Ask — NFL continues funding retired player benefits

Q. A key member of the union’s Retired Players Steering Committee stated Tuesday that the league is shutting down benefits to retirees as soon as the uncapped year starts on Friday. What say you?

A.  Last August, Commissioner Goodell, responding to a letter from the NFL Alumni Association, confirmed that retired player benefits and programs would not be reduced in an uncapped year. The Alumni Association communicated that commitment to its members and issued a statement about it to the news media.  The NFLPA leadership is well aware of this commitment. Since at least the fall of 2007, the owners have consistently made clear that they would not reduce the funding for benefits for retired players during an uncapped 2010 season. That includes pension, disability, the 88 plan, joint replacement program, prescription cards, etc.  

It’s interesting to note that when the union loudly proclaimed on Tuesday that it would accept a continuation of the salary cap at the current level for active players, there was no mention of increased benefits for retirees. The union leadership was willing to make a deal without any improvements for retired players. On the other hand, Commissioner Goodell has made clear there will be no agreement without improved benefits for retired players. The owners told the union several months ago that if it would agree to a new rookie pay system for 2010, the first $100 million in savings would go to retired players. The owners were prepared to take that step prior to reaching agreement on a new CBA in order to get more assistance to retired players.

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