Gene Upshaw, the Hall-of-Fame offensive tackle and current head of the NFL Players Association, is under fire for his failure to assist former players in collecting on pension and health claims made to the union.
Upshaw, who reportedly earns close to $7 million annually, has repeatedly sided with the union in its allocations to the former-player pool. Retirees impacted by his decisions have called them outrageous.
As a former player, Upshaw should understand that retired NFLers need extensive medical treatment—and that many of them can't work full-time because of injuries suffered during their careers.
Such famous retired players as Mike Ditka, Harry Carson, Daryl Johnston, and Merril Hoge have spoken out against the NFLPA's unfair policies.
The crux of the problem is that voting by active players determines the amount of funding allocated to the pool for disability benefits. The active players—many of them millionaires—have been low-balling the pool, thus leaving many retired players without resources to care for themselves.
And one more thing—only the active members vote for the union president.
Rather than fighting for his former colleagues, Upshaw has pandered to the current players—in order to maintain his lucrative post atop the NFLPA.
"I'm sure (Upshaw) is laughing all the way to the bank," said Bruce Laird, a former Colt who leads an activist NFL retiree group in Baltimore. "But the fact remains that the system for partial and permanent disability is absolutely flawed."
"I'd love to extend an invitation to Mr. Upshaw to come to my house and see how other guys live," said Brian DeMarco, a former Jacksonville and Cincinnati lineman who suffered extensive back and leg injuries during his NFL career.
DeMarco's family has been homeless three times in the last four years because of medical bills from his football injuries.
"Upshaw owes his entire life to football," DeMarco says of the union boss, "and now he's stepping away from the guys he sweat with and bled with.
Of the 8,500 players that have retired from the NFL since 1960, less than five percent receive disability benefits.
Yesterday, Kansas City Chiefs lineman Kyle Turley, flanked by Ditka, announced that he would donate his $25,000 salary from an upcoming game to assist needy retired players. He urged others to join him.
"We make a lot of money playing this game and it's because of the guys that played before us," Turley said.
Gene Upshaw, if you read this...
You know that you've sold out your contemporaries—as well as the forefathers and founders of this great game.
How can you possibly look at yourself in the mirror every day?