Sunday, January 28, 2007

Morris vs. the NFL.

The NFL is now America's pastime; having stolen the crown from baseball, the league now makes money hand over foot, and would prefer to forget about the legends that made the league what it is, at least when it comes to disability claims.

The Washington Post profiles former Dolphins RB Mercury Morris, part of the '72 undefeated season, who has been fighting the league's disability plan over a spinal condition resulting from broken vertebrae in his neck. Morris is the latest in a series of claims from players and their estates seeking disability pay that the NFL has denied based on a very intense reading of its own rules (the estate of former Steelers center Mike Webster received $1.5 million from an appeals court).

The sick part of reading this is that Morris claims the NFLPA is paying the NFL plan's attorney to keep the money out of the hands of those claiming disability:

"Morris seethes when he sees a comment in a 2005 Wall Street Journal story from Douglas Ell, the plan's attorney from the Washington-based Groom Law Group, boasting that courts ruled that 16 of the 20 lawsuits filed by players looking for disability payment were decided in the plan's favor. Two were reversed on appeal and two (including Webster at the time) were in appeals court....Then Morris mentioned that he and Parrish recently discovered, after sharing information, that the NFL Players Association paid Groom $13 million between 2000 and 2006."

More cases like this and the NFL will have a PR nightmare on its hands -- Outside the Lines looked at depression among the former players this morning, using former Packer O-liner John Michaels as a subject, and of course, the segment touched on former Eagle Andre Waters, who committed suicide last year (and one expert claims it's tied to brain damage from his playing days.)

Eventually, the league is going to have to do something here -- and the players' union may have to get rid of Gene Upshaw in order to do it; this reeks of Bryant Gumbel's thrown-off bit about Tagliabue showing Goodell where Upshaw's leash was -- in a very dangerous game, having no guaranteed contracts and little access to disability isn't a good thing for the league to have out in the open. There aren't a ton of eyes batted about steroids in the NFL as they are in baseball, but this may turn out to be more of a medical nightmare for football than the 'roid debate.


Mini Me said...

what a story.

Signal to Noise said...

These stories are going to come back and bite the NFL square in the nuts.