NFL lockout negotiations continue, but as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith keep hashing out details, John Mackey reminds everyone that retired players need more support, too.
Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey passed away Wednesday at the age of 69. His blend of size, speed, and strength made his position a weapon in the NFLâs increasingly sophisticated passing game, expanding the tight endâs role from that of a glorified sixth lineman.
In addition to his contributions on the field, Mackey served four years as NFL Players Association president from 1969 to 1973. A brief 1970 strike led to $11 million in improvements to player pensions and benefits, according to the Baltimore Sun.
He also led litigation that forced the elimination of the âRozelle Rule,â which limited free-agent signings by mandating that a team losing a free agent must receive equal compensation. The courtroom victory helped pave the way for the free-agent system from which todayâs players benefit.
The rigors of Mackeyâs career, however, left him with dementia, an increasingly common side effect from the constant hits absorbed by NFL players. The NFL and NFLPA collaborated on the so-called â88 Plan,â which provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care to ex-players suffering from dementia, and $50,000 for home care.
The NFL lockout sometimes gets oversimplified to two groups of rich guys arguing over who gets how much of the leagueâs nine-billion-dollar revenue pie. Whatâs often lost is the issue of care for the players who put the NFL in position to rake in those amounts of money. Retired players have filed a grievance demanding a larger voice in the lockout negotiations, attempting to make sure that theyâre not left out in the cold as owners and todayâs players battle over the spoils of the game.
The negotiations appear to be warming up as the planned start dates of NFL training camps approach. It would be sad if the deal was sidetracked by both sides being reminded that they have not adequately provided for the NFLâs retirees. If it is, though, so be it, because making sure that players from John Mackeyâs era can live their final days in dignity vastly outweighs the need for todayâs stars to buy another house.