Richly Deserved

NFL players who played prior to 1977 recently began receiving significantly increased pension checks as a result of the latest extension of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement between NFL owners and players.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association included in the extended CBA a $110 million increase in pension payments to 1,400 pre-1977 players. The program, hailed by pension-rights advocates as without precedent in American industry, raises the minimum pension credit to $200 per month for each season played. The increase doubles the pension of the oldest NFL retirees.

With the new program, pension checks for the oldest retirees (approximately 800 players who played before 1959) have risen from $100 to $200 per month for each season played.

For those players active between 1959-76 (about 1,410 retirees), pensions improved to $200 from $100-$185 per month for each season played.

To qualify for a pension, the league's oldest retirees originally needed to have played a minimum of five seasons to be eligible. In 1998, that minimum was reduced to four seasons, thereby adding to the number of the league's oldest retirees. Also in 1998, the minimum for players who played after 1992 was reduced to only three seasons. All NFL retirees receive full retirement benefits at age 55.

The most recent pension improvement is part of a series of enhancements made by the NFL to the benefits received by retired players. Those improvements have included:

* March, 1987. "Pre-59ers" receive pension.

* May, 1993. 40 percent pension increase (Pre-59ers, 33 1/3 percent).

* March-April, 1998. 10 percent pension increase (Pre-59ers, 25 percent).

Retired players and their families have written numerous letters of appreciation about the pension increases.

Widows of NFL retirees also benefit from the increases.

More than $200 million has been spent between 1993-2000 in additional benefits for those out of football. Disability benefits have increased four times since 1993.

The NFL pension plan pays former players nearly $40 million annually.

The extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players signed this past January is the fourth of the original 1993 deal. It ensures labor peace through at least the 2007 NFL season.

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