NFL retirees file complaint against league, players

DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA executive director (C) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (C) arrive for labor negotiations between NFL players and owners with federal mediation in Washington on March 3, 2011. The current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight tonight and a lockout is possible but not definite if none is reached. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg.

According to ESPN.com, a group of NFL retirees has filed a complaint against the league and its current players for not allowing them to be a part of the ongoing labor discussions.

The retired players say that NFL owners, the NFL Players’ Association and a group of current players including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are “conspiring to depress the amounts of pension and disability benefits to be paid to former NFL players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current NFL players.”

The complaint said the players’ decision to decertify their union makes it an antitrust violation for the owners and current players to negotiate for retired players.

It also alleges that the NFL had said it would tap revenue streams both from within and outside the salary cap to help retired players, union representatives including DeMaurice Smith want all the money delegated for the cap to be given to current players.

“Through the settlement they are forging, the Brady plaintiffs, the NFLPA and the NFL defendants are conspiring to set retiree benefits and pension levels at artificially low levels,” the complaint alleged.

I’ve spoken with a handful of current players during the lockout, including Jared Allen (Vikings), Kellen Winslow Jr. (Bucs) and Stanford Routt (Raiders), and they’ve all said the same thing: They want to make sure that during this labor dispute, they represent the players that paved the way for them and their careers. Even though I only spoke with a handful of these players, I get the sense that they want what’s best not only for themselves, but for retirees as well.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that DeMaurice Smith, the owners, the mediators or the lawyers want wants best for the retirees, which is where the problem lies. Thirty years ago, players weren’t making what they are today and obviously our society has advanced from a medical standpoint over that span as well. Thus, retirees want to make sure that the league in which they broke bones, spilled blood and suffered long-lasting physical alignments will take care of them now that they’re older. And it’s not fair that current players represent the retirees in this labor strife. The retirees should represent the retirees because they know what’s best for themselves. How could Drew Brees possibly know what’s best for Franco Harris?

As a fan, I would hate to see anything derail the progress that the owners and players have made over the last month. But what’s right is right. And what’s right is that the retirees have a voice at these labor negotiations. Of course, the whole situation could backfire on them too, so this complaint may all be for naught.

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