Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Joe DeLamielleure Calls Out Drew Brees

Dear Drew:

At the NFL Players Association convention in Hawaii this past Sunday, you presented a resolution that would give former players two seats on the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives.

The two seats are for “non-voting members.” In my book, that’s just a bark without a bite. In fact this is nothing but window-dressing by the NFLPA to give retired players the illusion that they have some power. Retired players may be sitting at the table, but when it comes time to vote….. we have to sit quietly in the corner and watch.

In touting your amendment you said “As one team, we will fight to improve a health care system that currently only gives players five years of health care if you play three years and a plan that doesn’t cover all preventative health care for our wives”.

Did you actually say that in front of retired players? How in the world does that statement have anything to do with helping most retired players? Not one single player, before 1993, had 5 free years of health insurance after they retired, not to mention coverage for their wives!

You want retired players to be on your team. You gotta be kidding me! On every team that I ever played on, we all had the same game plan. Well, your game plan is a lot different than the one most retired players want to see executed.

Could one of the reasons you want us to join the “Team” be because the NFL Owner’s have discontinued their contributions to your Annuity Plan, Second Career Savings Plan, Tuition Assistance Plan, Health Reimbursement Account? Well, if you want us to fight for your benefits, you better start fighting for ours!

You forgot to mention in your press conference that after your 5 free years of medical benefits end, you will have a Health Reimbursement Account that will kick in. The NFL owners have been depositing $25,000 annually into your pre-tax account. Your account can increase up to $300,000, therefore you can rest comfortably knowing that this will help you pay for direct medical expenses, medical insurance premiums, and medical insurance co-pays and deductibles for all your family members including your wife!

If you really wanted the retired players to rally around you Drew, you should have mentioned something about increasing the Pension Plan, or reforming the Disability Plan, which are the top two issues that concern retired players.

So where were you when the owners recently proposed to increase retired player pension benefits by $100 Million? The money for that expense would have come from a wage cap on rookies.

Why would you want to continue a system that gave $462 Million in guaranteed bonuses to the first 32 players selected in last years draft? Those guys had never played a single down in the NFL. This year it will happen again and that is a slap in the face of all retired players who built the foundations of the NFL that you are now standing on………and benefitting from. Would your silence on this issue have anything to do with the fact that Tom Condon is your agent and that he would stand to lose millions of dollars if the rookie wage cap was put in place. I certainly hope not.

It is simply astonishing to me that you expressed your concern about better health insurance for NFL wives, especially in light of the fact that there are thousands of retired players that never received a plug nickel for post-career health insurance and a Health Reimbursement Account like the one you will have when you retire.

Some players have been denied an NFL disability and as a result, their bank accounts have been drained dry due to hospital and doctor bills. Many retired players can’t find affordable health insurance because they’re self-employed. Many others have the added problem of insurance companies dropping them, capping their annual payments, or outright denying them coverage because of (football related) pre-existing conditions.

Fortunately, you have a disability plan that can help you, should you get injured. Before 1993 there wasn’t much of a plan to speak of. If, God forbid, you should have an injury that ends your career, I guess it doesn’t hurt to know that your agent, Tom Condon, is one of the NFLPA appointments to the Board that reviews claims for disability.

This past Sunday wasn’t the first time you’ve made comments that make retired players question your commitment to improving the Pensions of retired players. Back on January 29, 2009 you made some rather insulting comments about retired players when you said “There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions. They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They’ve had a couple divorces and they’re making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say, Please make up for my bad judgment.”

Yes, there are some guys that made bad decisions, but unlike your generalized characterization, the majority of us made good decisions.

As for me, my work ethic speaks for itself. I never missed a day of practice in 13 seasons in the NFL. Since my retirement, I’ve worked every day of my life. I also worked during the football offseason too, just like many other players of my generation.

I’ve been married to my wife Gerri for 38 years. She works so we can make ends meet and also have health insurance coverage through her employer. I have 4 biological children, 2 adopted children and 3 other children that I raised and put through college and trade schools. I currently have 8 grandchildren.

Just like you, I want to make sure I can provide for my family, but it hasn’t been easy on our incomes and my current pension which is $1,247.96 a month.

Unfortunately, I received some bad advice from the union and was encouraged to take my Pension at age 45. We were given bogus information that told us NFL players were dying at a much younger age than the general population, so I did what I thought was best for my family.

Many retired players had to take their pension money out of necessity. We didn’t make the millions that you and other players now make. I should note that the NFLPA finally realized their mistake and stopped allowing retired players to take early pensions and the Social Security Adjustment Option too.

I would also like to point out that back in my playing days, we didn’t have the security of knowing that an Annuity Plan and a Second Career Savings Plan would be waiting for us after retirement. I recently read that those two funds have almost 1.5 Billion dollars in total assets, but those monies are only for the more recent generation of players – guys that played after 1993. If that money had been put into the Pension plan it could have helped ALL retired players, not just the guys that were fortunate enough to come along after all the player strikes, court battles and fighting for free agency was said and done.

In addition to your 5 free years of medical coverage and your health reimbursement account, you will also have $455,000 in your Annuity account, $132,000 in your Second Career Savings account and if you were to retire today, you would also receive a Severance Check of $145,000 and an NFL Pension which would pay you $56,400 annually at age 55.

This is all on top of the 6 year, $60 Million contract you signed in 2006, of which 20.1 million was guaranteed.

These figures do not include the moneys you also make from the NFLPA Group Licensing Program, NFL Players (the marketing arm of the NFLPA) and all of your endorsements.

Like a lot of retired players, I’m sick and tired of hearing multi-millionaire players talk about increasing their own benefits, while at the same time giving lip service to retired players.

In closing, I want you to know that I am aware of all the good things you are doing in your community and that you are very involved in raising money for charities. I too, am very involved in raising money for organizations and charities.

We both know what needs to be done to help the less fortunate and that is why I am calling on you to help the pioneers of the NFL by advocating for a significant increase in retired player pensions and instituting additional reforms to the NFL Disability Plan.


Joe DeLamielleure
NFL Hall of Fame – Class of 2003