Friday, April 16, 2010

The Saints, injured players and the mess that is worker's comp

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Aside from being Super Bowl Champions, the Saints stood out from the NFL last season (and many more before it) as being the only professional sports team that receives state subsidies to play where they do. Now the Saints are apparently trying to bypass the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement.

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click to enlarge Still a greedy old man

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As it turns out, the Saints are trying to push a bill through the Louisiana State Legislature that would require injured players to Louisiana state worker's compensation laws. The Saints claim that they are paying way too much in insurance and that they are paying even more when players file insurance claims in California (where they are legally entitled to if they play a game or have representation there).

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This brings forward a lot of questions. The Business Week article reporting on the bill has the NFLPA claiming this is an issue that should be dealt with in CBA negotiations (the same negotiations that many say will lead to a lockout for the 2011-2012 season). The article also quotes NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen as saying, "The New Orleans Saints are not suffering financially. The New Orleans Saints are doing quite well, thank you."

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So who exactly foots the bill every time Reggie Bush goes down with an injury? So long as a player isn't cut by his team, he continues to get paid his salary while undergoing medical treatment (at a multi-million dollar facility with top-of-the-line doctors, mind you), even if he spends years off the field.

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But this bill isn't to save the Saints for paying for its star athletes to get treatment, the Saints are trying to avoid paying compensation for those second- and third-tier players that don't make that much in terms of salary (compared to their superstar teammates, of course) or provide that much impact on the field. In other words, about 95% of professional athletes. There is some stuff out there on the subject of players who lose benefits once they're cut and the NFLPA does work to see how to best represent their players in these cases, but it doesn't address the whole issue.

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Under the NFL's current system, each team hires trainers to look over their athletes, with the priority being to get said athletes back on the field and playing (after all, that's what they're being paid for). This system greatly undercuts the prospect of many players having longer careers. With no guaranteed contracts, players who don't see the field, for whatever reason, can be cut at a moment's notice and lose all salary and benefits. This pushes athletes to play through injuries that could further affect them down the line.

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Now the Saints are trying to pass legislation that will effectively hand the bill for injured players to the State of Louisiana. The Saints claim that they are paying too much insurance, even though they just won the Super Bowl (and all the revenue that creates) and, and this cannot be stressed enough, they are the only professional team in the U.S. that receives state subsidies. In case there was any doubt in your mind, the Saints are still in the business of making money and, apparently, they don't care how they go about it.

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