HOFer Tom Mack, other NFL retirees, launch final fight for pension parity

Tom Mack photo courtesy LA Rams
Ron Borges

Tom Mack earned his way into the Hall of Fame with 11 Pro Bowl seasons in 13 years as one of the greatest guards in pro football history. But the 75-year-old the former Los Angeles Rams’ star didn’t earn much of a pension because his career ended in 1978.

Mack is one of about 3,800 living former NFL players who retired before 1993, leaving them with few post-career benefits and a pension that pays a 10-year veteran only $43,560 at age 55.

That’s before taxes, and well below what players retiring after 1993 make.

That figure also pales in comparison to pensions for older players in the NBA and major league baseball despite the fact the NFL will generate an estimated $14 BILLION next season.

A 10-year NBA veteran who retired after 1965, for example, receives about $215,000 a year at 62. A 10-year MLB player who retired after 1980 receives $200,000 a year at 62. So why does the sport that makes the most money do so little for its oldest veterans?

Good question and one Mack and his peers have begun to ask in earnest.

Mack and a coalition of other aging retired NFL players and their wives are trying to change that sad situation, forming a lobbying group called Fairness for Athletes in Retirement (FAIR). Mack visited the Talk of Fame Network this week to explain how that group hopes to appeal to both NFL owners and the NFL Players Association to right a wrong that left many of the game’s pioneers living in pain and poverty late in life, a plight seems to fly in the face of the NFL’s recent ad campaign claiming “Football is Family.’’

“How do you fit in a family if you’re excommunicated?’’ Mack asked.

Mack, who after his NFL retirement worked as an engineer and later a Washington lobbyist for Bechtel Corp., hinted that one approach retired players might be forced to take is approaching Congress about the league’s continued refusal to look out for its oldest former players.

“We really don’t have a seat at the table,’’ Mack said. “We don’t need that big a piece of the pie.’’

Mack says it would only take about three-percent of the annual salary cap to fund improved pensions on par with other professional sports. But to get it retirees have to rely on the largesse of owners and today’s players, both of whom have benefitted greatly from what retired players did to build the game.

“It’s not giving the store away to these old guys,’’ Mack said.

To hear Tom Mack’s passionate case for improving the lot of the NFL’s aging pioneers just sign up for our free podcast on iTunes, the TuneIn app or wherever you download your podcasts or just go to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.

This week you’ll also hear from Hall-of-Fame voter Vito Stellino on recently retired Rob Gronkowski’s Hall-of-Fame chances, while Boston Herald football writer Karen Guregian discusses why Gronk decided to call it quits and whether that decision is likely to stick.

To hear all that and more, just go to talkoffamenetwork.com, download our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also hear the show live on Wednesday nights on your local SB Nation Radio station.

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