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More on the NFL pension plan

In researching the NFL’s pension plan for today’s Maryland Lawyer cover story, one thing made no sense: If the Retirement Board consists of representatives from the league and the players’ union, why wouldn’t the union people always side with the players against management?

The theory Cy Smith subscribes to is that the NFLPA‘s demographics make it different from other unions. The NFLPA represents only active players, who are typically in their 20s and 30s.

“The NFLPA focuses on interests of current players because they are the bargaining units and they don’t think long-term the way most people in their 20s don’t think long-term,” he says. “If you’re a current player, your focus is going to be on salary.”

Smith contrasts the NFLPA with the UAW, whose members might range from teenagers to 60-year-olds, with both extremes accounted for in decision-making.

“Retirement issues are going to be decided with a view to the interests of the youngest members and the oldest members,” Smith says.

The NFLPA has taken criticism in the past for its approach to retired players, but that may change if and when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the league this year. Both sides agree the health of retired players needs to be addressed, and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith (no relation to Cy) has made overtures to retired players. As Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post wrote last month:

[DeMaurice] Smith is trying to distinguish himself from Gene Upshaw, known to be indifferent to the problems of retired players. Smith’s challenge, as Upshaw’s, is to convince active players to slice off part of their pie to go to those who preceded them. That is an internal struggle that the NFL is not a part of.