A group of Pro Football Hall of Famers sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive direction DeMaurice Smith, and Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker, telling the trio that they want to receive health insurance coverage and an annual salary that includes a share of NFL revenues, and unless and until they do, they will no longer attend Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. A copy of the letter was obtained by ESPN's Arash Markazi, who posted the text to Twitter on Tuesday morning.
Filed to ESPN: In a letter sent to Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and David Baker, Pro Football Hall of Famers said they would not attend the annual hall of fame induction ceremony until they received health insurance and an annual salary that included a share of league revenue. pic.twitter.com/IRkJ29EKcl— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) September 18, 2018
The letter is signed by the newly-formed Hall of Fame Board, "the first ever entity answering only to the concerns of Hall of Fame players." The board consists of Chairman Eric Dickerson, as well as members Marcus Allen, Mel Blount, Derrick Brooks, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Richard Dent, Carl Ellard, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haynes, Rickey Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Curtis Martin, Joe Namath, John Randle, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jackie Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Kurt Warner, and Reggie White's widow, Sarah White. It is unclear if the letter is requesting these benefits for all former players or just Hall of Famers.
The players note that Major League Baseball players who spend even one day on an MLB roster are entitled to health insurance for the rest of their lives, while players who spend 43 days on a roster get a lifelong pension. In contrast, NFL players receive no such benefits, and the players note that "the NFL is the only major American corporation that is set up this way."
They refer to the $620 million "Legacy Fund" that was set up for retired players as "little more than cynical public relations ploys that fail to help those who desperately need it."
The players contend that while the league takes a hardline stance in negotiations with players, it often finds money for other things like Goodell's reported $40 million per year salary and the construction of the Hall of Fame Village, which Baker estimated would cost around $1 billion. (They also took Smith to task for his $4.5 million annual salary an $8 million trust, and his lack of interest in advocating for retired players.) Some of that money would be better used helping former players take care of their bodies and lives that have been weakened and affected in other ways by their time playing football, the players say.
With the impending 100th anniversary of the NFL approaching in 2020, the players note that 100 years of player exploitation is not worth celebrating, and they will refuse to attend Hall of Fame ceremonies unless the NFL honors "its past by helping retired players instead of exploiting their images for marketing purposes."
The hardline stance taken by this group of payers, they say, is meant to "establish a template for active players in the next round of CBA negotiations for the expiration of the current deal in 2021."