Fairness for Athletes in Retirement (FAIR) President Lisa Marie Riggins would like to thank the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) for raising pension benefits for retired players – especially those who retired before 1993 and who needed it most – in the recently ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The CBA increased pensions for all vested pre-2012 players to $550 per month per year of service — which for pre-1993 players represented a raise of $176 to $192 per season. This results in an increase of about $15,000 annually for a “typical” vested pre-1993 player, who played seven seasons.
The CBA also lowered the minimum tenure for pre-1993 players to vest in the pension plan from four years to three. Additionally, monthly pension credits for all vested players are guaranteed to rise either $25 or $50 in five years, depending on NFL revenue growth, which helps offset inflation.
Many players will also receive a health-reimbursement account worth $50,000 depending on their age, Medicare status and other factors that are being clarified.
Ms. Riggins said that these increases could greatly improve the lives of many older NFL retired players and their families, who never enjoyed the six- and seven-figure salaries of today yet played an irreplaceable role in the league’s growth.
“This has been such a long fight to get pension parity for pre-1993 NFL players, and I’m very gratified that the owners and the union stepped up like they have,” said Ms. Riggins, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, who founded FAIR in 2017. She is married to the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins.
She added, “There are so many pre-1993 players who are struggling in large part because pensions have been so low for all these years. It seems like the NFL and the players realize what these pioneers did and sacrificed to make this the $15 billion enterprise it is.”
FAIR spent more than two years compiling actuarial data and developing comprehensive materials for NFL owners and players to detail the pension crisis for men who played before the 1993 CBA went into effect. Subsequent CBAs occasionally raised their pensions by relatively small amounts. Even after the 2011 Legacy Benefit boosted credits about $110 per month, the pension for a typical pre-1993 retiree still remained only about $30,000 per year.
In comparison, beyond their higher pension, today’s typical player receives a 401(k) plan, an annuity and other significant benefits that by age 55 grow to be worth about $2 million.
Although final figures regarding the 2020 CBA benefit improvements have not been announced by the NFL or the Players Association, FAIR estimates that they will cost close to the one percent of revenue – and perhaps more – than FAIR proposed.
“We didn’t ask for more or less than what they did with the 2011 Legacy Benefit,” Ms. Riggins said. “League revenue has grown at a tremendous rate. We did our homework and showed how powerful that one percent could be to the 4,500 actual families we’re talking about.”
FAIR compiled it’s data and produced full-color, 40-page binders for active players to inform them on the facts and history behind the pre-1993 pension crisis. Similar presentations for owners further detailed the economics behind the 0.95 percent Legacy Benefit model.
This proved quite effective, said former NFL player Matt Stover, a FAIR advisor who served 16 years as an NFLPA player representative and four years on the NFLPA Executive Committee. Mr. Stover said that he knew of several key members of owner and union leadership who were influenced by FAIR’s materials.
“Player representatives finally had the right information – a lot of it from FAIR,” Stover said. “We knew that if they had the right information, they’d do the right thing. The real facts have never been out there. FAIR provided them and they responded.”
Ms. Riggins thanked the entire FAIR advisory team (listed below) and its many consultants “without whom none of this would have happened,” she said. She expressed special appreciation to outside parties who donated funds to the effort, which ranged from small checks from former NFL players, significant donations from family foundations, and a major grant from the Professional Football Retired Players Association (PFRPA) and its CEO Bob Schmidt.
“This campaign was grounded in facts with a compelling cast of men,” Riggins concluded.
THE FAIR TEAM
Board of Directors:
Lisa Marie Riggins – President
Bob Stein – Vice President
Eldon Nygaard – Director
Matt Stover – Special Advisor
Jane Arnett – Wife of All-Pro NFL player Jon Arnett
Elvin Bethea – Hall of Fame
Susan Casper – Wife of Hall of Fame player Dave Casper
Joe & Gerri DeLamielleure – Hall of Fame player and wife
Dana Harris – Wife of Hall of Fame player Franco Harris
Kenny Houston – Hall of Fame
Joe Jacoby – All-Pro NFL player and Hall of Fame nominee
Roy Kapani – Co-founder of ECS Federal, Inc. and donor
Tom Mack – Hall of Fame
Jeff Nixon – NFL player
Dan Pastorini – NFL player
John Riggins – Hall of Fame
Merle Wilcox – Wife of Hall of Fame player Dave Wilcox
Jim and Monique Brown – Hall of Fame player and wife
Dick Butkus – Hall of Fame
Bill Dore – Donor
Fred Dryer – NFL player
Franco Harris – Hall of Fame
Megan Holland – Hall of Fame (HOF) Players Foundation
Steve Largent – Hall of Fame
Sylvia Mackey – Wife of Hall of Fame player John Mackey
PLUS Communications – Public relations firm
Bart Oates – President of the NFL Alumni Association
Cecil Pruitt – Donor
Beasley Reece – CEO of the NFL Alumni Association
Bob Schmidt, CEO PRFPA
Jan Stenerud – Hall of Fame
Randy White – Hall of Fame
Kellan Winslow – Hall of Fame