Super Bowl Weekend Shouldn’t Be The Only Time For This Story To Be Told

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 3, 2007

SAN ANTONIO– I’m glad to see and read that the plight of former NFL players is being told this week but I have a problem with Ray Ratto, Dan Wetzel and others, including many of my own friends in radio and TV land, and that problem is this: where the hell were you last year, last month or last week when this should have been a priority back then?

As many of you know, I have been a silent proponent to try and help change how guys like Herb Adderley, Eugene ‘Mercury’ Morris, Wayne Hawkins and almost 250 other former NFL players have been treated by the current NFLPA and it’s union head, Gene Upshaw. I have written several stories about these guys and what they are going through. I have had personal conversations, both via e-mail and on the phone, with many of them and I have heard them tell me how the benefits package that they signed for before the age of 62 has nearly crippled many of them today. And I’m not just talking about some no name guys either. I’m talking about many players who helped make the NFL what it is today and that includes many Hall of Fame players and many of them who are not a part of this weekend’s festivities. Guys like Adderley, Rayfield Wright, Joe DeLamielleure, Alan Page and so many others. I’m talking about guys who changed the game like a Marlon Briscoe, Mercury and Earl Edwards. It was conversations like I had with Mercury some time ago about his court battles and how much he just wants things to be equal for every former player that has pushed me to write those articles and it was correspondence with Edwards, Adderley, Smokey Stover, Ron Mix and others that continues to keep me in the loop, trying to help these guys get what they rightfully deserve but more importantly, to show the union that it needs to do a better job of taking care of its ‘elders’.

So when I read Ratto’s piece or hear one of my friends talk about this charity or that charity, I do get fighting mad at them. I get mad at them because in our business of sports, we, as writers, talk show hosts, or pundits should be caring this torch a lot longer than just a few weeks before another Super Bowl game. I cannot tell you how many times I have sent out personal emails to many of my friends saying that it is up to us to put the pressure on Upshaw and others to realize that former gladiators have paid a tremendous price for the rich millions and billions that this league and players have today. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just pick up the phone and say, “When in the hell are you guys going to get real about this issue and seriously talk about it?” heck even this past week, I was so tempted to pull a few trump cards and ‘sabotage’ some shows because all they were doing was hitting and missing the issue. But what good would that have done for any of us? Nothing.

Let’s take this even further. I have made suggestions, both via e-mail and through writings, that some very well known former players like Mike Ditka, Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw and others need to speak up on video and call Upshaw on the carpet. I’d like to see guys like a Ray Buchanan, James Washington, Greg Lloyd, Cornelius Bennett and Deion Sanders not hide behind the ‘media’ cloak and just tell it like it is. These guys and so many others who are a part of the media now have a tremendous voice and if they spoke up more and often, things could definitely be so much better.

By the same token, this story can only go away when the current membership of the NFLPA realize that they are not helping former players at all. Players can come to the rescue of a family like that of Darrant Williams in tragedy but they cannot be proactive on a tragedy that is ongoing right in front of them. What is wrong with this current NFLPA to say, “okay guys, every month you need to kick in $250 so that we can make sure that ALL of us have a pension plan for years to come”? I simply cannot fathom the fact that nobody in the Washington, D.C. offices sees that by simply raising a few dollars out of everyone’s pockets now and creating a pension fund that covers those players like Adderley and Edwards as well as the millionaires who will be leaving soon. It just seems that nobody truly wants to fix the problem with fresh new ideas; that they are perfectly happy with how things are right now.

I know that there is a retired players committee at the NFLPA that is working hard to correct the problem that is facing these former players. I know that’s a true fact and I have been in contact with many of those members who have said, “just point us to them and we’ll try to help”. But that’s not good enough people. That committee should be a separate committee who is making sure that each end every former player who has signed the package that is paying them a $127.34 a month is getting at least a check of $1,237.34 a month. There should be a pension fund for these guys that takes advantage of the aggressive markets in our financial districts, that benefits from various NFL charity donations, that speaks about education to the new retiring players and who is a true partner to the NFLPA. And yes I’m even saying that maybe Upshaw should still be the man in charge.

But it shouldn’t be this way and it shouldn’t be a hot media topic the week or weekend before the biggest game of the football season. These players deserve better than what is being given by the media. Many Hall of Famers like Adderley, DeLamielleure and Page should be a part of this game. Media outlets should be just tripping over themselves to talk to these retired players who have played in the early Super Bowl contests. There should be long lines of callers wanting to speak to these former gladiators and find out from them how things were back in the ‘glory’ days of the NFL/AFL. That’s how it should be but that’s not the reality. The reality is that the only time any of these men are called upon is right about this time and I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m not going to say that my disappointment in my own profession leaves me shameful because it doesn’t. If a writer or talk show host wants to take this time to bring out one of the biggest tragedies in sports today, I say go for it because it needs to be exposed. But what I am shameful about is the fact that while this story is being told all over the world right now and maybe a few days after the big game, I know for a fact that nobody will speak about this tragedy a month from now or even a year from now until Super Bowl XLII in Arizona.

Look, I applaud those who have decided to speak about the plight of our retired NFL players. There really isn’t a better time to do it than this weekend. However, if guys like Ratto, Wetzel and others really want to help these guys out, then speak on this topic when this game is over with and there’s nothing going on in March. These guys played their hearts out for us in the early years and I think the sports media, especially those who have the stroke of the pen or the boom of a mike that can reach millions, to tell their story and to keep it as a major blip on the sports story radar screen. This story needs to be told as often as possible.

The Super Bowl isn’t the only time for this story to be told; it’s just the biggest stage because of the game being played.

NOTE: Check the BASN archives for Greg’s story entitled “The Lie That The NFL Won’t Tell Current Players” at