Thread: NFL Pensions
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:45 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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Default NFL Pensions

I mentioned one instance of NFL pension trouble in the public pensions thread, but figured, I might as well start a new thread once I found another story:

Even the richest sports league in the world can't meet its pension obligations.

NFL owners in March voted to allow teams to opt out of the league-run pension plan for coaches and other non-playing employees. Already nine of the NFL's 32 clubs have opted out of the program — including the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers — and three more teams are considering following suit, said Larry Keenan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association.

The move has angered coaches, and led to worries some NFL coaches and employees might leave the league. Last month, two veteran Indianapolis Colts coaches, offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd, retired because of the pension changes, Mr. Keenan said. “At this time, we're still monitoring the issue on a team-by-team basis and staying in constant communication with the coaches,” he said in an e-mail.

Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general counsel, told reporters at the league's spring meeting last month that the reason for the change is “entirely related to the drop in the stock market” over the past 18 months that left many “clubs' pension plans quite underfunded,” according to a transcript of the press conference.
Back from mid-May:

The executive director of the NFL Coaches Association blasted the NFL Saturday for showing "a total lack of respect" toward the league's assistant coaches by altering their league-wide pension plan.

The change, a cost-cutting measure that allows individual teams to opt out of the plan, was voted on by NFL owners in March "with no forewarning," according to Larry Kennan. The change led to the recent retirement of two long-time Indianapolis Colts assistants. And in an interview on Sirius NFL Radio's "The Weekend Kickoff," Kennan said other assistants have discussed quitting, too.
That angst has led to renewed talk of forming an actual coaches union - something Kennan said was a possibility even though "we've been threatened many times that if we formed an association they'd fire all of us." He also said he believes the owners may have made the decision on the pension plan with other motives in mind.

"We understand that everybody is cutting expenses around the country, at General Motors and a lot of the major corporations," Kennan said. "But a lot of them are on the verge of bankruptcy. I can't imagine that the NFL is on the verge of bankruptcy, bringing in over $8 billion last year. For them to do this, particularly with no advance warning, it makes no sense. It leads me to believe that it was maybe a knee-jerk reaction to the economy and also maybe it was a strategy to deal with the negotiations they're getting ready to do with the players and the lockout the owners are talking about."

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