Keith Schleiden of Pro Football Weekly wrote that over 100 former players and one current NFL player attended a charity event to raise money for the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund. The fund was established to provide financial assistance and social services to NFL players in need due to inadequate pension and disability benefits.
Former Buffalo Bill and Hall of Fame player Joe DeLamielleure attended the charity function and had this to say about the current state of NFL benefits for retirees:
“If they fix the pensions, we wouldn’t be in here. It’s the only sport in this country … in baseball, you don’t hear their Hall of Famers complaining … basketball … you don’t hear hockey. Why are we having 100 (ex-players) show up last night (to a charity function)? Because they have not taken care of our pensions. If they take care of our pensions, this will all go away. It’s real simple. It’s that simple. And I’ll complain until the day I die about bad pensions and disabilities, until it’s fixed.”
The one active player in attendance was current Minnesota Vikings center and Harvard graduate Matt Birk. He added:
“I think it’s important that every current player realizes that he’s going to be a retired player at some point. If not because it’s the right thing to do right now, selfishly look at the issue and do something about it. Otherwise, it’s just like coach (Ditka) said, we’ll be here in 20 years talking about the same thing. Change isn’t always swift, but we’re trying.”
Previously, Birk donated one of his paychecks to the Gridiron Greats Assistance fund.
While the financial support of current players is appreciated, they can also help in another way. Active players will choose the next Executive Director of the NFLPA who will play a large role in the future negotiation of benefits. With the help of active players perhaps the current situation will change at some point.