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Daniel - Poker Journal

The NFL is a Disgrace

30 Jan 2007

I just finished watching an episode of HBO Real Sports and it made me a little sick to my stomach, so I thought Iíd share some of the key points of the story with you. On the eve of the hyped up Super Bowl, not many people want to talk about, or think about the dark side of the game:

Conrad Dobler played 10 seasons in the NFL during the 1970Ďs. Heís now 56 years old and this year alone has had seven surgeries on his knees. Heís spent a total of 100 days in the hospital this year alone. Living in constant pain, he is subscribed 150 Vicadin a month, thatís 5 a day.

When he applied to the league for disability the first doctor that looked at him said his legs were 90% impaired. Then the league sent him to a second NFL doctor who said he had significant disabilities, but could do sedentary work.

The pension he receives from the league do not cover his health care costs. During Doblerís playing dayís the average NFL salary was 26,000 a year. Retired NFL players often need knee replacements, hip replacements and suffer from post concussion syndrome, all of which are very expensive to treat.

Get this, the pension for an NFL player who spent 10 years in the league is $24,000. Compare that to major league baseball, where a player who is in the league for 10 years can get as much as $175,000! Doesnít that seem backwards to you?

Johnny Cooks is a 48 year old retired NFL player who can barely walk, and when he does the pain is intense. He was looked at by two different doctors who both wrote that he was disables and unable to work. The U.S. government recognized that he is disabled, and pays him social security. The NFL pays him nothing that he is OWED. An NFL doctor who looked at him said that he could do ďlight/sedentaryĒ work.
Cooks claims that the pain is too great for him to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. This man is 48 years old, canít work, has difficulty supporting his family, and feels totally emasculated.

There are currently 9000 eligible living retired players, but only 144 receive long term disability payment from the league.

Mike Webster fought the NFL for 7 years in court looking to get the money he was owed by the league. He played for 17 years in the NFL. Five doctors, three of them different mental heath professionals, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a neurologist, all agree that after pro football, this man could not earn a living. Eventually, after a seven year fight he was rewarded his money. Unfortunately, Webster died of a heart attack before the league was finally ordered to pay him. His family will get that money.

Itís important to note, that while many NFL players do sign substantial contracts, not all of them are paid millions of dollars. On top of that, the contracts they sign provide pension and disability, just like any other job. These men are entitled to have the health care insurance so that they can repair the broken parts of their bodies.

So why doesnít the NFL pay? That money comes from the same pot of money used to pay active players.

Gene Upshaw, former player and head of the players union in response to retired players criticism of him, ďThe bottom line is I donít work for them. They donít hire me and they canít fire me. They can complain about me all day long. But the active players have the vote. Thatís who pays my salary.Ē
This is the guy who represents the players. How sad.

Johnny Unitas was the face of the league during his days on the field, but yet, even he couldnít get disability to repair his many injuries. He stopped attending the Hall of Fame ceremonies and died a very bitter man.

Sure, many of these players should have better prepared themselves for life after football, but some of them didnít. Now they canít walk, live in constant pain, canít pay their medical bills, and the league does nothing for them. Thatís just pathetic.