PHOENIX – It's a relatively small piece of the NFL's multi-billion dollar pie, but veteran NFL players are satisfied that they have partnered with the league to launch a program that will benefit older players in need of financial assistance.
The NFL and a group of retired NFL players including Jim Brown, Detroit Lions Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney and former Michigan star lineman Reggie McKenzie announced formation of a $42 million "common good fund" to benefit all former players.
The announcement was made Monday by Commissioner Roger Goodell at the annual league meetings.
The fund was established as part of a settlement of a class-action suit filed by players seeking compensation for their images being used in NFL Films. Under terms of the agreement, the NFL will contribute the money, which will be used to provide housing, medical care and other services for players in need.
Unlike pensions and other payments based on vesting and length of service, the "common good fund" is open to any player who has appeared in at least one NFL game.
The fund also establishes a licensing agency to manage the publicity rights of retired players.
"A little something is better than nothing," said Barney, who played 11 seasons for the Lions (1967-77) and was nicknamed "The Supernatural" for his incredible athletic ability. In addition to playing cornerback, Barney also was an outstanding return man and punted for two seasons.
McKenzie was an outstanding guard who spent most of his career with the Buffalo Bills. McKenzie played on the Buffalo line that blocked for O.J. Simpson and was known as "The Electric Company."
In negotiations between players and owners on the collective bargaining agreement, there has been a reluctance by modern era players to include old-timers in their benefits.
McKenzie was asked if young players have reached out to the old-timers.
"I don't know if they have the total appreciation," said McKenzie, who played at the University of Michigan and Highland Park High School.
"I hope one day they have the opportunity, if they live long enough, to be up here just like us."