Last week, wives of 26 NFL Hall of Famers sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Director DeMaurice Smith stating that the league and the Players Association have neglected the needs of players whose careers ended in 1993 or earlier.
Gerri DeLamielleure, whose husband Joe DeLamielleure was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003, joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: I understand that you and your husband receive health care coverage now through your work as a nurse. What’s the NFL’s current obligation to Joe?
We’re asking for a pension increase, which would give the pre-’93 guys dignity to take care of themselves. … I don’t think that it’s understood what pre-’93 players are going through.
Gerri DeLamielleure, wife of Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure
You know, next year we’ll celebrate 43 years of marital bliss — and I do mean that, marital bliss — but it would be wonderful to have a pension where I wouldn’t have to work and he wouldn’t have to work, except do things for charities and whatever when he wants to. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for pre-’93 players.
BL: The letter sent by you and 25 other NFL wives presents a document called a “Pension Disparity Fact Sheet.” Tell me a little bit about the need among the players who retired before 1993 and how they differ from the needs of the players who’ve retired after 1993.
[sidebar title=”Reaction To Chris Borland’s Retirement” width=”630″ align=”right”]Giants running back Andre Williams reflects on Chris Borland’s decision to retire from the NFL after just one season.[/sidebar]GD: The pre-1993 players have no cost-of-living increase in any pension plan. They have no health care benefits. I know there are players in the pre-’93 group that either go without health care until they get on Medicare or they don’t see a doctor on a regular basis, which creates a lot of problems.
I think post-’93, these guys have tremendous benefits, salaries — nobody’s asking for that. We’re asking for a pension increase, which would give the pre-’93 guys dignity to take care of themselves.
BL: You and the 25 other NFL wives contend that “The pre-1993 players shouldn’t have to appeal to the court of public opinion in order to be validated for what they did for the game of professional football.” Have you and the other wives decided to go to the court of public opinion because other strategies just haven’t worked?
GD: Well, I mean if you read through the letter, we’re asking for a meeting. Nobody’s asking for every player pre-’93 to get $1 million a year or anything like that. We’re asking for a dialogue. Because I don’t think that it’s understood what pre-’93 players are going through. I mean my husband knows professional baseball players who have been retired for years, he knows professional basketball players who have been retired for years and he knows professional hockey players who have been retired for years, and they all say to him, “Boy, did you guys take it on the chin. You got nothing.”
BL: Have any of the parties to whom the letter was addressed responded to your request for a meeting?
GD: Not at all. No. No response whatsoever.