who have retired from their careers than those who are still working. 

The NFL also provides Career Transition programs for former players. Check out their programs at this link: NFL Player Engagement.  The NFL Alumni Association is doing career transition programs too.

How many Career Transition programs do we need? 

Financial Education:  Again, this might be useful for some of the more recently retired players that have a lot of money in the bank, but most former players don’t need financial education. We need financial aid (money) for school tuition or advanced training – just like the NFLPA provides to the more recent retirees under the “Tuition Assistance Reimbursement Plan.”  That benefit pays for tuition, room and board and books. Most former players are not eligible for that benefit.  So why didn’t the Trust” pay for that type of service?  

Health and Nutrition:  Give me a break!  Anyone can Google “Health and Nutrition” and read everything they need to know about leading a healthy life and developing good eating habits. Better yet, just turn on your television and tune into Dr. Oz every day of the week. If they really wanted to help the old school players, they could have assisted the guys that don’t have health insurance. The Trust could have helped them by paying a portion of their premiums for the insurance they are required to purchase under the Affordable Care Act.  

Physical Fitness: If the NFLPA really wanted to help us stay in shape, they could have paid our annual Health Club fees. The average annual fee for an individual membership is $500 to $700. A family membership is $800 to $1,000. The NFLPA used to provide free memberships for former players, but they stopped doing that about 20 years ago. I find it hard to believe that the NFLPA can’t partner with a major fitness club like Bally’s, Gold’s Gym or 24 Hour Fitness to provide this type of benefit.

Maybe the NFLPA thinks that the “Common Good Fund” established under the NFL Films Settlement will pay for some, or all of the benefits I have recommended in this article. I’ll believe that……..when I see it.

If you can use any of the services under the “Trust”, then by all means, take advantage of the opportunity. I’m just disappointed that they didn’t gear more of the services to the pre-1993 players. 

They call us the “Legacy” players of pro football, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like it’s all just lip service.  

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the old school players got played again because we put our “Trust” in the NFL Players Association and expected them to do the right thing. They gave the recent retirees a big turkey with all the stuffings and all we got was a wishbone.

Feel free to post your comments below this article. I’m curious to find out how many of you like – or dislike – the new Trust and the services they are proposing.

Your alumni brother, 

Jeff  

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About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on November 27, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. If you really want to help the men who played this great game in the past there are only two significant ways needed that would help nearly all of us tremendously. Use this settlement money to provide health insurance and real increases to the pension. I bet if you had a vote of all us former players about these two benefits it would receive and overwhelming approval as to the use of all these ” trust ” funds. There is far too much red tape with the other ways of helping guys out. Also, much more room for abuse of the funds.

    Scott Kozak ( Houston Oilers 89′-93′)

  2. "A. D." ANTHONY D. LASTER

    Jeff, I fully agree with all of your comments. Unfortunately, they are very true!

    Every time I try and access assistance with tuition or financial help, it’s the same old sob-story! Sorry we cannot help you. All of these assistant programs for “us” but the real “us” keep getting, “sorry you don’t qualify”. Whenever you get pattern responses like this, it’s intentionally done!

    Thanks – Jeff

  3. Well Jeff this really sums it up. The kind of article I love to forward to friends and family for them to see just how frustrating every one of these so called great deals is for us. I would say it’s right on the money but there is no money. The best way to make someone see just how crazy and terrible these deals are for us is to do the math. Anytime we get one of these great deals i.e. the concussion settlement…just tell them to divide it by the thirty-two teams and divide it again by the twenty year payout and WOW each team pays about one million dollars a year. A crippling, yes pun intended, expense for them!!! Really? And we took this settlement so players that are in need now can get some help? Who made that decision? The owners jumped all over that deal. They’re off the hook for what they really knew about what concussions were doing to us and for only a million dollars a year. Gatorade money!
    Sorry for the rant but yesterday was Thanksgiving and I’m still wondering what to give thanks for after six years in the NFL? The love of the game and the comradery? For sure! I would do it again, especially these days when I see how the modern player is paid and taken care of after football. Information can be a wonderful but frustrating thing. Thanks Jeff for all you do.
    Bill Cooke

    • Bill, you are spot on with these so called deals. Only things that would really help us retired guys is health coverage and better pension benefits. These deals always avoid those two areas. Big Surprise!!

      Scott Kozak. ( Houston Oilers 89′-93′ )

      • Scott,
        So true. The health coverage is key and how can that be difficult for the owners or the NFL Alumni to look into? Have they even tried. Doubtful? If they can do it for current players can they at least look into it for us? Have they? You would think as a group some kind of policy would be doable. Hey Jeff, what about a survey?

  4. Let’s face it, we were bought off and did not get a kiss. The Legacy Fund is our appeasement and in ten years it will be gone because there will just not be enough of us for them to worry about. I am dismayed by the lack of leadership by the Former Players BOD and for that matter the rubber stamp NFL Alumni organization. When will we learn to unite and fight for our rightful place regarding our contributions to the NFL?

  5. Jeff, I am the wife of a retired player from the era of the early 1960’s. I am really offended by the way the NFL, NFLPA and some of the current rich players treat and make comments about the older retired players. They make the salaries and conditions they play under because of the older retired players and or not willing to help them get what they need. In this NFL films suit does the judge have access to all the previous stupid trust funds that the NFL owners have supposedly set up for these retired players and how they are set up and if not used by or approved by the stupid people in charge that that money is given back to the NFL???????

    • I don’t think the Judge that approved the NFL Films Settlement has any idea that there are already programs and services that are giving former players “in need” money through the NFLPA PAT fund or the NFL Player Care Foundation. As I mentioned, they are aren’t even giving all of that money to players because they say there aren’t enough former players applying for the funds. It might have something to do with the “criteria” and eligibility restrictions they put on receiving any funds.

  6. Jeff, what you really learn after a few years is the fact these owners do not have a former players best interest at heart. Pro football was a great fill in while you made a little money, figured out your off season business, and took care of your injuries. I say taking care of your injuries, because you get hurt.
    In some cases those injuries run you out of the league eventually, and you are left to deal with them each day of your life, because you will require medical attention from now on.
    I watch these owners today as they strut around like peacocks, preening in front of a crowd as the current players continue the sham.
    I happen to see our lawyer who is hired to represent the Association on TV the other day. I don’t know him, but I will tell you he is not a first class attorney. He has no horsepower, and of this I am sure. Those owner’s attorneys eat his lunch! We will never beat them.
    Unless we gave someone sharp enough to deal with sharks, we are finished.
    One last point. I have had over 20 operations on my legs, hands, and back. I have been fortunate enough to have had success in business. Does that mean I want to give up any claim against the Sharks, I say hell no! What would they do?

    Taz Anderson
    6 years with the Cards and Falcons
    1961-67

  7. Frank Marchlewski / November 30, 2013 / 12:30 AM THE TRUST a NEW PLAN ! Suggested new Ideas. ALL FORMER PLAYERS need more Health Benefits to help needs of FORMER PLAYERS. 242 Million Budget– (1) Cover AARP Supplement coverage per month $200.00 or more. (2) Cover LONG TERM CARE PLAN including PRE- EXISTING CONDITIONS. Build a better Quality of LIFE for FORMER PLAYERS in OUR AGE BRACKET. 50% OF Former Players did not pass coverage at Transamerica. We need ACTIVE , QUALITY ANSWSERS. Frank Marchlewski– Vested 6 year veteran 1965-1970 Rams and Atlanta Falcons

  8. NFLPA, stands for, Nothing For Legacy Players Anytime. Why would any former player send a dime to the NFLPA for membership. They get your money you get no representation.

  9. Jeff i agree with you on the comments. Thanks for keeping the old players in the game. Help the old players.

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