Photo: Scott Cunningham (Getty)

The names of 21 NFL greats are listed at the bottom of the letter announced today demanding health insurance and pensions for Hall of Famers. By definition it’s an impressive list, but it’s getting less impressive by the hour: both Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have now publicly disavowed the letter’s specific demands and threats:

Eric Dickerson, listed as “Chairman, Hall of Fame Board” on the letter, went on Outside The Lines Tuesday to explain his group’s thinking, and to address the perception that his board’s efforts start and stop at looking out for Hall of Famers:

“I’m trying to help the Hall of Famers. That is my goal. That is our goal. The guys who talked about this, this is our goal is to help the players. And also not just the Hall of Famers. I want to make that perfectly clear. One thing is we have to have a seat at the CBA table. We want all players to have health insurance, not just Hall of Famers.”

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Dickerson also told ESPN that he views this step—advocating for health insurance specifically for the legends of the game—as a necessary first step, before they can get to expanding his proposed benefits to all retired players.

“We have to get to 1 before we can get to 10. You have to start with the Hall of Famers because we’re trying to get some power first. We don’t have a voice at the table and we’re trying to get there with the attention of the Hall of Famers first. When you get Hall of Famers talking, hopefully you get the attention of the masses.”

It’s probably not a coincidence that both Rice’s and Warner’s statements make a point of mentioning all retired players, and that Dickerson is having to explain the exclusion of non-Hall of Famers during the first part of the public relations phase of this push. It seems like the plan was to use the fame and stature of Hall of Famers as leverage in order to get representation for retirees in league business. But there also appear to have been two failures, here: the failure to fully brief everyone whose name appears on the letter; and the compounding failure to anticipate how players might feel about being associated with an effort to lift Hall of Famers into a separate bargaining class, pursuing exclusive benefits. It’s created an unanticipated scenario where players come out looking more heroic for disavowing the effort than they do by sticking with it.