In November, I was lambasted on this site for calling out the NFL and the player's union for their paltry and exclusionary treatment of former players.
I do not demand an apology, but a few props would be nice.
The NFL Alliance, a group recently constructed by the league and the NFLPA to address the policies towards retired players, has announced a modification to their disability benefit program.
This new policy entails—according to the AP—"doubling the payment for non-football’s total and permanent disability for retired players from $20,000 a year to $40,000. If a player's pension is more than $40,000, he will receive that.
"In addition, players who took an early pension will have a chance to apply for disability benefits between April 1 and July 31, 2008. Gene Upshaw has frequently cited the low pensions for many retirees on the fact that many take them early after retirement.
"The new program also changes the rules so that players who have established total disability under Social Security will not need to establish it separately, another subject that had been a sore spot with retired players. Those who were denied disability under the NFL plan but were qualified by Social Security can now have their NFL cases appealed."
I want to thank the NFLPA for reopening these negotiations—which agreeably was a difficult thing to do—and getting this travesty over with. This new program will go a long way in righting some longstanding wrongs.
The NFL is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that has drastically increased its revenue in the past 20 years. It was not only just, but humane, to revisit this outdated program and provide the union's needy alumni an affordable existence in their post-football lives.
There are countless NFL retirees that cannot make ends meet. There are scores of men who gave all for very little and now have nothing. The union shamefully neglected them over the years citing individuals for making poor financial choices and refused benefits to players on whose backs this great league was created and subsequently prospered.
That ugly chapter in NFL history is finally closed. Today marks the beginning of a new and fair relationship with the league, the union and the alumni.
Forget free agency, the draft and all of that other nonsense. Forget 18-1, Spygate, the Miracle in the Desert and the use of PHDs.
This is the biggest story of the year in the NFL.The praise of overpaid contemporary players pales in comparison to the restoration of the dignity of yesterday's heroes.