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Smith Shares Vision For Current and Former NFL Players at Super Bowl Press Conference

Posted February 4th, 2010 by RetiredPlayers

The NFLPA held their Super bowl press conference today and made announcements of particular interest to retired players of the National Football League.  NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was joined on stage by many current and former players including NFLPA President Kevin Mawae and Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.  Early in the press conference Sanders stated that, “There could be better unity between current players and former players.”

DeMaurice Smith was quick to acknowledge the rift stating that “when it comes to benefits for pre-1993 players the current system is not working.”  He also recognized that active and former players compete over the same pool of money used for benefits.  This announcement came prior to any mention of the currently strained labor negotiations between the owners and players that have filled the headlines lately.  It is hoped that addressing this issue first at the press conference is indicative of the NFLPA’s new dedication to the players who helped build the NFL into the $8 billion industry that it is today.

nflpa-logoJust as quickly as Smith acknowledged the rift between current and former players he stated his plan to begin addressing the issue.  First, he announced that the Groom Law Group will no longer defend the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan when it is sued by players seeking benefits.  The Groom Law Group, a major source of frustration for many retired players, currently represents both the NFL and NFLPA against retired players suing the NFL’s disability plan when they are denied benefits. DeMaurice Smith announced the change will formally come next week and that the NFLPA has not yet chosen a firm to replace the Groom Law Group.

Next Smith announced that he was calling for NFL owners to contribute two percent of their profits to a legacy fund for retired players.  He stated that all benefits are funded through the active players portion of the revenue and called for NFL owners to share in the responsibility.  “They (NFL owners) sell legacy, but they don’t pay for it, ” Smith stated.

During the question and answer period following the announcements several reporters focused their questions on the subject of retired players.  In response to one of the questions Smith stated that it would be an “immoral decision” for today’s players not to acknowledge the players who came before them.

Smith then announced more changes to come to the NFL disability plan.  He wants someone to assist the two members of the disability initial claims committee in their assessment of NFL players’ disability applications.  Smith stated, “I want that person to be a medical professional.”

He stated he wants that medical professional to understand the role of multiple head and orthopedic injuries and how they impact players once they leave the NFL.  This leaves little doubt that the NFLPA will acknowledge concussions and the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries suffered as an NFL player as NFL injuries for the purpose of evaluating disability applications.  It is hoped that something can be done to correct the fact that this was not the belief when so many retired players were wrongfully denied benefits for their football related head injuries in the past.

It was refreshing to hear these words coming from the leader of the NFLPA regarding the union’s relationship with retired players.  We hope that the union will evaluate its three retirement board representatives with the same scrutiny in which they examined the Groom Law Group.  The NFLPA went to great lengths in choosing DeMaurice Smith as their leader.  The same effort should go into finding the best three NFLPA representatives to manage the near $1 billion in assets of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan.

20 Responses to “Smith Shares Vision For Current and Former NFL Players at Super Bowl Press Conference”

  1. comment number 1 by: George Visger

    I applaud DeMaurice Smith for going to bat for retired players.

    He called me, a virtual unknown in the NFL, (though I have survived 9 brain surgeries from my 81 season with the SF 49ers when I developed Hydrocephalus from repeated concussions), from the airport on his way to the press conference. As some of you have seen in letters I wrote to Senator John Conyer, and postings on Dave Pear’s blog, I have not been a big fan of DeMaurice (to put it nicely).
    During our phone conversation yesterday, he told me he was going to ask and do exactly what he did at the press conference.

    We all know talk is cheap, but De has scored a few points in my book. If he keeps this up, I’m All In on his team.

    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 brain surgeries and in early stages of CTE

  2. comment number 2 by: Cody Jones

    What DeMaurice said was very inspiring but, it still dosen’t answer the question of him knowingly being aware of language in the document in the Bernie Perrish lawsuit, which would have prevented any future lawsuits being filed aganist the NFL and the NFLPA by retired players. Also, there a question of what lawfirm will replace the Broom group, will be better or worst, is this just window dressing?, Let’s see how it all plays out. Personally, I would like nothing better than for him and his actions to be genuine and sincere. We all ( active and retired players) need to be looking for our present and future well being.

  3. comment number 3 by: DWIGHT STONE

    DEMAURICE HAS DONE A GREAT JOB IN HIS FIRST YEAR (IN MY EYES)…WE BOTH RETIRED & CURRENT PLAYERS….MUST REALIZE..HE (DE) HAS REACHED OUT TO BOTH SIDE TO UNITY AS ONE….LET’S BE A PART OF THE CONSTRUCTION & NOT PART OF THE DESTRUCTION… WHERE WILL BE IF GENE UPSHAW WAS STILL IN CONTROL OF THE NFLPA…& I MEAN “CONTROL”?????..BLESS HIS SOUL…

    GOD BLESS!!
    DWIGHT STONE
    1987-2000
    PSALM 23

  4. comment number 4 by: Dave Hale

    I’m now 62, 6’7″ 275-have been married 40+ years–our 5 kids are married with college degrees and so far, 13 gkids…I’ve been blessed! Surviving 6 training camps with the Bears and getting 5 credited seasons, then reading the current issue of Time magazine (with the deflated football on the cover) I’m all for whatever De Smith can do to lessen the pain felt by our fellow players who have any malfunctions from their playing days. I’m in great health as far as I know–but the only moral thing to do is try to have a review board to air physical and mental maladies traceable to football. EVERY current player will one day be retired and most will be guys like me who you’ve never heard of–but some of them have some genuine needs which need to be heard. Dave Hale, Bears ’69-’74 DT

  5. comment number 5 by: Scott Hunter

    It’s now obvious by his public comments that the new Exec Director of our NFLPA has a concern for former players. I congratulate DeMaurice and thank him for those comments during the Super Bowl Press Conference. He is someone I believe my fellow former players should rally around and support during the CBA negotiations.
    Scott Hunter
    President of NFLPA Steering Committee/2003-04.
    Steering Committee Member/1998-2004

  6. comment number 6 by: Ron Davis

    DE Smiths focus on former players is outstanding.He is cutting through all of the distractions to make real change .As a Chapter President , I support his initiatives and so do my chapter members – Ron Davis President of the NFLRP Philadelphia Chapter

  7. comment number 7 by: Ron Davis

    DE Smiths focus on former players is outstanding.He is cutting through all of the distractions to make real change .As a Chapter President , I support his initiatives and so do my chapter members – Ron Davis President of the NFLRP Philadelphia Chapter

  8. comment number 8 by: Chidi Ahanotu

    Gentleman, I have to say, I had the pleasure of meeting&talking at length to Demaurice Smith at the Players Party and I am truly inspired by this man. Had the chance to express to him my 2 year efforts in trying to get developed an official NFL Players annual Retirement Ceremony. D loved the idea and I am excited at the possibility that this much needed annual retirement ceremony is officially initiated and created to bring all players the closure and recognition they sorely need when their careers come to an end. Demaurice has Great energy and genuine care about OUR union & its players, former and current. Let’s all look forward to a great 2010. Be Blessed

    Chidi Ahanotu
    VP NFLRPA Tampa Chapter
    ’93-’04
    Bucs, Rams, Bills, 49ers

  9. comment number 9 by: Cody Jones

    Players, both active and retired, I would like for you all to go to Fourth And Goal Unites . Com, read the material there. Mybe this hole situation can be cleared up, facts founded out, questions asked, truth bought to light, and real essences of this dilemma uncovered. I, like hopefully everybody else am interested in the hole truth, and nothing but- the truth. Lets all be patient in not rush to judgement but, investigate to our own satisfaction.

  10. comment number 10 by: Bob Grant

    Director Smith has been wise enough to include us as Independents, since May of 2009, in discussions regarding changes that must be considered. Many see us, wrongly, as “wild men and trouble makers.” I would include in that misinformed group most of the Presidents of the NFLPA Retired Chapters as well as the Members of the Retired Players Steering Committee.

    I assume that this announcement of firing Groom means that they are absolutely, completely, totally out of NFLPA business and that they are not going to be paid a penny more.

    “De” has started work on a few of the planks that he and I first discussed back in May of 2009. Still there is much, much more that needs to be done because the FOUNDATION set up for Retired Players by the NFL and the NFLPA is rotton and replacing IT is what is needed and is what we as INDEPENDENT ADVOCATES are going to push for until we have a new and solid foundation in place.

    The old model set up for Retired Players inside of the NFLPA has to go. It is obviously too late for many of us because we will not be among those who live to see Justice and Reformation through. “Revolution ain’t pretty.” Hopefully De is a Revolutionary who is truely willing to remain open, as Upshaw never was.

    We as Independents are not going to sit back, go to golf tournaments, raise money for everyone but ourselves, tolerate our good men being denied deserved disibility, accept a pension arrangement that is shamefully less than Baseball’s, allow all who have stolen money from us to get away with it and allow our Brothers who played 1, 2 and 3 years to not receive a pention.

    One way or another we are going to win our fight for Retired Players be it in the Courts, Congress or the Media.

    I hope that the Director will continue with needed changes and that he will also continue including the Independent Leaders in the discussion.

    Bob Grant
    Independent Activist/Advocate
    Parrish Team Member
    Ret Balto Colts-Wash Redskins

  11. comment number 11 by: Jimmy Thomas

    I just want to say thanks to Mr. Smith.

  12. comment number 12 by: Cody Jones

    I just want to say, I hope Mr. Smith’s bite is twice as big as his bark.

  13. comment number 13 by: Jim F

    IF the owners were to contribute 2% is that before or after their tax manuvering? Second, how much would that be say…. before tax using the 2008 season (I assume the ’09 numbers will be out later this year). Third, is this just for medical or would there actually be an increase in the sad pension (comparable to other major sports)? We went on strike in ’87 and got what Gene wanted – free agency, most of us were more concerned with pension and medical but were ignored.

  14. comment number 14 by: Steve Wright

    I’m faithful in our new leadership w/ DeMaurice and suggest we all do our part to let the younger guys know who we are, make opportunities to associate with them at “their” NFLPA meetings which we can all be apart of. They don’t know us and we don’t know them, why? We’re all brothers in this and we can take it upon ourselfs to reach out to these younger guys and show them who they will be before long, a cool retired guy that deserves a larger piece of the pie.

    Just a thought to close the gap.


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