Former NFL linebacker and current NFLPA Executive Committee member Lorenzo Alexander was interviewed for the “Conduct Detrimental” podcast hosted by attorney Daniel Wallach. The Podcast was published this evening. In the Podcast, Alexander pulled no punches during the interview with Wallach and admitted that the NFLPA made a “mistake” when it reduced benefits for retired disabled players in the CBA. Alexander vowed to fix the mistakes in the CBA.
Discussing the CBA’s reduction in disability benefits, Alexander stated, “I feel like it was a mistake by the NFL and NFLPA. Is it too late to change it? No. . . You can best believe that me and some other guys are going to be fighting over the next 3-4 months to get this thing changed.”
Alexander’s interview on the podcast appears to confirm the criticisms and serious defects of the CBA brought to light by pro-bowler and free agent Eric Reid.
Eric Reid, through his attorneys, published a fact sheet outlining many of the detrimental provisions in the CBA on March 9, 2020. Players were given a copy of the 456-page CBA for the first time on March 5, 2020 and were given less than 10 days to review the dense legal document before voting on it, despite the fact that the old CBA was not set to expire until 2021. Additionally, the NFLPA forced players to review and vote on the CBA during the pandemic even though the NFLPA’s own executive committee voted against the CBA by a vote of 7-4.
The publication of Reid’s fact sheet on March 9, 2020 was the first time players were given accurate information about problems in the CBA, and many players requested to change their vote thereafter but were not permitted to do so by the NFLPA. The CBA narrowly passed by 60 votes on March 15, 2020. Shortly thereafter on March 18, 2020, Reid was cut from the Carolina Panthers despite setting two franchise records the previous season.
Among the criticisms leveled by Reid about the CBA was the fact that future disability benefits would be dramatically decreased, that the definition of “disability” would be changed to permit the NFL not to accept disability claims by removing whats called the “social security qualifier,” and that disability benefits paid to retired players who applied for disability after January 1, 2015 would now be subject to an offset (reduction) in the payments they received based on payments they were receiving from the social security, thus receiving thousands of dollars less per month.
Thereafter, on March 30, 2020, Eric Reid and his legal team fired off a letter to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith after discovering that the NFLPA had changed the language in the final CBA which now read differently than the CBA which players were given to vote on. Specifically, the NFLPA added a subparagraph to Section 60 which now applied the same offsets (reductions) in disability benefits to retired players who applied for disability before January 1, 2015. The NFLPA responded to Reid’s letter with a press release admitting it changed the CBA, but calling the reduction of benefits added to the CBA after the vote “not substantive.”
Lorenzo Alexander’s interview will likely figure prominently in the fight by Reid and others to restore disability benefits to retired disabled players.
In terms of “smoking gun” evidence that the NFLPA acted improperly, it does not get more clear than the fact that an Executive Committee member has now gone on record and called the reduction and changes in disability benefits a “mistake,” and vowed to “get the [CBA] changed,” which is precisely what Reid and his supporters have called for.
It will also be interesting to watch in the coming days if other Executive Committee Members will join Lorenzo Alexander in publicly criticizing the CBA and its harmful impact on retired disabled players and if change to the CBA and the NFLPA may come from within.