From around the country, retired NFL players of varying ages and fame will congregate in Arlington (Dallas/Ft. Worth suburb) today (Friday) and Saturday in hopes that their collective voice will be heard.
They call themselves the Retired NFL Players Congress Inc. This is will be the fourth time since 2009 that they have gathered for a summit, but the first as a legally incorporated entity.
“It is now owned by every former player who ever played in the NFL,” said 67-year-old Congress chairman and co-founder Bob Grant, who played linebacker for the Colts and Redskins in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
“We’re not accepting any funding from the league. We’re not accepting any funding from the [NFL] Players Association. This corporation is owned by the [former] players themselves.”
Ex-NFL players decided this was a necessary step and distinction because they believe for too long they’ve been voiceless and therefore disengaged from a league they helped build into an entity that now generates an estimated $9 billion in annual revenue.
Former NFL players no longer are considered employees of their teams and, by law, they cannot be part of an NFL Players Union that collectively bargains with the league on issues that directly affect the nearly 20,000 former players, their spouses and families.
Most crucial among those issues are pensions and health benefits, which, according to Grant, pale in comparison with those received by former Major League Baseball and NBA players.
“Many of our brothers are hurting, suffering silently, pride fully,” said Congress president Marvin Cobb, who played safety for the Bengals, Steelers and Vikings from 1975-80.
When the first summit of about 200 retired players convened in Las Vegas in 2009, they did so as an independent group.
Since then, Cobb said, the group has gained traction and “had good contact with the NFL over the last 18 months to two years. I get the sense that they’re rooting for us,” he added.
Cobb said that by the end of two days of meetings and panel discussions at the Arlington Hilton Hotel, the Congress hopes to have “a common set of initiatives that retired football players can agree on and join forces behind.”
Registration is open and free to any former NFL player with at least one credited season. Free on-site health screenings will be offered.
The former players will be updated on the concussion lawsuit against the NFL that was settled for $765 million last August.
An expected highlight of the two-day summit will be Saturday morning’s keynote address, given by Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach.
Retired NFL Players Summit
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Arlington Hilton Hotel
Attendees: Free enrollment to any former NFL player with at least one credited season.
Information: retirednflplayers congress.com
Photograph: Former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach speaks during the unveiling of the Cooper Fitness Center’s multi-million dollar renovated building February 5, 2014. Troy Aikman listens in the background. (Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor)