FanDuel - WFBC

June 26, 2007

Congress Scolds N.F.L. and Union : The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law heard two hours of testimony, much of it from former players who said they had been wrongfully denied benefits. The hearing was scheduled after months of growing, vocal dissatisfaction expressed by former players. N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell did not attend the hearing because he was at previously scheduled meetings in Germany. Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association, who said recently that he is “concerned about the red tape” of the disability process, was on vacation in Italy.

posted by Bishop to football at 10:55 PM - 28 comments

After all the flack current players catch about where they are the night before a scheduled meeting with Roger Goodell, or not showing up for court in regards to speeding tickets or public drunkenness. The current "hammer dropping" commissioner leads perfectly by example and doesn't show for a damn congressional hearing about the state of his league and how it treats its ex-players. This bum just disgraced himself and the league with his do as I say not as I do mentality. Think he'll be punished? Think his livelihood will be threatened? Think he'll get suspended? I think Maxine Waters said it best. Maxine Waters, who is not a member of the committee, was invited to participate because her husband is the former N.F.L. player Sidney Williams. When you have the Republicans and the Democrats both coming from the same place, some thing's wrong here, it’s unusual — and we have a good opportunity to make something happen,” she said. I'm sure it's a coincidence that both Goodell and Upshaw are over seas at the same time. It can't have anything to do with marketing and trying to make money. I guess Goodell has to feed his family and that's why he couldn't cancel his "meetings". Both of these assholes have to go.

posted by Bishop at 11:22 PM on June 26

“When you have the Republicans and the Democrats both coming from the same place, some thing's wrong here, it’s unusual — and we have a good opportunity to make something happen,” It's a crying shame they can't do that with governing the country as well.

posted by dbt302 at 08:03 AM on June 27

It's a crying shame they can't do that with governing the country as well. Well, this is part of "governing the country", you know -- it's an example of looking out for employee rights. I think what you really meant to say is something more like, "It's a crying shame they can't do that when they're tossed an issue that's not a total softball." The connection with sports -- apart from the analogy -- is that sports are now providing Congress with the opportunity to take a strong stand on an issue that seems simple, straightforward and one-sided to the public. In fact, if you look beyond the superficial, both this and PDAs (the other big public Congressional sports "issue") prove to be rather nasty cans of worms. But the members who are pressing for these hearings purely in order to garner some good publicity are no doubt correct in their cynical belief that the American public isn't interested in more than a superficial take on the issues.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:10 AM on June 27

Here is a link the the committee's website. You can see the witness list and the introductory statements. In fact, if you look beyond the superficial, both this and PDAs (the other big public Congressional sports "issue") prove to be rather nasty cans of worms. But the members who are pressing for these hearings purely in order to garner some good publicity are no doubt correct in their cynical belief that the American public isn't interested in more than a superficial take on the issues. I've taken a more-than-superficial look at this issue, and I'm still having trouble seeing the gray in this issue. The NFL & the NFLPA are taking the position that the benefits are not required by law and are more than what they were in years past. Even if you take a look at the NFLPA witness statements extolling the virtues of their benefits, you will see that they don't provide medical benefits more than five years after a player leaves the NFL (and that's only for players who played at least three years.) If you look at their disability payments in light of the fact that these players won't have health insurance and certainly won't be able to get it affordably, the $100,000 or so that they provide for total disability looks completely inadequate.

posted by bperk at 09:05 AM on June 27

Well, it's an embarassment to the league, IMHO. The physical and mental cost of professional football is too high to have such a shoddy retirement plan. Also - very much the case as lbb has described. Softball politics. Equally disappointing.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:56 AM on June 27

I've taken a more-than-superficial look at this issue, and I'm still having trouble seeing the gray in this issue. "gray" != "can of worms". The NFL & the NFLPA are taking the position that the benefits are not required by law and are more than what they were in years past. Even if you take a look at the NFLPA witness statements extolling the virtues of their benefits, you will see that they don't provide medical benefits more than five years after a player leaves the NFL (and that's only for players who played at least three years.) If you look at their disability payments in light of the fact that these players won't have health insurance and certainly won't be able to get it affordably, the $100,000 or so that they provide for total disability looks completely inadequate. I agree with you 100% about this. It's also, as I have pointed out before, more than the average American worker (whose rights as an employee are also supposed to be defended by this self-same Congress) gets. There's your can of worms, and Congress does not want to go there.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:05 AM on June 27

...more than the average American worker (whose rights as an employee are also supposed to be defended by this self-same Congress) gets... The "average American worker" is not in an occupation that requires him to take frequent physical abuse that is sufficient to leave him with long-term medical problems. Those occupations that do place their workers in jeapordy have arrangements through which the workers have some protection, either through a union or through the employer. Of course there have been abuses in the past (miners with black lung, shipyard workers with mesothelioma from asbestos, etc.), but by and large these have been recognized, and some steps have been taken to set things right. I'm with the players on this one. The salary numbers that many throw around are misleading, and are the exception, not the rule. The effect of inflation on pensions and disability payments seems to have been ignored. The league and the leadership of the NFLPA both appear to culpable here.

posted by Howard_T at 10:17 AM on June 27

I've watched the NFL since I was five years old, and the more I learn about their business practices, the more disappointed I am in the organization. This smacks of greed and arrogance rarely seen outside of Donald Trump's house. I wish they'd subpoenaed both Goodall and Upshaw. While guys he played with can't even afford to go to the drugstore to buy vital medicines, Upshaw gets to jet off to Italy on vacation, and I'll just bet that when he gets an ache or pain related to his football career, he doesn't suffer for more than ten minutes. Upshaw's a stone punk, and the NFL Commissioner's Office is going the way of MLB, the NHL, and the NBA: less interested in preserving the game and/or the league, more interested in padding owners' pockets, no matter the damage to their personnel or reputation.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 10:50 AM on June 27

Although this is an unfortunate circumstance, I do still find it hard to feel bad for them. As was correctly pointed out by LBB they do recieve better benifits than the average American worker. The "average American worker" is not in an occupation that requires him to take frequent physical abuse that is sufficient to leave him with long-term medical problems. I strongly dissagree with this statement. Bad Backs, Carple Tunnel, Loss of vision & hearing, and respirtory problems are common amoung the average American worker. And most of these people do not have a union to look after them. Even if you take a look at the NFLPA witness statements extolling the virtues of their benefits, you will see that they don't provide medical benefits more than five years after a player leaves the NFL (and that's only for players who played at least three years.) Once again I must dissagree. The average American worker does not recieve a full pension or benefits without sticking with their employer for a number of years. I will not loose any sleep knowing that NFL players only get five years of benefits for 3 years of service. For goodness sakes, my reward for three years of service is an extra vacation day. And mine and the average American workers benefits end within 30 days of leaving the job. So I guess what I am trying to say is that this "Can of worms" is far larger than the NFLPA. This is softball politics and I am sick and tired of being told to feel bad for these guys. These people get special treatment in most aspects of their lives and I for one would prefer that healthcare not be one of them. On a side note: After all the flack current players catch about where they are the night before a scheduled meeting with Roger Goodell, or not showing up for court in regards to speeding tickets or public drunkenness. The current "hammer dropping" commissioner leads perfectly by example and doesn't show for a damn congressional hearing about the state of his league and how it treats its ex-players. This bum just disgraced himself and the league with his do as I say not as I do mentality. Think he'll be punished? Think his livelihood will be threatened? Think he'll get suspended? I couldn't agree more.

posted by Steel_Town at 11:43 AM on June 27

The "average American worker" is not in an occupation that requires him to take frequent physical abuse that is sufficient to leave him with long-term medical problems. Those occupations that do place their workers in jeapordy have arrangements through which the workers have some protection, either through a union or through the employer. You need to read the book "Fast Food Nation". It will give you just one example of an occupation that places workers' health in jeopardy and does not provide them with protections. Of course there have been abuses in the past (miners with black lung, shipyard workers with mesothelioma from asbestos, etc.), but by and large these have been recognized, and some steps have been taken to set things right. The problem is that this assumes that things set right can never go wrong again, that the forward march of time brings only progress and never decay. Unfortunately, in the modern American workplace, we're seeing that this is most definitely not the case. There were abuses in the past. The abuses were recognized. Some steps were taken to put things right. And then everyone stopped looking, and the corrective measures and protections were eroded...and now, I'm afraid, it's far from true that workers whose health is compromised by their work are, by and large, provided with post-retirement care and compensation by their former employers. As for pensions...what are those, again? Mind you, I'm not being an apologist for the NFL, here. I'm merely pointing out why this is an issue that, IMO, Congress will suck up to for the cameras, and then not carry to its logical conclusion (which would be like consideration for all workers, not just the formerly famous ones).

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:51 AM on June 27

I agree that Congress is not going to take a broad view of this issue and apply it to other workers. That's not unusual for Congress - that's what they did to deal with asbestos, black lung, etc. As far as I am concerned, that's better than doing nothing. Helping some people is better than helping no one. Congress is at its worst when they try to come up with broad solutions to the problems we face in this country. The average American worker does not recieve a full pension or benefits without sticking with their employer for a number of years. The average American worker comparison is silly. Name another industry where the average career lasts only four years, and workers are left with debilitating injuries.

posted by bperk at 12:08 PM on June 27

Porn?

posted by yerfatma at 12:27 PM on June 27

Coal mining? Not sure about the "four years", but it is a career that can be very short lived, as well as very debilitating.

posted by opel70 at 01:31 PM on June 27

There is also the consideration that while you might be able to work for, say, twenty years as a meatpacker vs. four years as an NFL player, you're probably being paid a lot less than one-fifth of what an NFL player gets. So I'm not sure the "only four years" argument holds water.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:04 PM on June 27

I am curious to hear what current players are willing to do to help out the former players? You always hear about how charitable they are, how about forming a charity for former players and having current players contribute to them? Maybe have congress mandate that current players salaries are only exorbitantly high because of former players building the NFL and so the former players now get half of their salary? Let's face it. The average American worker isn't entitled to force an employer to pay them once they stop working, why should these NFL players be entitled to anything more. They knew what they were getting when they signed their contracts. They were getting paid a lot of money to play a game that they wanted to play, most of them kinda liked the violence of it as well. They were taking a chance at being rich and famous. Choices in life have consequences and no one here was fooled, everyone who has any sense knows that playing football can cause injuries, sometimes serious.

posted by Familyman at 02:14 PM on June 27

Choices in life have consequences and no one here was fooled, everyone who has any sense knows that playing football can cause injuries, sometimes serious. And there are no consequences for owning a company and profiting off an industry that causes its workers to have serious physical injuries?

posted by bperk at 03:15 PM on June 27

And there are no consequences for owning a company and profiting off an industry that causes its workers to have serious physical injuries? Are you asking if there are, or if there should be? Once again, the NFL is far from unique here.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:33 PM on June 27

Are you asking if there are, or if there should be? I guess I was wondering if the players-knew-they-could-be-injured-so-must-face-the-consequences argument applies to owners as well. It is not unusual for industries to ignore the needs of their workers, and it's not unusual for Congress to pick an industry and make them do better, usually with just the threat of legislation. I do think it is unusual for an industry to cause such serious disabilities in workers that are so young.

posted by bperk at 03:51 PM on June 27

bperk, if the owners gave a player a contract with a big signing bonus and the player doesn't perform, do they then get to go to congress and cry foul? No they pay the consequences that they knew they would when they signed the contract, so yes it applies to owners as well. When did it become an "industries" responsibility to meet all the "needs" of workers for the rest of their lives? The concept that businesses must somehow become social workers for all employees that they have ever employed, and it will be forced on them by government, sounds to me like socialism.

posted by Familyman at 04:16 PM on June 27

you're probably being paid a lot less than one-fifth of what an NFL player gets. So I'm not sure the "only four years" argument holds water. That makes no sense whatsoever. Meatpackers make less because they're easy to find. NFL careers are short because even the physical specimens who make it into the league break down quickly.

posted by yerfatma at 04:22 PM on June 27

The concept that businesses must somehow become social workers for all employees that they have ever employed, and it will be forced on them by government, sounds to me like socialism. It is called remediation and it is to prevent the unjust enrichment of the owners at the expense of the players. Covering a player's medical expenses that are caused by football injuries is a perfectly reasonable expense for the NFL to cover. Who do you think covers those if the NFL doesn't? Medicaid?

posted by bperk at 04:50 PM on June 27

That makes no sense whatsoever. Meatpackers make less because they're easy to find. NFL careers are short because even the physical specimens who make it into the league break down quickly. Well, but what argument are we making here, anyway? A few posts ago it was about what a worker should expect based on disability and a career shortened by injury. Is the argument now that NFL players not only need a pension and post-retirement health benefits, but need Congress to come in and pitch for them to get big pensions and really good post-retirement health benefits...because they're hard to find? IMO, It doesn't really make sense to factor in the "career shortened by injury" argument unless you also consider what the worker made during the course of that career, no matter how short.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:02 PM on June 27

IMO, It doesn't really make sense to factor in the "career shortened by injury" argument unless you also consider what the worker made during the course of that career, no matter how short. I brought up the length of an NFL's player career because familyman made the argument that the average worker has to stick with a company for a number of years in order to receive benefits. Since the average NFL player's career is only four years, they can't really stick around for years and years waiting for their benefits to vest. The argument here is and always has been that the NFL is responsible and should cover the medical benefits for football injuries of their former players. The current plan fails to adequately do that.

posted by bperk at 05:24 PM on June 27

Again, a socialistic view. Medicaid another governmental agency is the only other viable alternative? How about they get their own health insurance and that covers it. No, that would put responsibility on the people who should be responsible for their own decisions. Why is the owners enrichment "unjust" but the players enrichment is an entitlement? Best solution yet. Why don't all the sports fans who are the driving force behind this carnage just pay enough for their tickets to cover the cost of supporting these guys for life. Then see just how sympathetic everyone is towards these former players.

posted by Familyman at 07:07 PM on June 27

By the way I never made the argument that the average worker had to stick with a company for a number of years in order to receive benefits.

posted by Familyman at 07:10 PM on June 27

Again, a socialistic view. You keep using that word. I do not tihnk it means what you think it means.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:25 AM on June 28

How about they get their own health insurance and that covers it. What insurance company would give an ex-football player health insurance? What would those premiums look like? Do you think that it would be even close to affordable with the disability payments they get? Why don't all the sports fans who are the driving force behind this carnage just pay enough for their tickets to cover the cost of supporting these guys for life. Then see just how sympathetic everyone is towards these former players. The NFL is making more than enough money to cover the former players, which is why it is so disappointing that they choose not to. Instead, they just put more money in the pockets of the owners and current players. That may be okay with you, but some of us fans would like to see the former players taken care of us as well. By the way I never made the argument that the average worker had to stick with a company for a number of years in order to receive benefits. Sorry, that was Steel Town.

posted by bperk at 07:45 AM on June 28

You keep using that word. I do not tihnk it means what you think it means. My objection is to the double-adjectivalistical construction. /ironical

posted by yerfatma at 08:14 AM on June 28

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