Written by Jeff Nixon – Posted July 28, 2010
As most of you know, we at Fourth and Goal have asked for clarification on the wording of the “Legacy Fund” resolution that was adopted at the March 2010 Former Players NFLPA Convention in Maui, Hawaii.
Today, I received an email from Ray Shoenke (below) where he explained that the qualification criteria in the resolution was different from what he proposed. He said that his motion on the qualification criteria for receiving a Pension increase was intended for all “pre ’93 vested players”.
That is a big difference from the prior wording that said pre’ 93 players AND “players currently receiving a pension” .
On behalf of all former players, I want to thank Ray for clearing this up.
Here is Ray’s email:
I wanted to respond to your recent blog on the “Legacy Fund” Resolution. I proposed the original motion in March 2010 at the Former Players NFLPA Convention in Maui Hawaii. Prior to attending the Convention, I did a fair amount of research on this subject, having discussions with DeMaurice, NFLPA staff, and league officials. The motion was unanimously supported. As the process moved forward the minutes of the Convention were published, along with the Legacy Resolution. The qualification criterion was different than what was proposed. The motion qualification criterion that I made was for “pre ’93 vested players”. At my insistence, follow up conference calls with Chapter Presidents were held to clarify the motion as well as to discuss follow up steps for the Resolution. It was determined by the Chapter Presidents that a letter would be sent to Commissioner Goodell urging his support to set up a Legacy Fund for pre’ 93 players. I have attached a copy of that letter. It was also determined that Cornelius Bennett President of our Board, would send a letter to Congresswoman Linda Sanchez who has been very supportive of us on this issue. Once we gain a response from the Commissioner, we would then determine our next step. To date he has not responded. Jeff, be assured there was never any intention to deny or limit any pre’93 vested players pension rights. The motion was an attempt to provide needed funds for pre ’93 players, nothing more nothing less. I feel strongly that all former NFL players, (NFLPA, NFL Alumni, 4th and Goal, Hall of Fame), all of us should weigh in on this subject on behalf of all pre ’93 players. I would like to count on you for your support. Please feel free to contact me. I would welcome a follow up discussion with you. The President of your Board has my phone number.
Dallas Cowboys 1963-63
Washington Redskins 1966-75
With the Resolution wording issue finally put to rest, we can now concentrate on what needs to be done to get former players the Pensions that they deserve. In my discussions with former players, most of them would like a pension that is – at the very least - comparable to what former Major League Baseball players are receiving.
The NFLPA told us they would let us know why MLB Players receive better pensions and they said they would address the issue in a future FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on their website. That was a long time ago and we still haven’t heard the answer to that question. They did provide this statement in their current FAQ posting:
“The NFL Player Pension Fund is sometimes compared to the pension fund for Major League Baseball players, often without all of the facts being presented. A future FAQ will deal with this comparison in more detail, but the NFL Player Pension is much better funded (that is more of its obligations are covered by its assets). The baseball players’ pension plan was under-funded as of April, 2004 (the latest public filing) by $904 million, and its assets were only 60.7% of its obligations on that date. Inadequate funding creates a risk that retirees may have their benefits reduced. This is a major problem in the steel, airline, and automobile industries. The NFLPA is committed to full funding of the Pension Plan as soon as possible; so that decades from now retired NFL players will be assured of receiving the pension benefits they have been promised.”
The solution to the problem is simple: Adequately fund the Pension Plan!
The NFLPA had no problem adequately funding the Second Career Savings Plan and the Annuity Plan which currently have assets totalling 1.5 Billion. Compare that to the NFL Pension Plan which has less than 1 Billion in assets and you can see why many former players are concerned with the NFLPA statement the “The NFLPA is committed to full funding of the Pension Plan as soon as possible.”
How do we adequately fund the Pension Plan? Since 1993, all funds for the Pension Plan have come out of the 60% Salary Cap money available to active players. The NFLPA now wants the owners to fund this separately from the Salary Cap so that it does not affect the amount of money available to active players.
The owners have suggested that the NFLPA and NFL jointly provide money for the Legacy Fund. Don’t forget that the NFL is already paying active players approximately 44 million annually for the right to use their images, so it seems that there should be some possibility for compromise and shared responsibility for donating to the Legacy Fund for the use of our images. I hope that DeMaurice Smith can find a way to pry this funding from the NFL, but we hope it’s not his only “iron in the fire.”
At Fourth and Goal we have asked the NFLPA to continue to negotiate on the establishment of a Rookie Wage Scale as a solution to funding the Pension Plan. This is an area that will need compromise on both sides of the table. NFL owners should agree to limit rookie contracts to 3 or 4 years maximum and agree to a concrete plan for how the monies would be distributed to veterans and pre-1993 vested player pensions. The NFLPA will have to devise a salary scale that limits the income of rookie players.
Unfortunately, recent statements by the youngest member in the history of the NFLPA Executive committee, Dominique Foxworth do not bode well for a Rookie Salary Scale : “As far as a wage scale is concerned, it’s not something that I support. This is a pay-by-potential league. If guys got paid off what they did on the field, then guys like Tim Brown would have made a lot more money. If the team believes in rookies’ potential, then that’s what they should get paid. It’s kind of an unfair concept to change the way the league works now for those young guys just because they’re young guys and can’t defend themselves because they’re not in the league yet.”
Even though 80 NFL Hall of Fame Players can’t defend themselves at the bargaining table either, I think their call for the establishment of a Rookie Wage Scale should carry more weight than some college players that have never set foot on an NFL field?
What do you think?