I celebrated my 60th Birthday on October 13th this year, so I was literally in diapers when the Player’s Union came into existence. Twenty-three years later, I would begin my NFL career and become part of an exclusive brotherhood of men who got paid to play a game they loved.
Unfortunately, the game - and those who owned it – didn’t really love us in return. I often hear friends and fans jokingly tell me I was born too early…. and then ask me if I would like to be playing today and making the kind of money the current players are earning. Obviously no one can do anything about when they were born, but asking me if I would like to make an average starter salary of just over $2 million a year, is like asking me if I would like to breath. For the record, the average salary for the top 100 players in the NFL is $11.6 million and the least they can pay a player is $450,000.
It doesn't hurt to remind everyone that it wasn't always like this. I don’t have to tell most of you how hard it was to build and organize the union in the early years. And many of you know what it was like like to go on strike to fight for fair wages, safer playing conditions and better benefits.
“When it’s all said and done, I hope we can all say we gave our all; We did what was fair; We did what was right; And it was worth it, because everyone before you had been willing to sacrifice. We can’t be any different.” – Gene Upshaw, Executive Director of the NFLPA speaking to active players
Those were the final words delivered in the NFLPA’s video commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the NFL Players Association. The video is very inspirational and I encourage everyone to watch it. I think it should be mandatory viewing for the current players, because they need to see how far the union has come and why their wages, playing conditions and benefits are so good.
The video will serve as a great reminder to all the current players when they begin the process of negotiating a new collective bargain agreement just a few years from now. We were willing to sacrifice for them and therefore they must be willing to sacrifice for us.
The NFLPA is 60 years old and getting stronger, but so are the former NFL players that have come together and united on many different issues. We are 20,000 strong…… and we still have a voice!
Here’s a suggestion: At our Buffalo Bills Alumni meeting last night, we circulated the Petition and had a signature sheet for everyone to sign. The President of our Chapter, Ed Rutkowski, will be sending the signatures to Tom Mack for inclusion in this petition drive.
And one last suggestion…..
Email Tom Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that you are in support of the petition. He can print out your confirmation of support and include it in the count.
The NFL Alumni Association recently sent former players a message from Tom Mack (HOF 1999) regarding a petition to provide an additional increase to the pensions of players that were vested before 1993. Please check out the petition below my comments.
As you all know, the NFL and NFLPA negotiated a Legacy Benefit for former players in the 2011 CBA. In the opinion of many former players, the Legacy Benefit did not go far enough in adequately and equitably funding the pensions of players that did so much to build the foundations of the NFL.
Pro Football Hall of Fame players were instrumental in helping the pre-1993 vested players get pension increases in the last CBA negotiations. 80 Hall of Fame players signed a letter asking the active players to establish a rookie wage scale - and use the money saved - to increase the pensions of pre-1993 players.
The wives of Pro Football Hall of Fame players have been getting into the action and have been meeting with members of NFL Management to address the pension plan and see if they can come to some type of agreement on what needs to be done.
The petition that Tom Mack has presented on behalf of the HOF wives would - if accepted by the NFL owners - increase pensions by $305 per credited season.
I'm not sure about other former players, but for me personally, that type of increase would be a dream come true. The NFL wouldn't hear a peep out of me for the rest of my life - with respect to pre-1993 player pensions. If I had to guess, I would say that most pre-1993 vested players would agree that pension parity would be achieved with an increase of that magnitude.
I would still like to see the NFL and the NFLPA agree to level the playing field and set the vesting requirement at three years for allformer players. Additionally, it would be nice to see the NFL owners do what Major League Baseball did for their unvested pioneer players. On April 21, 2011, Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players Association agreed to make payments to former players from the 1947 – 1980 seasons who didn't qualify for the league's pension benefit plan. Prior to 1980, only players with at least four years of service time qualified for a pension. Under the agreement, former players with one, two or three credited seasons received payments of as much as $10,000 over a two year period.
For now, let's concentrate on the issue at hand. Let's make sure the NFL owners know that we support the efforts of the HOF players and their wives. Please download the petition to your computer. It can then be signed digitally and sent as an attachment to an email to email@example.com.
Over the years, many former players have asked me what they can do to get more involved in advocating for better benefits. Well, this is their opportunity to make a difference. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition and send it to Tom Mack today. If you want to include your own recommendations for pension parity, include that in your email.