The Historial Present

Morris_22I have been out of touch with my website and the internet world for almost eight months.  My computer crashed in October of 2009 and did not return until March of this year.  I was renting a house south of Miami that I intended to buy in a few years until the housing market went south.  The house went into foreclosure and a four month battle ensued.  I’m still here.

I never even thought about my website until my web tech guy, Martin, said that people were upset because they had sent in their orders to buy Perfect Season gear from me at my store and I never responded to let the people know that I was temporarily out of business.  I didn’t realize that, if you are a public figure and you put yourself out there online to interact with both the fans and the “Perfect Player Haters”, they want to hear what’s going on, whether they like you or not!

player72_eugene1So, where the hell have I been in the last eight months?  Fighting a never ending battle against “The Truth Squad”, the Justice Department and “the American way” of the NFL.  I have been fighting a battle against the NFL over the treatment of retired players involving disability and pension issues that have come up over the last 20 years.  I have been representing retired players and their widows who have had problems with the ability to understand the system that the NFL’s Retirement Board has put in place.  It’s called an “in order to” system—things are done “in order to” control the process.  Rightfully so, because it has been designed to systematically exclude retired players.  I was successful several times in making the Retirement Board give back disability benefits that were wrongfully taken from retired players.

player72_eugene3In May of 2009, the NFL Retirement Board passed a made-up rule to block me from exposing the league’s misconduct, declaring that I could no longer represent retired players because of what happened to me almost 30 years ago.  A phony “felony exclusion” rule was invented by the Groom Law Group at the direction of the Retirement Board to prevent me from helping players with disability issues.  They said it was “to protect the players”.   When asked by the media to give an example of what the players needed to be “protected” from, the NFL had no answer.  Another scam by the owners. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO MERCURY MORRIS.

I know you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard any of the seasonal smack talk about the Perfect Season and why the 1972 Team is and will always be… Best Ever!  It’s not that you won’t hear it when the season starts and the first team goes 10-0 (then it will be, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”) but for now, I have to concentrate on helping some of the former players and their wives who have been mistreated and denied their basic rights as human beings because they played in the NFL for “owners” who have declared that they don’t want to pay benefits of any kind to retired players.  That might sound simplistic, but this “solution” was hatched in the mecca of corruption, Washington DC and then spread throughout the retired players community like a pandemic.  It’s called “Greed” and it is run by the power brokers and politicians, lawyers and lobbyists of Washington, DC, and now they have been joined by the player’s union.  The Groom Law Group runs the players’ Retirement Plan—a “business within a business” which is protecting the assets of the owners by any means necessary.  How significant is this law firm?  The White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  The Groom Law Group is 1701.  I’m not going to get into this now, but here’s a quote from a Department of Labor Investigation I started in 2005:

“The Retirement Board unanimously approves all Plan expenses.  Plan expenses are weighted heavily in the area of legal fees when retired players who have been denied disability benefits sue the Plan”. 

player72_eugene4Groom has been paid over 55 million dollars in legal fees “defending” the Plan against retired players.  The Retirement Board “amens” every dollar.  So, the most money not spent by the “trustees” on benefits is being spent on preventing players and their families from receiving benefits.  “We’re 22-0”, said Doug Ell, lead lawyer for Groom, who by the way got 195 million dollars in legal fees from the owners in 1993 after the CBA settlement..  On October 20, 1994, Groom was hired as legal counsel by the owners while still representing, as legal counsel, the players union. The goal was to recover the 195 million dollars from the retired players.  So far, so good… and by the way, Groom stated they could not see a conflict of interest in representing both parties at the same time.  In February, at the Super Bowl Media Center in Fort Lauderdale, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith announced that the Groom Law Group would no longer represent the NFLPA on disability issues.  However, the Groom Law Group still represents the Retirement Board, which includes three members of the NFLPA.  What does that tell you?

It started with the NFL Owners, who as far back as I can remember have openly stated that “they”, the owners “don’t want to pay benefits.”  That’s not my statement, those are the words of an NFL  appointed physician who examined a young player who had just suffered a career ending injury to his shoulder.  “The NFL sets the standard so high that I have never qualified a player for the benefit you are seeking,” said the doctor, referring to the first level of disability called “Line of Duty”.  The doctor said, “Not even Dennis Byrd would qualify but the owners would give it to him because they didn’t want the bad press.”  Dennis Byrd was temporarily paralyzed in a football game in 1992 against the Chiefs and never came back to play.  This conversation happened with the “neutral” physician in 1993 as the doctor tried to explain why he was not going to give that player his benefit, whether he was qualified or not.  This is 2010.  Umpteen years later, the foundation of who these people are and who runs the system is, “The owners don’t want to pay benefits.”  Therefore, it can be said that the foundation of the owners and now the players’ union is that “they” still don’t want to pay benefits.  There are two different reasons:  one is that it’s a fiduciary responsibility to the retired players that the wealthy owners clearly don’t want to have and; two, is that it’s money the player’s union wants to keep for themselves and they don’t want to share that wealth with the retired players either.  Once again, this is all at the expense of the retired players.

Since 1993, when the NFLPA’s (players union) then Executive Director, the late Gene Upshaw, and then Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue decided to agree to revenue sharing of the league’s profits, since then the entire system has evolved from a “Plan” put in place to help retired players, to another Plan put in place to protect the assets of the owners.  With the aid of Department of Labor officials, the “benefits process” has morphed itself into a systematic way of funneling the massive profits realized by the evolution and extraordinary financial success of the NFL, that now goes straight into the pockets of the NFLPA and on to the current and future NFL players.  The one catch in the profit sharing deal was that the increases for retired players had to come from that pool of cash, which the NFLPA now saw as “their cash”.  By law, it is the owners’ responsibility to fund the benefits plan.  Naturally, Gene and company began to invent new ways to spend most of the money on current player benefits as if the owner’s fiduciary obligation to the retired players didn’t go along with the “cake”.  As soon as the NFLPA got their hands on the money, they began to produce 401K’s, severance pay, COBRA insurance and other perks and parachutes that the retired players never dreamed of.  None of “the most generous benefits package in sports” made any mention of improving the benefits of the players who supported the NFL in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.  The “profit sharing” aspect of collective bargaining has allowed the NFLPA and Gene Upshaw, to give the current players generous benefits.  In fact, as stated by the Retirement Board’s counsel, the Groom Law Group’s mouthpiece, Doug Ell, this benefit package is “the most generous in sports history.”  Ell is right, however what they fail to mention is that the generosity is self helped by the NFLPA and NFL Management turns its head “in order” to keep the pressure off of the owners, all at the expense of the retired players.

Thanks to the fan-based foundation of the players’ success in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and the rising popularity of pro football, the players today come out of college football, moneywise, born on third base and thinking that they all hit triples.  The fact is, no matter who you are, when you no longer have any value to the NFL, you no longer have any worth to the NFL.  Here it is again… the owners (and now the NFLPA) being in charge of the retired players benefits is like the Klan being in charge of civil rights.  Fundamentally, it won’t work, simply because of who they are.  They used to call them the slave owners, now they just call them the “owners”, but they still deal in “human trade”.

There is too much to tell right now, so I will, once a week, visit with those of you who are interested in what I have to say.  It will be a forum called, “The State of Play”  I got the title from a movie about Washington DC politics and the game-playing and corruption people use for their own gain.  Next week I’m going to do a story about my short time with Johnny Unitas.  I wrote about his plight in 1997.  Johnny was a fool to believe these people would do right by him out of some sense of honesty or loyalty, those qualities he possessed.  He was wrong, and in the beginning… so was I.