A dollars and sense solution to pensions

While players like Packers long snapper Rob Davis cry about a shrinking pot of revenue that's a mere $7 billion a year, a small contribution by every player could make a difference to those in need.

Rob Davis, the Green Bay Packers' longtime long snapper and the team's representative to the NFL Players Union, is an intelligent and humble man. But something he told the Green Bay Press-Gazette really bugs me.

Asked about the controversy surrounding the NFL's pension program for its retirees, Davis said: "You're trying to take care of the 1,500 or so current guys, and now you want us to go back and take care of (10,000, 12,000), 15,000 other guys. After a while, the pot gets a little small."

The pot gets a little small?

The NFL is a $7 billion per year business juggernaut. That's billion, not million, and that's year, not decade.

I have nothing against Davis, and the boatload of money he's made doing nothing more than snapping a football 10 times a game. With the amount of money the league reels in every year, the players certainly are entitled to every penny.

The pension the league's oldest retirees receive each month, however, will make you laugh until you cry. They receive $200 per month per year of service (minimum of four).

Considering the foundation of the multibillion-dollar NFL is built on the sweat, broken bones, torn ligaments, bum knees and chronic arthritis of the players of yesteryear, that amount of money is embarrassingly low.

No sports revere their history like baseball and football. But while a baseball player with five years of major-league service has a pension of almost $90,000 a year, a five-year NFL veteran who retired before 1959 — the pre-59ers, as they are called, have the worst pension — receive only $12,000 a year.

That's pitiful, because without the players in those old, grainy black-and-white NFL Films programs, the NFL wouldn't be the sports kingpin that it is.

Retired players like Jerry Kramer can only do so much. Kramer, on his Web site JerryKramer.com and his Gridiron Greats organization, created a series of online auctions, with proceeds benefiting those in need.

The memorabilia in those auctions is mostly purchased by people like me and you, meaning Joe Fan — not the NFL and its players — is coming to the rescue.

That's flat-out wrong.

"Our era built the NFL, and now they don't give a damn at all about us," Hall of Fame linebacker and center Chuck Bednarik said in a 2002 interview. "We have been completely and utterly forgotten."

I'm not smart enough to come up with a solution, and I'm certainly not an expert on this subject. Union president Gene Upshaw seemingly has a heart of ice when he tells fellow Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure that he'd like to "break his damn neck" for DeLamielleure's frequent criticism of the pension plan.

Still, Upshaw is right when he says he represents today's players, not yesterday's.

Nonetheless, there has to be something that can be done, right? But why wait for a bunch of rich people to fight over billions of dollars to come up with something they think is fair?

Using such raw numbers as a $109 million per-team salary cap and player rosters of 53, the average NFL player's salary is about $2 million per season.

If every player donated 1 percent of his salary, that would be, on average, $20,000 per player. That equates to $1.06 million per team, or almost $34 million across the league. In a single, one-year pop

Think that would solve the problem?

Think that would solve the league's public-relations crisis?

Don't expect anything to happen, though, because it's far too easy to drive around in one of the 10 cars in your garage than it is to give back to the people who made your eight-figure bank account possible.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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