SBD/Issue 87/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Alumni Exec Dir Backs Off Comments About Rookie Wage Scale

Martin Clarifies Recent Statement
About NFL Rookie Wage Scale 
NFL Alumni Association Exec Dir George Martin yesterday stepped away from a public statement he made Friday calling for the NFLPA to consider a league proposal to institute a rookie wage scale for this year's NFL Draft and give some of the savings to retired NFL players. "I am told this increase would be $100[M] starting out," Martin said in the statement issued Friday. "I hope the union will consider this proposal, as it will benefit retired players immediately, while not impacting their task of negotiating a new long term labor agreement for active players." The statement was sent along with an SBD story describing the league's proposal to institute the rookie wage scale this year -- a full year before the expiration of the NFL CBA -- and use some of the savings to improve benefits to retired players. Martin, who became NFL Alumni Exec Dir in October, yesterday said he wanted to "clarify" some of his statements. "I did not comment on labor negotiations," he said. "I am absolutely, vehemently not implying there should be a rookie wage scale." Martin added the "amount told to me would be roughly $100[M]" to be added to retired players benefits, but did not say who gave him this information. The SBD article did not report the $100M figure. Martin: "I am commenting on the aspect that alumni, former players, can derive a benefit. It's a wonderful thing and how it is derived, I don't care whether its from a taxation or a direct contribution or a cap, I would like to see it."

INITIAL COMMENTS DRAW NFLPA REBUKE: Martin's initial comments brought a sharp rebuke from a group of retired players who were meeting with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith on Friday. Smith in a statement said, "We want to know why the teams contribute nothing to retired players and why $31[M] profit per club isn't enough. The simple fact is the teams sell the legacy of retired players, but pay nothing for it. Every fan should know that as they look at their stadiums ring of fame, none of those players have received a dime from the teams since their last play. George Martin knows that better than anyone." The statement was signed by nine former NFLers -- Andre Collins, Jean Fugett, Clark Gaines, Nolan Harrison, Charles Mann, Mike McBath, Brig Owens, Isiah Robertson and Ray Schoenke. The letter also questioned why Martin has not attended retired players meetings Smith has held since he was elected NFLPA Exec Dir last year. Martin said he has not been able to attend NFLPA retired players meetings because of scheduling conflicts, but said he met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell three times since taking on his new job and has met up to twice a week with other league employees since taking the reins of NFL Alumni. The organization is funded in part by a $1M, interest-free loan from the NFL.

MARTIN RESPONDS TO NFLPA, RETIRED PLAYERS: Martin this morning responded to the letter from Smith and the nine former players. The letter in part stated, “Since the day I was selected to this position in October, I have attempted to meet with Mr. Smith but unfortunately he has not been able to free his schedule to sit down with me. Fortunately, I have had numerous other conversations with leaders in the player Alumni community around the country, Commissioner Goodell, and NFL owners. ... My recent statements regarding increasing pension and medical benefits for NFL alumni was not a comment on the current CBA negotiations; rather a call to both the union and the owners to keep the best interests of retired players in mind as they negotiate the latest labor agreement for active players.”

CBA BARGAINING CONTINUES: Meanwhile, the NFL is meeting with the NFLPA today for another formal CBA bargaining session in DC, where the league could respond to the NFLPA's counter-proposal to change rookie deals this year. Under the NFLPA's proposal there would be no wage scale, but rookie deals would be limited to three years and some savings would go to retired players. But the NFLPA's plan is conditional, based on the league agreeing to extend the current labor deal two years and for NFL owners to match any contributions active players make to retired players benefits. It is not expected that the league will accept that offer, as a league source last week said that the union was tying its offer "to extraneous proposals that they know are unacceptable." A union source responded that the NFLPA was asking owners to match the contribution to retired players that active players are willing to make.

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