Skip to main content

Commissioner says retired players' benefits will not be reduced in 2010

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reassured retired players that their pensions and benefits wouldn't be reduced in a labor dispute, refuting statements made by NFL Players Association leaders.

In a letter to the NFL Alumni Board of Directors on Wednesday, Goodell wrote that claims made by the union -- including NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith -- "have no basis in fact."

Goodell says retiree benefits are safe

There had been some debate as to whether or not the benefits to retired players would be cut, but Jason La Canfora writes the commissioner trying to dispel that notion. **More ...**

"In all my conversations with DeMaurice Smith, he has never raised the subject with me," Goodell wrote in response to questions raised by NFL Alumni board members. "Had he done so, my answer would have been unequivocal -- there will be no reduction in pension or disability payments to retired players during 2010."

Goodell added that since 2007, owners consistently have agreed not to reduce funding to retired players if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached and results in the salary cap being lifted next season.

Portions of Goodell's letter were released by NFL Alumni and Fourth and Goal, an independent retired-player advocacy group.

Smith, who told a group of retired players at a June meeting in Las Vegas that their benefits would be affected, questioned the league's response to the issue.

"The letter says what the league has done in the past but not what they have fully committed to do in the future," Smith said in a statement released by the NFLPA. "This is easy to resolve. Instead of sending a letter to players telling them what they have previously done, the NFL should simply guarantee paying these benefits to all players well into the future, even though they chose to walk away from the agreement they signed in 2006. I'm happy when they choose to guarantee their obligations."

Added NFLPA benefits director Miki Yaras-Davis in the statement: "If these benefits are now being guaranteed for one year by the NFL, which they currently are not, then that's a win for all players. We have contacted the league to ensure that they have taken on the obligation to funding the $11 million it will take to keep the 2010 supplemental disability plan at 2009 levels. We will let you know when we hear their answer."

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, an NFLPA executive committee member, repeated concerns about a reduction in retired players' benefits in an interview published last weekend in the Carroll County Times (Md.). He was quoted as saying retired players' benefits would be cut by more than 50 percent. "It's devastating to the retired players," Foxworth said.

NFL Alumni and Fourth and Goal board member Jerry Kramer welcomed Goodell's response, noting that it validates the trust he has had in working with the commissioner for the past three years.

"To hear that was not truth was both good news for the guys on disability and pensions, and it was good news for me because I have a lot of reasons to trust the commissioner," said Kramer, a former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman. "And this just solidified my position there. It's a big announcement for me."

Kramer noted that the NFL, under Goodell, is contributing up to $9 million more toward retired player benefits than it previously did. Kramer also questioned whether the union was using this issue to gain support from retired players in labor talks.

"You've got to assume this is the first shot in the collective bargaining process," Kramer said.

The NFL is in the midst of negotiating a new labor agreement with the union after the owners opted out of the current deal last year.

Fourth and Goal and NFL Alumni board member Harry Carson also was pleased that Goodell cleared up retired players' concerns.

"I am very happy to see (the) commissioner step forward to eliminate any misstatements or rumor floating out there that could be used in upcoming CBA negotiations," Carson said. "This should put the minds of retired players and families at ease."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.