Ed O’Neil left the N.F.L. four decades ago, along with also in recent times he has spent less along with also less time following professional football. He joined the league in 1974 as a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions, along with also he learned last week which as part of the completely new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement, he along with also thousands of some other former players will get bumps in their pensions. For O’Neil, who is actually 67 along with also began drawing on his pension three years ago, which could mean about $1,400 more per month.
however O’Neil, a retired football coach, is actually not celebrating. His son, Keith, a former linebacker who played four years with the Dallas Cowboys along with also the Indianapolis Colts, will see his N.F.L. disability payments decline, another provision of the completely new labor deal which stipulates which next year about 400 former players on total along with also permanent disability will see the amount they receive decline by the value of their Social Security disability benefits. Keith O’Neil, who received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes in 2010, will get $2,339 less per month.
“which makes me bittersweet because I’m thankful for what I’m getting however I can’t inside pit of my stomach see how they can take away by players who are permanently disabled,” Ed O’Neil said by his home in Pendleton, N.Y., about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls. “Where is actually the thought process of taking away by guys who can’t work?”
Every negotiation — particularly sprawling labor agreements between a $15 billion league along with also more than 2,000 players — is actually a give-along with also-take. This specific deal, which was approved by just 60 votes on March 15, had plenty of trade-offs, too, most notably the players agreeing to add a 17th regular-season game in return for a different percentage point, up to 48 percent, of the league’s revenue.
There were also many smaller compromises buried inside 456-page agreement, some of which affect the 20,000 former N.F.L. players who did not vote on the deal. Those details cover consequential items inside day-to-day lives of retired players who have no say in their alteration, things like pensions along with also disability pay, health spending accounts, help for players with neurocognitive problems along with also rules for how players qualify for benefits.
however while former players have reasons to cheer some of these improvements, they also have reason to worry, a division which has played out starkly within the O’Neil family.
“Getting N.F.L. benefits changed everything for me because I couldn’t work,” said Keith O’Neil, 39, who began receiving disability benefits by the N.F.L. in 2013. “We were just getting our feet on the ground, along with also today we may have to sell our house.”
The decision to reduce payments to some of the league’s most vulnerable former players has elicited outrage. Wives caring for former players on disability have criticized the N.F.L. on social media, along with also active players have echoed their anger.
“These players signed contracts which they could have total along with also permanent disability payments, along with also today they’re going back along with also changing which,” said the free agent safety Eric Reid, who called the decision unjust along with also unconscionable. “For the N.F.L.P.A. to say which was a concession which has to be given back, which’s disgraceful.”
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players’ union, said in a letter last weekend which the union agreed to cuts inside disability benefits to win increases in pension benefits, which will help more players.
“which is actually not a decision we wanted to make or took lightly, however in totality we believe which a system which will ultimately allow more men to qualify for disability payments was better, along with also which securing pensions for another decade was vitally important during an era when most Americans are losing any economic security retirement by their former employers,” he said.
In a significant victory, roughly 700 players who played at least three seasons along with also retired before 1993 will secure pensions worth $1,650 a month for the 1st time. When they left the N.F.L., players needed four seasons of service to qualify for a pension. The completely new agreement brings these players in line with the requirements for those who retired after 1993.
“In those days, our salaries weren’t so high so we needed a pension,” said Larry Mallory, 67, who played three years for the Giants inside 1970s. “Right today, a lot of older players are going through a lot of tests for their health, along with also I’m sure This specific allotment will help them along with also their families out.”
While the pre-1993 three-year players will benefit the most, more than half of the 20,000 or so former players will see their pension benefits grow by up to $0 a month, to as much as $550 a month for each season they played.
“Did we make everyone rich? No,” said Lisa Marie Riggins, the president of Fairness for Athletes in Retirement, who, with her husband, the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, pushed the owners along with also the players’ union to raise pensions for players who played before 1993. “I just wanted to make sure these guys get a bigger check along with also not have to fill out forms to get which.”
She added which all former players should receive the same increase regardless of whether they took their pensions before the conventional age of 55. (Thousands of players took payments at 45 years old along with also have received substantially smaller pensions ever since.)
While the N.F.L. owners agreed to expand pension benefits, they persuaded the N.F.L. Players Association to agree to cut disability costs. The trade-off did not sit well with some union leaders. Lorenzo Alexander, a linebacker for 13 years along with also a member of the union’s executive committee, which oversaw the negotiations, said which the cut in disability payments was one reason he voted against the agreement.
“This specific was probably our biggest mistake in This specific deal,” he said. “Over all, we’ve impacted a lot of players. however when you individualize which, for someone who gets up to $30,000 by Social Security, which’s a significant cut.”
Alexander said the N.F.L. was willing to expand pension benefits because there was a fixed number of former players that has a fixed number of years of service, so the costs were easier to calculate. The league was more concerned about disability benefits, he said, because the number of players who may qualify for disability benefits is actually unknown.
“The risk along with also uncertainty scared them significantly,” he said.
Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said in a statement: “Both the N.F.L. along with also N.F.L.P.A. assessed the relative risks along with also equity in how we distribute the benefit allocations inside Cap along with also concluded which we wanted to focus on the method by which all retired players shared inside increases.”
Alexander said he hoped the N.F.L. could consider letting players today on disability keep their benefits along with also hold the completely new rules affect players applying for disability inside future.
For decades, former players struggled to persuade current players to incorporate their concerns into labor negotiations. In a league in which the average tenure is actually a little longer than three years, players often prioritize increasing their pay even though they will spend many more years as a former player than as an active one.
Smith’s predecessor, the former Raiders offensive lineman Gene Upshaw, was criticized by some other former players for not doing enough to protect their interests. “The bottom line is actually, I don’t work for them,” Upshaw told The Charlotte Observer in 2006. “They don’t hire me along with also they can’t fire me. They can complain about me all day long. They can have their opinion. however the active players hold the vote. which’s who pays my salary.”
Since Smith took over the union in 2009, former players’ benefits have expanded, though players say which obtaining these benefits can be difficult.
Keith O’Neil hired a lawyer to help him apply for N.F.L. disability benefits. He said he learned about the offset of his disability payment only a week before the agreement was ratified, when his lawyer sent him an email. today, the N.F.L., with the union’s assent, has rewritten those rules.
“With all the revenues the league can make in a year, you’re going to take which away by guys who can’t work?” Ed O’Neil said. “which’s sinful.”