With the recent approval by the NBPA to retroactively extend health insurance to retired players with three (3) years or more of service in the NBA, I’m going to ask a question that I’ve been asking since I started writing my blog, why don’t NFL players have better health insurance once they retire?
The NFL is the most profitable of all the professional sports and the most violent, yet it has the worst player contracts and the worst health insurance. Why? There are a couple of answers to this question, one being that the NFLPA lacks the leadership to effectively make changes around player contracts and health insurance. Another response would be that the owners have all the power and the players have none. Also, the media plays a huge role in this disparity as well. The media constantly reports on the “big money” contracts the NFL players receive. Believe me when I say, a lot of those contracts are “smoke and mirrors.”
The only real “guaranteed” money is the signing bonus; the rest of the contract is primarily tied to contingencies, performance etc. In most instances, a team can release a player at any time and the player’s money is gone unless he gets’ picked up by another team.
When an NFL player retires they only receive health insurance for five (5) years after retirement. That’s insane when most of the ailments that come with having your head and body knocked around like a rag doll don’t kick in for decades after the players have retired.
The NFLPA is in dire need of a leader of Michelle Roberts caliber, the Executive Director for the NBPA. The NFLPA needs to fight for better guaranteed contracts and health insurance. It would be very difficult for NFL players to pay into a health insurance plan for retired players because the bulk of their contracts are structured poorly and since most of the money isn’t really guaranteed they don’t have a lot of incentive to reach back and help those that have come before them.
Food for thought: NFL players allow the media to goad them into making negative comments about other players. This behavior will keep them divided and the only way they’re going to make any strides against the League and the owners is to work together collectively. The players need to strike and give serious consideration to changing the current pay structure. The pay structure should be changed whereby the players are paid over nine (9) or twelve (12) months, instead of sixteen (16) weeks. This would be an incentive to the owners because the owners get to keep money in their accounts longer, earn interest and have longer investment options. Also, this kind of payment plan will hopefully help players budget better, retain their money longer and refrain from frivolous spending.