Eric Dickerson and a coalition of 20 or so Hall of Famers issued a letter this week demanding two things – a guaranteed salary and health insurance -- or they would refuse to show up at future Hall-of-Fame inductions. As a PR move one wonders if they hired Terrell Owens as a consultant
First off, they claim Roger Goodell is overpaid. (True). They say the league doesn’t care about retired players (True). At that point they were on a roll. But then that handful of Hall of Famers went on to prove they didn’t care about their fellow retirees, either, which made their entire case a sham.
First off, many of them are former union members who didn’t have the backbone in 1987 to stay out on strike after they’d already won a federal court case that put how the league did business in jeopardy of anti-trust laws. After 24 days they caved.
But long before that star players had begun to cross the picket line. At least one of those scabs, Lawrence Taylor, also signed this week’s demand letter.
Just like the players' union and the owners of the past, 20 or fewer Hall of Famers are doing what they criticize others for having done to most retired NFL players. They’re saying, "Pay us, not them. Forget about the thousands we played with and against. Insure us not them. The rest? They should have been better players."
It took less than a day for two of the signees, Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner, to back track and say they never agreed to have their names on that letter or to threaten the Hall of Fame with boycotting the induction ceremony. In Warner’s case, it sounded like someone got a call reminding him he was still collecting a big NFL check from the NFL Network.
In Rice’s case it sounded like someone who was either ill-served by Dickerson and the other signees or who had second thoughts. Actually, if these guys had thought first they might not have needed second thoughts.
It was first suggested that Dickerson’s group was demanding $250,000 a year plus, health benefits, to show up at the Hall of Fame. But Dickerson later suggested in an interview that $300,000 might be about right.
What that would amount to is roughly $40 million being paid out to living Hall of Famers by the Hall which, while affiliated with the NFL, is not part of the NFL. It receives funding from some owners and the league, but it does not share in their $14 billion in annual revenues.
But the worst of it is not that the Hall doesn’t have the money and doesn’t owe the inductees lifetime salaries for having been inducted. The worst of it is that Dickerson is looking out for the few rather than the many … and the few he’s looking out for were among the highest-paid players of their eras.
In some cases that wasn’t much, and in many cases their pensions are a joke foisted upon them both by the owners and the union which once represented them but stops doing so the minute they retire.
As a negotiating ploy these guys come off as selfish, greedy and, most importantly, a reminder of why pro football players have such lousy benefits and pensions and few guaranteed contracts in the first place. It’s because they’ve always done what these 20 or fewer guys are doing.
They don’t stick together.
Baseball players never had a major leaguer cross its picket line. They shut down the World Series. They voted to pay the legal fees of Curt Flood even after being told by their leader, Marvin Miller, that Curt was going to lose but that it would expose the owners and the reserve clause that enslaved baseball players for the legalized slavery that it was.
Marvin Miller was right. The players stayed together, and today they have the best pay and benefits in sports.
What football players have is what they deserve because too many of them were always willing to accept the fast buck to avoid short-term pain for long-term gain. In a nutshell, they wouldn’t fight for each other, and so they hung separately.
How that all came about is on display once again in this selfish, forget-the-rest-of-them demand letter signed by 20 Hall of Famers. It doesn’t demand equal benefits and pension for all. It says, "Pay me because once I was a star."
That’s bogus but sadly typical.