The subject of retired players’ benefits and the problems for disabled players has once again come to the forefront. The Associated Press reports that National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA union head Gene Upshaw plan to testify at a Senate hearing Tuesday which will cover the NFL’s retirement system and the problems thta face current retired who are disabled due to injuries.
Scheduled to be at the hearing are former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka and former Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers; Senator Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota will chair the hearing. The most pressing issue which will no doubt be discussed at the hearing is the pverall state of the NFL’s pension system. Ditka has been widely known about his views of the penssion system currently in place, being critical of the system and hoping some reform to the system takes place.
Dorgan, in a statement by his office, states, “Football generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. But injuries, many of which last a lifetime, are also part of the game. Many players say the NFL’s retirement system seeks to delay, or avoid altogether, paying disability payments to players with long term injuries. The NFL says those complaints are overstated. The committee wants the facts.” The NFL’s position on the matter has been that the pensions are steadily improving and there is no need for Congress to intervene.
Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, told the Associated Press, “Our collectively bargained package of retirement, medical and disability benefits is substantial and has grown steadily over the past two decades. Both current players and retirees have benefited through the improvements in these benefits.” The NFL’s pension system, ran by a board that’s appointed by both the team owners and the NFLPA, does have its work cut out for it at the upcoming hearing.
I obviously have not seen the financial books that the league keeps, but assuming that the league makes billions of dollars, I would like to know myself this – out of every dollar of income made by the NFL, what amount of that dollar does in fact go into the player’s pension plan? And I would also like to see a full accounting of at least the past three years of league financial statements. At the very least, with Ditka in attendance, the hearing should at be “interesting”.