Scott Fujita on the NFL’s Labor Blues

Former Saint and current Browns Linebacker Scott Fujita is one of the smartest players in the NFL. He wrote a piece for giving the players’ side of the potential NFL lockout and I thought I’d share.

Scott thinks the key issue is health care. Hmm, that sounds familiar:

And this season, when it comes to player safety, the NFL suddenly pretended to be the flag-bearers for our health and well-being. This comes after years of denying even the possibility of a link between the game of football, concussions, and long-term traumatic brain injury. And despite the raised level of awareness concerning our post-career health realities, they still want two more games and haven’t even suggested any improvements in post-career care. Their hypocrisy infuriates me. Right now we get just five years of coverage after leaving this game. Five. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to become vested. In the meantime, more and more of our brothers fall victim to ALS, dementia and depression, among other afflictions. My heart screams for these men. Add to that the hip and knee replacements that are sure to come up 10, 15, 20 years after we stop playing. And through the whole PR battle that’s currently being waged, in what some are calling a battle of greed between “millionaires and billionaires,” the players have asked for nothing. Ultimately, we just want to be taken care of after we leave this game.

13 thoughts on “Scott Fujita on the NFL’s Labor Blues

  1. I’ve long been depressed about how the history of the labor movement, which was in the early days concerned with working conditions, health and social circumstance (often brought together as “the dignity of labor”), and where pay was seen as one component of that dignity, has been reduced to a perception that unions are only and always out for more money.

  2. Duh, you guys get paid umpteen million dollars over a 5 year career and you can’t afford to pay for health care insurance? Sorry, I’ll save my sympathy for those who really are needy. Professional athletes get paid so far out of proportion to what they contribute that this crying is very unseemly. Sure, you are uniquely talented entertainers, with short working careers, but still, millions of dollars a year, even for 5 years, and you can’t afford health care insurance? An average engineer can work a 30 year career and still earn less than you guys get for one season.

  3. “…you guys get paid umpteen million dollars over a 5 year career…”
    The average NFL salary is about $750K, not “millions”. Some players do make “millions”, which means that even that average is probably misleading. The minumum is about $300K, and way more players make close to that than make “millions”.
    As for “even over five years”: Some players play for many years, but the average is just under three years.
    So the average career earnings is probably around a million dollars. You’d be willing to trade the likelihood of “ALS, dementia and depression…hip and knee replacements” for $1 million? I’m not.

  4. Of course, sports figures aren’t stereotypically known for saving for a rainy day.
    Using the 3 years and minimum of $ 300k, that is still almost a million. Enough to save up to buy health insurance. That is unless they, under the old system, would be denied for pre-existing condition or hazardous job.
    While I don’t think it would be worth that, like the Freakonomics chapter on why Drug Dealers are like Walmart Greeters, the lower pay folk are dreaming of making the big bucks.
    But if they make almost a mill in 3 years and can’t save up for health insurance, what hope does the average wage earner have?

  5. Does it help to think about it less in terms of health care insurance, and more in terms of workers comp/disability insurance?

  6. Robert, men play professional sports primarily because they love to do so. It is a children’s game, played at a very high level of skill, by very oversized men. No, I would not even consider playing football, not even in high school – the risks far outweigh any benefits. Basketball is another story. At least you aren’t subject to the severe physical beating that football entails. But, basketball players really do make millions per year, and not just the star players, and their typical careers are longer too.
    Football should be viewed much like bull fighting, in my opinion. And, yes I watch football games all the time. But, I realize that those playing the game are in grave danger by doing so.

  7. Robert, I’m intrigued by the idea of it being workers comp / long term disability.
    Both would be insurance policies which could be costed into the contracts and would be reasonable knowing the long term effects of playing football. You may have to convince the young players, being human, probably tending to discount the idea that the adverse effects could happen to them personally instead of some other guy.
    Additionally, I would like to see a fundmental way the players interact with management. We already put the players in what amounts to a suit of armor and then push them to surpass the safety factor of their protective gear. At some point, are we making unreasonable demands?

  8. The players really do have long term health problems. It increasingly looks as if there’s a causal connection between frequent concussions and ALS, which is a lethal and costly illness.

  9. Fuck management. Period.
    Complaining about athletes’ high salaries is only different in degree from all the fuckheads who bitch about unioninzed autoworker compensation or, more recently, “gold-plated” public employee retirement plans.
    The workers (in this case, the players) bust their fucking balls at what they do, and they make the owners richer than the dreams of avarice. It is not foolish for them to say that they want an adequate share of the value that they produce–and that includes long-term health care as well as a good salary. Blaming workers for working in a well-compensated industry is ridiculous. They don’t dictate how much revenue the league gets from TV contracts, or from merchandise sales. They just work their fucking lives out at their jobs, and deserve proper remunerationbased on the value they produce, not on some arbitrary definition that anyone else has of what is enough.
    Fuck management. If they could, they’d pay these guys $10.00 per hour and make them apply for Medicaid.
    Is football dangerous? Fuck yes. So is volunteering for the SEALs. So is EOD, or stunt work in movies, or any of a thousand occupations that people volunteer for, and, like football, many of these occupations are not vitally necessary to the functioning of the society. But if you don’t stand with the workers, you stand with the owners.
    And then you might as well vote Republican.

  10. Damn straight, Jude.
    Anyone, ANYONE, is whom is willing to dismiss ALS and long-term traumatic brain injury sufferers because of what the guy (or gal, someday) did when young and earned a knight’s salary on, is a tool of the rich and powerful.

  11. While it’s easy to say they should save enough money for healthcare insurance, it’s really not a good argument to make, hoppy. And not even taking into consideration the youth of the players (do you know any 20 year olds who save their money for healthcare insurance? Please), there’s no guarantee that they would be able to buy health insurance after their brief football career, and continue to pay for it as their health degenerates, their ability to earn a living after football degenerates, and so on.
    You don’t buy a house with that 1st 300K with cash, and you have expenses beyond what you or I would ever have, and you sure don’t plan on being out of a job after 3 years, that would run counter to the attitude that makes it possible for these kids to play the game in the 1st place. And do you reallythink that the American Health Insurance industry wants to write policies for these young men, with the healthcare costs that lie in their actuarial tables?
    I’ll bet they ain’t cheap premiums.

  12. How much healthcare are you going to buy with those savings anyway? A years? 5 years, 40 years?
    I wonder what their premiums are, knowing they work in a high risk environment with long term health consequences. I’ll bet it’s a lot. $500 a month is like $250,000 over 40 years, is that how much they should save from their paychecks?
    I also challenge the assertion that they play it just because they love to do so. That’s the management angle to trivialize the players. I’ll bet a lot of them do it that way in High School, but those who go to the pros do it cause they can make money doing it, that’s why the college kids are always getting in trouble over money, since they aren’t paid directly and doing it just for “fun” doesn’t cover the pain and 8 hour a day workouts they do.

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