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Pro athletes fight limits on Calif. workers' comp


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Former professional athletes who have battled countless injuries since they left the game on Monday criticized proposed legislation that would restrict players from collecting workers' compensation benefits in California.

Two dozen former players, including San Francisco 49ers defensive player Dana Stubblefield and Reggie Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals, appeared at the state Capitol to speak against AB1309, which they said was an effort by team owners to avoid paying them for legitimate injuries.

"(Players) paid into the system and now they want to take the system away from us," said Ickey Woods, who grew up in Fresno and was a running back for Bengals.

California is one of nine states that allow professional athletes from out-of-state teams to seek workers' compensation awards, which are paid by their employers. A bill by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, would allow only players from California teams to claim workers' compensation and would shorten the filing period for claims.

The California Labor Federation and Consumer Attorneys of California are backing the players and opposing the legislation. They argue that some injuries athletes suffer while playing may not be apparent for years, forcing players to turn to California's system with its broader filing rules.

"What we want is a fair look at where the injury took place and whether or not that player deserves to be compensated under the NFL's compensation system," said DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association. "This isn't a case where anyone here is seeking a land grab."

Proponents of AB1309 say out-of-state players abuse California's broad workers' compensation rules by filing claims here even when they have received awards elsewhere. Allowing non-residents to use the system increases costs for state taxpayers, they say.

A dozen of the state's professional sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, and several insurance companies are backing the measure.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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