Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Congress: NFL Should Improve Benefits

From the AP via the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:

Aging NFL retirees told Congress Tuesday that playing professional football left them with broken bodies, brain damage and empty bank accounts. Lawmakers said they may get involved if a better pension and disability system isn't created.

Former NFL players told a sympathetic House Judiciary subcommittee tales of multiple surgeries, dementia and homelessness, all while trying to fight through the red tape of the National Football League and the NFL Players Association's disability system.

The league and the players association said pensions are improving and there's no need for Congress to step in.

Curt Marsh, an Oakland Raider from 1981-87, described a leg amputation, more than 30 surgeries and multiple doctor visits before he was approved for disability payments. Brent Boyd, a Minnesota Viking from 1980-86, talked about his bouts with homelessness as a single dad and brain damage he blames on multiple concussions from his football days.

Click here for the rest.

So, as you probably know, I love football. I just try not to think about shit like this when I watch. Otherwise, it wouldn't be much fun. But make no mistake about it. Football is an extraordinarily brutal and dangerous game. From time to time over the years, viewers get to see some of that brutality on the field, when players are badly hurt, or even disabled for life. The crowd falls silent; the announcers soften their tone. Then play starts up again and we forget about it. Almost never, however, do we see the long term effects of football's savagery. And that's what these hearings are about. I'd foolishly assumed that the NFL was taking care of its own, but apparently I was wrong.

Bottom line: the NFL rakes in hundreds of millions every year; they easily can afford to take care of these guys who literally gave their bodies for our entertainment. Really, some of those millions should be going into making the game safer, but until then the wealthy elites of bigtime football owe these former players. If they don't get their shit together on this, Congress should definitely get involved.