NFL Pension Pact Called Without Precedent

March 15, 2002 ( - More than 2,000 retired football players are in line for a hefty pension increase of as much as 100% in April in what is being heralded as a deal without US precedent, according to a USA Today report.

‘Nobody has reached back and given a (pension) raise to retired workers of anything approaching this magnitude,’ Karen Friedman, policy strategies director at the Pension Rights Center, a Washington, D.C., trade group, told the newspaper.

The pension hikes, hammered out between the players’ union and the National Football League include:

  • The oldest retirees, about 625 men who played before 1959, will rise from $100 a month to $200 a month for each season they played.
  • About 1,400 younger retirees who played during the 1959 to 1976 period will also go to $200 a month for each season played, up from their current $100 to $185.

Level Playing Field

Pro football’s oldest retirees need to have played a minimum of five seasons to qualify for a pension. The requirement drops to four seasons for post-1973 retirees, and three seasons for pros that have played since the 1992 season. Ordinary retirement age is 55.

Players union executive director Gene Upshaw said the raises recognize the contributions older players made to building the NFL into a multibillion-dollar industry and are designed to ‘level the playing field.’

The raises add about $110 million in new potential benefits to a plan that paid out nearly $28 million in benefits last year. The fund’s assets exceed $700 million, according to USA Today.

Pro football’s retirees were thankful for the extra money, but some said it was not enough.
‘It’s good, but I think we could have gotten a little bit more,’ said Chuck Bednarik, 76, who played 14 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and retired after the 1962 season.

‘My generation, we made (the NFL) what it is today. Now, they’ve got more money than they know what do with, and I’ll tell you something else: We played a hell of a lot harder for ours.’

Bednarik’s pension doubles to $2,800 a month under the new plan.