A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Carson’s Speech Might As Well Have Fallen On Deaf Ears; Rayfield Not Even Mentioned
And was the truth even covered this week at this year’s Pro Football’s Hall of Fame ceremonies? Oh it was covered all right but the topics were nothing of what they should have been for as great as the National Football League is at providing the country and the world with great games of this era, it is far from a perfect organization in addressing the numerous atrocities that seem to plague it, the player’s union and even the so-called scribes of the NFL who get to vote on who’s in and who’s out of the HOF.
When you look at the six candidates inducted for this year’s class, each and every one of them were deserving but yet only one man stood up and gave some sort of backboned statement aimed at the atrocities of how the union takes care of some 18,000 former players and how diversity needs to be a normal practice in the league.
The one person who actually had the where withal to mention anything of the sort was Harry Carson.
Carson’s speech began as humble as it ended but there were several paragraphs of his statement that were crucial in the plight of former NFL players who are receiving substandard pensions.
Carson’s speech on the subjects at hand was the following:
“I had the opportunity to play a fantastic game with fantastic people. When I was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, some people asked me, ‘Why aren’t you happy about being elected?’ Well, I can’t be happy about it until I get one or two things off of my chest, and please indulge me.
As a Hall of Famer, I want to implore the NFL and its union to look at the product that you have up on this stage. These are great individuals. The honor of making it into the Hall of Fame is great, but it was even greater to have the opportunity to play in a league with 18,000 individuals.
“There are some of the best individuals I’ve ever encountered. We’d get on the field and we’d fight tooth and nail, we’d try to knock each other out, then we’d walk off the field, pat each other on the rear end, and say, Congratulations, hang in there, whatever.
Those individuals I am extremely proud of participating in a game, and it is just a game, I’m extremely proud to have participated in that game with those 18,000 individuals.
I would hope that the leaders of the NFL, the future commissioner, and the player association do a much better job of looking out for those individuals. You got to look out for them. If we made the league what it is, you have to take better care of your own.
The other thing I’d like to say is I congratulate Bill Willis on this, the 60th anniversary, of the integration of the NFL. It should have never happened. When you have a player like Fritz Pollard, having played in the ’20s, being shut out, it should have never happened. I applaud Commissioner Tagliabue, the chairman of the diversity committee, Dan Rooney, for their efforts in bringing about a greater sense of diversity in the National Football League.
I hope that the owners and those in the positions of power will open it up to a greater sense of diversity and understand that even those players who have played the game who are looking to get into coaching give them a shot.” As many of you know, I have been very privileged to have the acquaintances of many former AFL/NFL players since I wrote about the travesty that is their substandard retirement package.
To this day, no one that I know of who is currently playing in the NFL will even talk about how their union is not retroactively throwing millions of dollars into a very old system to help some much needed individuals.
So when Carson went to chastise his former teammates and compatriots, it was like talking to the stones at Stone Henge because nobody in this current union is listening.
Oh sure, they tout out this latest news release that says they are putting more money into the system for such players as Abner Haynes, Mel Renfro, Mercury Morris and others who may be a part of the dreaded 255 list (a list of players whose pensions are so dismal that nobody wants to discuss their plight), but let’s get real folks.
The average raise for anyone who is in that troubled group is about $50 per month. So instead of getting $150 per month they are now going to receive $200.
Carson’s words won’t reach the necessary people because there aren’t enough players of his era forward who are speaking out against this travesty.
Imagine the power that induction ceremony could have had if Carson, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon spoke about this travesty on behalf of Rayfield Wright and many others.
Imagine if Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis spoke about it then held a press conference where he produces a $5 million check towards the NFL’s retirement association that Rayfield and others are a part of.
What if John Madden, in his speech, implores the current players to be mindful of their ancestors and do the right thing and take care of them now because one day somebody will have to take care of those current players?
Imagine if Sean Salsbury and Mike Golic of ESPN, several former players who are now on the NFL Network including Randy Cross, Solomon Wilcox, Jerry Rice and others, and even guys I have come to know from Fox Sports Radio like former Dallas Cowboys player James Washington, all came out and constantly ripped the union for its unwavering stance of not doing better for the older retired players.
Imagine that kind of media power and then come back to reality. Nobody that I have mentioned, to date, have really had the balls to stand up and be willing to push this issue forth on any national stage.
Nobody has done so and the scary part is that it’s former players who actually can get this done.
I am warring against these former players and others who speak privately about wanting to do something because the time for them to either put up or shut up is now.
Even the media types, including myself, who have some sort of leverage to put together fundraisers or to actually speak about this important issue needs to do so on a frequent basis.
We in the media need to make Gene Upshaw feel so uncomfortable that he finally realizes that he has done his own generation a major disservice and somehow has a change of heart and fights for them as hard as he fights for the current players.
As often as I have written op/eds about this retirement fund for many of the players I have talked to, I will continue to find an avenue to at least bring it’s attention to the front lines.
But I’m just one writer who isn’t afraid of going to battle for something that I firmly believe in. This is a big battle and to be honest it would be nice if guys like Golic, Washington, Wilcox, Aikman, Moon and others came on board and just railed about the travesty that is being a retired player who doesn’t have the financial means to possibly even travel to Canton, Ohio these days.
It would be nice if these and other former players spoke out and became a national lightning rod on this issue.
But then again that’s my wishful thinking I guess. As great as it may sound, I seriously doubt that too many former players are willing to sacrifice their ‘lofty’ post playing gigs and go against the very union they were once a part of.
That’s too bad because if they did and if more really spoke out on a continual basis, solid change for the hundreds of players affected would be changed for the better.
While I was on my way to the office to put out a few commentaries, I was listening to ESPN Radio and the NFL Network radio channel. While I heard Salsbury and Wilcox mention Rayfield Wright’s name, I did not hear any audio from Wright’s induction speech.
That is surprising to me because I would have thought that at least one or both of these radio networks would be wanting to showcase all of the inductees and not just their favorites.
For ESPN I’m especially disappointed because that should be something that they should be doing on a constant basis in regards to giving the audience full coverage of what was going on and snippets of everybody’s speeches. Y
et by the time I got out of my car, none of that came to pass. I have to ask myself what in the blazes was anyone thinking up there in Bristol yesterday?
Days like the HOF ceremonies are meant to be a time to teach sports fans about the history of the game through the eyes of those playing it.
It took Wright 22 years to finally make it to that day and I don’t want to get started on the numerous ‘pious’ writers who think they hold the sacred keys to who gets into that hall and who doesn’t.
It took 22 years for Rayfield to finally stand up and talk to those who helped get him to where he is today and it would have been nice if at least one radio network realized that fact and did its best to bring the listeners the absolute truth about the player who spent so many years wearing the star.
It’s sad to say but yes it seems that for the most part Rayfield was sort of snubbed by ESPN Radio, the NFL Network and others because he was the least ‘famous’ of the six up on that platform.
That a shame because he is no less important o the history of the game than Moon, Aikman, White, Carson or Madden. It’s a travesty that nobody in the media, outside of the Dallas metroplex, understood that importance of broadcasting Wright’s speech after it was given.
If you just read the words you might get a glimpse at what is missing in today’s top athletes today.