The Pro Football Hall of Fame was back in the news last month when a group of 20 Gold Jackets, plus Reggie White's widow, co-signed a letter written by Eric Dickerson and threatened to boycott future inductions unless Hall of Famers receive health insurance and receive annual salaries (estimated at $300,000) that include a share of the league revenue.
The letter was immediately criticized, with Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner (who signed it) saying that while they support the move to seek additional benefits for retired players they would not boycott future inductions.
But it was clarified … and supported … on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast by former cornerback Mike Haynes, a Hall of Famer, a voice of restraint and one of the individuals who signed the Dickerson letter.
"What Eric wanted to do," he said, "was to highlight the Hall of Famers … but realizing that our quest is to really help all retired players -- in particular, guys who played before 1993.
"All the players don't have the same type of benefit package going forward, and I don't think the public knows that. We don't have insurance, and I don't think people know that as well. They're pretty surprised to find out all the Hall of Famers aren't millionaires.
"What people forget is that the salaries have really skyrocketed over the years, and guys are living a long time … Everything has changed, and all the pensions were all based on the money that the guys were making. So if they didn't make a lot of money, you can imagine what their pensions were.
"They didn't have a cost-of-living increase or an inflationary kick into it, and so every year … the longer they live … the money goes down, down, down instead of going up. A lot of players don't like to talk about their financial issues. They've got too much pride. And they get stuck. And they get stuck in a place where it looks odd when they're talking about these kinds of things."
Haynes, a member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team, said he was "shocked" the letter was made public but, one month later, is not unhappy that it was released.
"Now I'm talking to you about it and educating fans," he said.
He also said he remains hopeful that something can be done to help not just Hall of Famers, but all retired players -- which, he added, is the purpose of putting these demands in motion.
"I know that Eric has talked to the commissioner," said Haynes. "We're at least having conversations about it. There are a couple of Hall of Famers that are working at the NFL office, and they are having conversations with the commissioner and owners about some of the things that they know players are struggling with or need help with. And they seem to be pretty optimistic that we're going to be able to work some things out.
"I just think that sometimes you have to make some noise to let people know that things aren't going the way you'd like or the way you thought or the way they could. And maybe that's what's happening now."