Fellow NFL retirees and your wives,
Sorry for the delay in reporting on Wednesday's meeting with Goodell. I live in Reno, Nevada, and it took me 2 days to drive down and 2 more to drive back home. 4 long painful days in my truck that's approaching 200,000 miles...and for what? I honestly don't know...I have struggled mightily to figure out how to sum up this meeting for you.
And the privileged Goodell had the moxie to bitch about having to fly out and back in his private jet. He had awakened snug in his bed at home long before I was chugging alone up I-5 thru Bakersfield.
I can give you only my thoughts and observations, from my own personal perspective. There were exactly 100 in attendance, so I am sure if you asked the other 99 you would get 99 different opinions.
First, the good news--WOMEN WERE IN ATTENDANCE! We have broken that barrier, thanks to all of you who helped make noise. The effort was worth it. 3 women, 2 wives and one I think a daughter or daughter in-law (it was hard to hear--more on acoustics later).
The sky did not fall, the meeting was not harmed by their presence, no man had an attack from not being able to fart or scratch themselves (turns out these men have been in public with women before!)- but instead the opposite- their voices were welcomed and they spoke eloquently of their respective situations.
The only sad part about this is I know several women who WANTED to attend to give Goodell an earful, and they were refused and told to stay away. But at least we got 3 women in, it's a beginning.
And at least Goodell made the effort to be there, to at least appear to be concerned. That's more than we get from our union. Our union's response is for us to come to them. So, stop taking meds, skip a couple mortgage payments- and go to Hawaii or Palm Springs to a NFLPA convention and MAYBE you can speak.
So at least he came and listened, I'll give him credit for that- but as I told him, listening is one thing, DOING is another. Let's see what he DOES, not what he hears or says.
that's about it for good news, other than everyone enjoyed seeing each other.
BAD NEWS- I had the opportunity to meet privately with Goodell , briefly, before the meeting began. I handed him your responses to Dignity After Football's 2nd survey- that asked only one question- "if you could be in attendance at this meeting, what statements or questions would you give to Roger Goodell"? There were nothing but well thought out, insightful responses. No one was required to put their name, but some did, such as Roman Gabriel.
The Commissioner DID take the papers and put in his briefcase, but at the same time defiantly looked me in the eye and said there was NO WAY he would read them!!! (that smiling "nice guy" is a public act, get over it) So, Roman and the rest of you, I will give you a chance soon to tell Mr. Goodell what you think of his direct insult to you. He states he is on a fact finding hunt, but doesn't want the most valuable information he could hope for....yes, it's all a PR stunt.
He then told me privately he would answer NO questions related to the first survey, which he had apparently read. This cut me to my knees, as the meeting was just starting and all of my prepared questions were related to survey results..that is, YOUR OPINIONS.
And he wonders why he has an 8% approval rating among NFL retirees? He says he wants facts, but censors my questions and defiantly refuses to read your statements. You decide what's going on here....
The meeting itself was chaos. The venue couldn't be worse. Small, cramped, bad acoustics...
I thought it was just me, it spurred a serious vertigo attack in me ( I have vertigo as a result of NFL concussions- a diagnosis discovered and made by the NFL's own doctor, linking my vertigo to concussions the NFL says I never suffered after destroying my medical files...) This vertigo made it more difficult for me to speak, along with my questions having been disallowed, and a guy interrupting me..
But afterwards as I spoke with dozens of attendees, they all said they could not hear most of what was said, the acoustics were horrible. They might have heard the question but not the answer or vica versa. I was front row center and could hear Goodell but could not hear about 75% of the questions. Guys in the back said they heard very little. Goodell had no answers, so no harm there, but Valerie Cross, sitting behind him, was the only one providing useful information. So, if you were "onstage" asking a question, you had to turn your back to the audience to ask Valerie.
One shocking revelation--the issue of years needed to be vested was raised. Many guys played 3 years when you needed 4 or 5 to be vested, but since 1993, vesting occurs after 3 years. The question was why can't we even the playing field and make vesting 3 years across the board?
Goodell's face went blank and he actually admitted- the COMMISSIONER of the NFL, mind you- that he had no idea, he never knew that it wasn't ALWAYS three years vesting, going back to the beginning of vesting in the NFL I guess. He had no idea that it used to be 4 years, or 5 years to be vested...yet he doesn't need to read your input from the survey, he already knows it all?
I want his job..you don't have to know or answer anything! It's all perks....even I can do that with my dain bramage.
GREAT questions and statements were made by BOB GRANT.
Deacon Jones, Carl Eller, Ron Mix and Ron Yary were among the Hall of Famers present and made great comments.
Ed Galigher gave a fantastic comparison of Major League Baseball's benefits compared to ours.
Joe Sweet, Nate Wright, Jim Lazlivic, and many others I couldn't hear their names or my concussed mind can't remember and I apologize, spoke out.
Reggie Berry, NFLPA steering committee member, was also in attendance and spoke out on behalf of the union.
It was very apparent that our quest to unite and form one group of NFL retirees is of upmost urgency. Many comments were about the need for us retirees to unite, form our own group, and get representation. A reminder, we and all advocates and groups have been calling for your registration for such a group, and a possible summit soon, for months now. If you haven't registered, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or any other advocate of your choice. Dave Pear, Tony Davis, Bob Grant, Abner Haynes are among those you can register with. We have to form a legal entity before we can assign representatives or seek outside legal help, etc.
Issues discussed were pensions, our #1 issue according to our poll- which Goodell said he would not discuss,... seven times according to one attendee who counted-
Disability, our #2 issue- he would not discuss in detail. Yes, he wants change and gave lip service but offered no solutions, wasn't enough interested in my opinion.
healthcare--"we'll look into it"
Representation on the Alliance- retired players selecting some of our own reps who have actually suffered from pain, homelessness, addiction, etc. and are not on easy street. The "unwashed" need to be heard on the Alliance if they want to stop being viewed as a PR ploy who's best works are half-measures and address only perimeter issues- not the issues we stated we drastically need addressed.- He said he would welcome anyone, just give him names to be on the Alliance--I then gave him a few and I was ignored, so I guess he didn't really mean it.
Perhaps you can give him names?
Part of the problem with the meeting, besides the fact that Goodell came with no information and half the questions were NFLPA issues anyway- was the usual problems we all faced in every locker room. Guys talking over other guys, some wanting to hear their own voice all night. Goodell had at least one or two supporters there, (probably many more but the other Goodell supporters were respectful enough to let others speak their minds) and my guess is they felt so honored to be in his presence that they felt the need to "protect" Goodell and interrupted any controversial questioning every time.
The other problem with the meeting is simply that so many of our grievances involve the NFLPA, and not the commissioner. Many issues were simply out of his control and, in his defense, that's why he had no answer. He doesn't control the union, he doesn't appoint the players reps to the retirement board, etc.
But he won't, he said, replace the 3 voting members for the owners on the retirement/disability board.
Some figures I asked for, some are open to argument and verification-- he states there are 9,000 living vested players. ( of course, he didn't know the years it took to be vested, so this is questionable - I hope someone will verify)
In the House Judiciary hearing June 2007, it was said 317 retirees were receiving disability. 90 days later, Goodell told the Senate Commerce committee there were 340. Now, he says, 16 months later, there are over 500 retirees receiving disability from the NFL. He had no answer as to the breakdown- how many of those were receiving partial non-football; how many were receiving the full highest football related benefits.
He said no one, ZERO, to his knowledge and if I heard him right, was granted disability after his announcement that those receiving Social Security disability would be automatically granted NFL disability too.
He said none of the newer approved disability cases involved head injuries. Only 4 head injury disability claims have ever been approved in NFL history.
There are 99 recipients of the 88 Plan. He could not answer if that included all total, including those now deceased, or if that was living recipients of the 88 Plan.
Another 88 Plan issue, according to 88 Plan families involved, was the in-home care, $55,000, was not enough and did not meet the actual cost of in-home care.
I asked for a schedule for his future meetings with retirees, he answered there are no further meetings planned at this time.
So that about wraps up my observations. I am exhausted. Again, these are just my own observations and others have their own too.
It WAS good to see old friends and to meet so many new people.
To sum it up, if another Goodell meeting was announced to be at my next door neighbor's house , I would rather stay home and watch TV. I learn more from "King of Queens" reruns.
Reporting from the Front-