NGSC Sports

Football Fabulosa – Why Doesn’t the NFL provide for it’s former players?

So this weekly topic took a turn today when former NFL player Hamza Abdullah took to twitter in a NSFW twitter rant regarding the NFL’s treatment of former players. This is an issue I have long followed and been passionate about so it just seemed right to use it as this week’s hot topic. In case you missed the rant, here are some of the pertinent, and family friendly, tweets:

Finally, this one last NSFW tweet (you’ve been warned) which is one of the big issues and the point of this article:

Seriously NFL, why don’t you take care of your former players? There is ample evidence you know about the long term effects of concussions and actively worked to prevent the players and the (paying) public from gaining access to that knowledge. One chilling quote perhaps says it all:

“Bennet, do you know the implications of what you’re doing?” said the doctor. “If 10 percent of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.”

Clearly the NFL knew the risks the game would cause and despite that fact actively worked to prevent former players from gaining relief from the burden of having to pay staggering costs for injuries either sustained during their playing years, or which manifested later. Doesn’t the NFL provide health care you say? Well only sorta. You see, if you were lucky enough to play 3 years or more they get 5 years worth of health care post career. By contrast, the typical career span for your average NFL player is 3.9 years so many will not qualify. Just look at these numbers from Think Progress:

Former players who played at least three NFL seasons receive five years of health insurance paid in full by the league once they retire. After that, however, they are on their own, forced to pay for health insurance out of pocket. Even for players at the top of the income ladder, that causes problems: their careers leave them with an array of injuries and ailments that often qualify as pre-existing conditions. More than half of the NFL’s players are hurt each year, according to injury reports, and the cumulative effects lead to lifelong problems. NFL players are four times more likely than the general population to suffer from neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS and five times more likely to develop arthritis, according to the Washington Post. One of every four will eventually need joint replacement surgery. They are also at greater risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. That often leaves players without access to insurance that covers knees, hips, backs, or other joints, former players told the Post.

The NFL is allegedly a not for profit enterprise (sarcasm font) and official revenue numbers aren’t available but it’s profits are expected to reach 25 billion by the year 2027. Right now estimates place it at the 9 billion mark. The tax exempt status of the league has long been criticized but efforts to change it have been unsuccessful. The league funnels money back to the teams who do pay taxes, but who also often get sweet deals from their respective cities. Teams have long been defensive about the release of financial records with the exception of the Green Bay Packers which are publicly owned and must file statements.

So how are the Green Bay Packers doing financially? No big deal just record profits over the past few years. The past year was indeed super successful due in large part to the new collective bargaining agreement. You know, that new CBA that was negotiated after the owners opted out of the old one claiming the players were getting too much money and they weren’t getting enough financial incentives from it? Under the new CBA, the players take less from revenue sharing but are supposedly going to get more due to the way clubs will be forced to spend. The numbers are complicated and the minimum maximum requirements just went into place this year but the last estimates showed the players were getting somewhere around a mid 40 percent range compared to the 50 percent they were getting under the old CBA. You do the math.

Despite record profits, the NFL opposed lawsuits from the players involving the league’s concealment of the post concussive effects of head injuries. The first lawsuit was recently settled for 765 million dollars but many of the details are just now coming to life, including the fact that many ex-players will not qualify for compensation under the settlement. There are many stories of players who must fight their states workers’ compensation systems for benefits but let’s not forget how strongly the NFL worked to prevent them from pursuing claims in California.

Despite record profits and successfully reducing player compensation, the NFL also actively works to reduce it’s responsibility for injuries and health conditions players experience after their playing days are over. Even the most cursory of google searches give you story upon story of the often horrifying struggle many players experience with financial burdens due to the effects of playing football. Yet the NFL is far more concerned about increasing it’s already record profits and shows little regard for it’s former players.

Given the situation, it’s hardly surprising that Hamza Abdullah went on his rant or took to twitter to voice his anger. You may disagree with his word choice though for the record I don’t have any problem with it. It’s hard to disagree with his point however when you sit back and look at all the facts. No, it’s not surprising he said what he did. It’s far more surprising more former players don’t do the same thing and take the NFL to task over it’s immoral handling of the situation.

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