SBD/February 13, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bears Not Worried About NFLPA Scaring Away Free Agents Over Workers' Comp Bill

With NFL free agency beginning March 9, the Bears "aren't worried that their support of a workers' compensation bill" -- or threats made by the NFLPA -- will "scare away players," according to Patrick Finley of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Bears Senior VP & General Counsel Cliff Stein said, "There is no realistic fear there. We have a really strong relationship with agents, and we’re very transparent. Anytime any question would come up, we would show all the facts." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith last week said that the union "would steer free agents away from the Bears" because of their support of Illinois' Senate Bill 12. The measure "proposes changing the maximum age at which pro athletes can draw 'wage differential' workers’ compensation from 67 to either 35 or five years after their injury occurred" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/11). In Chicago, Dan Wiederer wrote Smith's proclamation "failed to acknowledge how the proposed bill compared with current laws in other states." Union Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, "We want one of two outcomes: for the NFL to call the Chicago Bears and tell them to stop this, or for the state senator to pull this bill on behalf of the Bears and the other professional sports teams (in Chicago) who essentially wrote it for her." The NFLPA has had "difficulty demonstrating how far-reaching the bill's impact would be if passed" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/11). Also in Chicago, David Haugh wrote Smith targeting the Bears on this issue is "unwarranted and unnecessary." The "more information the NFLPA's attacks bring to light, the more Smith's comments fall somewhere between incendiary and irresponsible." The wage-differential issue has "nothing to do with football's concussion crisis yet seeks to take advantage of the public skepticism created by it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/11).
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