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Group of Hall of Famers demands an annual salary and health benefits

Eric Dickerson told the NFL he wants former players to receive a salary and benefits for being in the Hall of Fame and participating in enshrinement weekend.

A group of Pro Football Hall of Famers are arguing that every member of the Hall of Fame should be paid an annual salary and given health insurance.

In a letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker, 20 Hall of Famers say they deserve better than they have received.

“We believe we deserve more,” the letter says. “We write to demand two things: Health insurance and an annual salary for all Hall of Famers that includes a share of league revenue.”

The letter blasts Goodell as overpaid and says that the league “is notorious for the hard line it takes against players.” The Hall of Famers say they will not attend next year’s induction ceremony if their demands are not met.

The letter is signed by Eric Dickerson, who is spearheading the effort, as well as Marcus Allen, Mel Blount, Derrick Brooks, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Richard Dent, Carl Eller, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haynes, Rickey Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Curtis Martin, Joe Namath, John Randle, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jackie Smith, Lawrence Taylor and Kurt Warner. Also signing the letter is Sarah White, Reggie White’s widow.

The list of signers is interesting for a few reasons. One is the presence of Taylor on the list. Taylor crossed the picket line during the 1987 players’ strike, when players were fighting for better retirement benefits, among other issues. It’s very convenient of Taylor to care about this issue now that he’s retired, even though he undermined the issue when he was an active player and was in a better position to effect change.

Also interesting is the presence of Sanders and Warner on the list of signers because they’re both NFL Network employees. That means they work for the league that they’re blasting as not caring about its employees. Would they be willing to walk out on their NFL Network jobs in solidarity with the fellow players they say are being mistreated?

And although Carl Eller is listed as a signer, his name is misspelled as “Carl Ellard.” That one player’s name isn’t even spelled correctly would strongly suggest he didn’t actually participate in the drafting of the letter. It could be a situation where Eller and other players were approached with a question of, “Would you lend your name to the cause of helping retired players?” and said they would, without having been given all the details. Then those players’ names were added as signers of the statement, even though they hadn’t actually signed it.

And, of course, the cause isn’t “helping retired players” generally, it’s paying Hall of Famers specifically. And Hall of Famers were usually among the highest-paid players while they were active, and can still make good money with endorsements and autograph shows today. If there’s an effort to improve benefits for retired players, shouldn’t it start with the players who need the most help?

So while the Hall of Famers may have a point about the NFL paying Goodell a fortune while retired players struggle, these particular players look like the wrong messengers.