Jim Brown is often held up by the NFL as a legendary symbol of the league, but as he wrote in The New York Times on Saturday in a op-ed, his situation is far from the norm.
Brown highlighted what he feels are low pensions for older retired players. For those who retired before 1993, the rate is about $2,500 a month for a player who spent seven years in the league. Brown called it “shockingly, immorally, low.”
Jim Brown: ‘They need a voice’
The 83-year-old Brown said he was fortunate to not be dependent on a pension because of sponsorships and acting gigs he racked up in his post-playing days. Brown, one of the greatest running backs of all time, played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957-65 and has largely remained in the public eye.
But most of his peers are not as famous as him. Many are struggling, living paycheck-to-paycheck while also dealing with concussions and other football-related health issues. Brown is vouching on their behalf for the NFL to do better by those who built the league to where it is today.
“I know too many of these men and their families,” Brown wrote. “They need a voice, one that can be heard over the highlights.”
The “highlights” are a reference to the NFL’s centennial celebration. All season long, clips have been played and “top 10” lists have been made as the league reminisces on its history. But Brown’s point is that for every star player who we still remember as the calendar turns to the 2020 next month, there are countless lineman who blocked for them and sacrificed their bodies.
These people have not been given their due respect by the league, according to Brown:
In football terms, today’s players should remember their blockers. As a running back, I know that you get only as far as the men who take punishment and remove obstacles for you to run. The nameless linemen in highlight reels didn’t block for just me and long-ago stars like Franco Harris and Walter Payton. They blocked for current players, too.
Brown praises NBA
Brown compared the NFL’s situation to that of the NBA, which has a pension amount three times that of the NFL and gives players free health insurance for life. Currently, only those who have played in the league for three seasons are eligible for health benefits — and those only last five years post-retirement. Considering football is a far more physical sport than basketball, Brown’s point stands to reason.
Ultimately, it’s up to the owners, the commissioner and the players association to work to improve how they treat their alumni. Maybe Brown’s op-ed and urging will be a wake-up call.
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