By: Marcus Davide, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Last week, in a letter signed by Pro Football Hall of Fame board chairman Eric Dickerson, Hall of Famers demanded health insurance as well as an annual salary derived from the National Football League’s yearly revenue. NFL greats such as Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Deion Sanders, Joe Namath, and many others all signed the letter. The letter outlined the physical and emotional toll the game has taken on them in addition to the financial stresses they face long after their playing days have passed. The letter ultimately threatened that the Hall of Famers would boycott future induction ceremonies if their demands were not met.

While it seems reasonable to demand a better deal, it may strike some as unfair. Why should Hall of Famers get preferential treatment while the many other NFL stars whose playing days have past them are left in the dust? The demand letter seems to forget about the Hall of Famer’s former teammates. The same teammates who put their bodies through the same stress and rigor of countless football seasons, just as those enshrined in Canton did. As it is, NFL players already receive a pension in addition to a 401(k). Also, the 2011 collective bargaining agreement created a 620 million dollar “legacy fund” for players that played in the league prior to 1993. The Hall of Famers in their letter called the legacy fund “little more than cynical public relations ploys that fail to help those who desperately need it.” The Hall of Famers estimate that the cost of providing health insurance would be short of 4 million dollars or about 3 cents for every $100 the league generates as Dickerson stated in the letter. The salary comes out to an estimated $300,000 dollars per year for the Hall of Famers. While the letter does mention an effort to eventually insure and compensate all players, the letter pushes doing so aside till the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated, after the current one expires in 2021.

I have no issue with compensating the players of the past, after all they did help build the league. But, I do believe what is more important is compensating all of the past players, if that is the route the NFL chooses. Just because one made the Hall of Fame and dons the gold jacket, does not necessarily mean that they are faced with more physical and financial hardships. Induction into the Hall of Fame may even suggest the opposite. This dispute has only just begun and will progress as the issues between the Hall of Fame and the NFL get ironed out. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what transpires of this