The NFL lockout has been dubbed “billionaires vs. millionaires.”  Let’s be clear about one thing:  There are very few players that are millionaires in the NFL.  The vast majority of NFL players are far from millionaires.  They also have short careers, a high risk of injury, and shorter lifespans than the average male.  Most have to find other jobs when their playing days end.  Some become disabled due to NFL-based health problems and can’t work.  So, the “billionaires vs. millionaires” label simply isn’t accurate.

But in the sense that the label conveys a battle of greed in the NFL lockout mess, it is accurate.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the owners and players almost total disregard for the health benefits of former NFL players.  Both sides want more money now.  There’s no long-term thinking or empathy for former players who are struggling with the effects of injuries suffered as NFL players.  Today, former players lose health benefits five years after their playing careers are done — and that’s only if a player has three years of service in the league.

Evan Weiner does a nice job describing the “money-now-at-all-costs” mindset of both owners and players in the current labor dispute.

“NFL owners and players go to court on June 3 to argue over whatever they are fighting for,” says Weiner.  “Collective bargaining agreement negotiations pick up on June 8.  The players want status quo and to keep 59 percent of football revenues, the owners want the players to give back revenues, cut their salaries (contracts are not guaranteed) and help build stadiums in Minnesota and Santa Clara, California by kicking in part of their revenues.  Meanwhile, former players are still out in the cold with meager pensions and no health benefits and for many football players, getting health insurance is almost impossible because of pre-existing conditions.”

The owners should be filled with shame regarding the minimal health benefits and tiny pensions of former players.  But the players are culpable too.  In the NFL labor disputes dating to 1982, the players have done a poor job fighting for better treatment of former players.

“The ‘Money Now’ mantra of the players should have been replaced by ‘what will your life at the age of 45, 50, 55 and 60 be like?'” says Weiner.

When the owners and players get back to the bargaining table, you can be sure the arguments from both sides will be all about getting more money now.  Old NFL stars struggling with chronic disabilities from concussions and other injuries suffered while playing in the NFL will be but a distant afterthought.

That’s a shame.

— Ken Reed, Director & Senior Analyst, League of Fans

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