Warner, Rice Distance Themselves From Potential HOF Boycott
Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have "distanced themselves" from the group of Pro Football HOFers who are threatening to boycott future induction ceremonies unless they receive health insurance and an annual salary, according to Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSPORTS.com. Warner in a statement said that he "wasn't aware" of the letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and Pro Football HOF President David Baker outlining the group's stance and that his "signature was 'mistakenly attached'" to the letter. Meanwhile, Rice in a separate statement noted that he is "not a member" of the HOF BOD, which was responsible for the letter. Both Warner and Rice indicated that while they "support the issues that the group raised, they will not be participating in a boycott" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted Eric Dickerson, the Chair of the HOF BOD, posted a statement on Twitter "accepting responsibility for a miscommunication" with Warner and Rice. However, Dickerson's acceptance of responsibility was "hardly unconditional and unequivocal." He said this is "typical NFL pitting players against each other." Dickerson: "The NFL's strategy is simply to take attention away from the major issue at hand, which is that the NFL is past due on doing right by the players" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/18).
SPECIFICS OF THE PROPOSAL: TMZ notes Dickerson is "demanding Hall of Famers get a respectable salary." He said, "If it was up to me, I think every Hall of Famer would get about $300,000 a year. I think that would be a proper number." He added he eventually wants all former players -- "not just the NFL legends -- to get a 6-figure salary and health care" (TMZ.com, 9/19). Dickerson: "We want all players to have health insurance, not just Hall of Famers" ("OTL," ESPN, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith notes Dickerson "complained that NFL player pensions aren’t big enough and said $300,000 a year for each Hall of Famer would supplement their pensions" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/19). Dickerson said that the "intent is ultimately to win benefits for all retired players, but the Hall of Famers have leverage." He said, “If I had just started with the retired players, I wouldn’t have gotten their attention. But when you start with the Hall of Fame guys, you get their attention. Those names are recognizable" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19).
UPHILL CLIMB: USA TODAY's Tom Schad noted Dickerson and the group will "likely face an uphill battle given the financial heft of their request" -- about $60M annually -- and the fact that the NFL, NFLPA and HOF "all operate as independent entities" (USATODAY.com, 9/18). FS1’s Jason Whitlock said there are some "good ideas in this and what (Dickerson's) proposing and what these players are striving for." However, they have "come out really hard and some of the language in this letter is a little over the top." Former NFLer DeAngelo Hall agreed with what the HOFers are trying to achieve, but said, "This is the time to say, ‘Let’s start with all players. Let’s not just start with the Hall of Famers.’" FS1's Marcellus Wiley: "Sometimes you just need a spokesman, spokesmen. You need the ones that are going to have the most powerful voice in your message" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 9/18). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “Somebody has to leverage something to get anything out of the NFL. I'm not saying this is the way, but somebody always has to leverage something” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/18).
NOT ABOUT THE HALL: In Canton, Todd Porter in a front-page piece reports the HOF has "increased appearances for Hall of Famers and fees for those players" since Baker took over. The HOF, while "working closely with the NFL, is not a part of the league and operates independent of the league’s revenue." The NFL’s contributions "amount to less" than 5% of the HOF's revenue. More than $4.5M was "paid out to Hall of Famers for appearance fees" in '17, and a long-standing emergency fund is also "available to Hall of Famers." HOFer Joe DeLamielleure, an "outspoken critic of the NFL and the players union, said the Hall of Fame is caught in the middle and 'the beef isn’t with the Hall or the people of Canton.'" DeLamielleure: "I don’t blame the Hall of Fame. I blame the league and the union. We have a corrupt union." HOFer Dave Robinson said that he "did not have a chance to see the letter and declined to comment on the specifics of it." Robinson said, “I see where the frustration is coming from. What the guys went through in the early days to make the league what it is today -- a lot of people feel we have not been adequately rewarded" (Canton REPOSITORY, 9/19).
MISSED OPPORTUNITY? The AP's Barry Wilner wrote there are questions about "how well-organized the group" is. One name on the list of 22 signees was Carl Ellard, but "no one by that name has played professional football." Carl Eller was inducted into the HOF in '04 (AP, 9/18). In N.Y., Carron Phillips writes the HOFers behind the letter had "good intentions with this letter" as they "wanted to force the league’s hand." However, good intentions "become null and void if they are followed by bad execution, and that seems like it could be the case here." If all living HOF members "weren’t at least notified that this was coming, then it’s impossible to believe that they will now all be on the same page" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/19).