Eric Reid and his lawyers are mad.
And it seems they have reason to be.
On Monday, they sent a letter to NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith on Monday accusing the NFL and union of changing the Collective Bargaining Agreement by cutting benefits for disabled players after it had been finalized — a move that Reid’s lawyers say is unprecedented and unacceptable.
“It’s a total game-changer,” Reid’s attorney Ben Meiselas told Deadspin. “Never in my career have I seen a legal document changed after the fact.”
“Even if there was a minor difference, it should invalidate the agreement,” Meiselas continued. “But this was not just a minor difference, it was a material change to disability benefits.”
In an interview with Deadspin before the original vote, Reid explained how he felt the original proposal gutted disability benefits “designed as a safety net for current (players) who become most vulnerable.” Monday’s letter cites new language in Article 60 of the March 15 version that reduces benefits for a “much larger population of disabled retired players” and “reduce(s) the benefits of potentially hundreds of families who were not negatively impacted in this way, by the terms found in the March 5 CBA version.”
Reid and his lawyers call for an independent investigation on the “inexplicable alterations” to the new contractual language which were “entirely unacceptable without notice or any process.” The letter asks for the revised CBA to be either invalidated, or subject to a new player vote.
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The memo to Smith called for a “prompt response,” but two days later there has been none.
Deadspin reached out to the NFL on Wednesday and was told “the league does not have a comment.”
The only indirect response has come from NFLPA President J.C. Tretter who issued a plea for player unity, but Tretter did not address the primary issue of the changed CBA document. Reid, currently a free agent after being cut by the Carolina Panthers, criticized Tretter’s comment on Twitter, saying, “being unified in ignorance helps no one” and said the NFLPA’s “silence is deafening.”
But not everyone is silent or thinks the matter should be pushed aside.
“The world is in crises for sure,” tweeted former NFL player Billie Joe Hobert. “But does that mean we should potentially put hundreds of disabled athletes on the streets due to some shady backroom dealing?!? Disabled players are on a fixed income that will be reduced by 20-30k per year if we don’t fight back. Shady.”
The ratified CBA is a 10-year agreement and will likely outlast the coronavirus by many years.
Former Colts linebacker Keith O’Neil tweeted: “I’m a disabled NFL vet collecting SSDI and NFL T&P. Imagine having bipolar disorder — psychotic episodes, living on a fixed income for 7 years, and then suddenly the NFL takes away approximately 20% of your income just to save a penny.
While most people think of NFL players as multimillionaires, the majority play only one or two years at the league’s minimum salary before leaving the game with lifelong injuries. Most have struggles far more in common with working Americans than their former millionaire colleagues.
O’Neil’s wife Jill summed it up best: “Sad that billionaire owners bargained to deduct Social Security benefits from disabled players NFL pensions. Even sadder NFLPA agreed to it. Amazon, Fedex, Microsoft. Are you sure you want to associate with these people?”