Mark Murphy recently sat down with Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame to talk about the NFL's labor situation. The entire podcast is worth listening to, but Murphy's answer to a querry about life-after-football for current NFL players really caught my attention:
You know, right now our current players if they’re vested, and you vest if you play three or more seasons, you get health insurance coverage for five years, which is great. But I look at it, too, and the transition for players from playing in the NFL to finding another career and establishing themselves is very difficult, and I really wonder, sometimes, if we do too much for the players. They’ve got severance pay and a 401(k) plan. I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes it’s not all bad, and going back and talking to some of the players who played for Lombardi in the ‘60s — you know, they worked in the off-seasons, and they made a very smooth transition into their second careers because they had to. And so I’m a little worried that if we do too much for players in terms of compensation after their career’s end, and health insurance — it’s not all bad to have an incentive to get a job. And, so those are just some of the things we’re thinking through and talking through.
Murphy is out of his mind on this one. So let me get this straight - with all the evidence coming to light about the health problems many NFL players are facing later in life, Murphy thinks 5 piddly little years of post-career health coverage is "great".
I can't disagree with this assessment more. It's not "great". It's a travesty.
These guys are used and spit out by the league and left to fend for themselves when their gladiator days start catching up with them later in life. Of course, what these players SHOULD be getting is lifetime coverage, but that will never, ever happen.
To his larger point, about the NFL possibly doing too much for players in regards to holding their proverbial hands while they play football, thereby negating their ability to find a job when their careers are over - and using Lombardi era players to enforce his point - I would only say that Lombardi's guys went away at the end of the season in January and weren't seen again until mid-August. Today's players have their seasons end around the first few weeks of January and are expected back at voluntary-but-not-really off-season workouts starting in March. And Murphy wants them to try and fit in offseason jobs? Give me a break.
Murphy is on the frontline of this labor battle, and he has a unique perspective having been both a player and player rep during the last round of labor unrest between the NFL and its players union. But his comments to Dubner certainly seem to shed some light on how dismissive the league seems to be toward the players' concerns.
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