On the 21st of March, Jaclyn Fujita, the wife of Cleveland Brown LB Scott Fujita wrote a letter that appeared on TheNation.com. You can read her letter in it’s entirety there or on our page two. I hesitated at first to bring the topic up. One because it’s no secret who’s side I am on in this labor stuff, and two, because I didn’t want to come off as uncaring. Then I realized that this is part of the issues with the NFL labor discord.
So is this news? Not really, it’s her opinion and while she does try and pass it off as fact and it apparently is shared by other footballer wives, some of it I am sure is fact, it comes across a bit pretentious. Go to the link above and read it first and then come back and read my thoughts on it. Or simply jump to page two and read it there (page 2 is actually after the jump, so you know). Or, if you really have no interest in this, and I urge you not read further if you don’t, simply scroll the main page and read something else, if not, read away.
The issue here is money.
Regardless of what she relates as insurance worries, pain her husband goes through, and I will never take away from someone the pain and agony of watching someone they love degrade before their eyes. It isn’t pretty and no amount of money can compensate for that. Even a few million dollars. It’s worse on the children that have to watch their fathers waste away in front of them. And for one second don’t believe that a child has a fortune to look forward to when their father is a pro-athlete. It simply isn’t true.
Mrs. Fujita makes it very clear when she says that,
What these men need to know is that as they step on the field and risk major injury—while generating billions of dollars for this industry—the billionaires who write the checks are not looking out for them. They need to know that they are going to be lied to. They need to know that when they suffer an injury they will be told they should buck up and play.
So while she try’s to come across as this not being about money, she makes it clear it is when she refers to the owners as “billionaires”.
All that being said, I really don’t feel much sympathy for her letter. Not because her husband will inevitably suffer ramifications from his job, or the fact that she has paid witness to the plight of others who have gone through it. I don’t have any sympathy because, well, it’s their own fault. When my body won’t adjust to cold mornings from years of lifting patients twice my size, my wife knows it was something that I brought on by choice.
Players and their wives at times will point out that the big bad billionaires simply don’t care about them. That might be true and I won’t attempt to put myself in that shoe, however, I don’t think I have ever worked for a company that really cared about my well being. I know, I haven’t played pro-sports, but I have suffered concussions on the job, I have been beaten to a pulp by a deranged psychotic drug abuser who outweighed me by a good 200 pounds or more, and I have been exposed to more viruses and disease than most NFL players can name. I have had blood splattered in my face, tested for HIV several times, and not one time did the owner of manager of the company come to me and ask how I was doing. In fact, after every single exposure episode, beating, punch, back twist, pulled muscle, torn ligament, and concussion, I was given a new pair of clothes and told to run another call. So I don’t buy the “I see double and they are making me go back out and play”. You make yourself go back out and play.
When they start talking about not being able to get out of bed on Monday mornings, or the fact that their bodies simply ache to the “nth” degree. I have little sympathy. I did that for years with no sleep over 24 hours, not being able to move off the couch once I finally sat down. That is the life of a lot of people. Yet, we don’t all complain. I know for a fact that the CEO who is raking millions off that company now, doesn’t care that some schmo on box unit 133 hurt his back lifting some 350 pound diabetic for the 100th time. Or just got sucker punched in the mouth at 3 AM by some resident hopped up drug addict.
So sorry Mrs. Fujita. I don’t buy your argument that the owners don’t care. They just don’t care as much as you think they should.
I will agree that one point she has is the retired medical benefits provided by the owners and the league. They should be better considering what they demand of the players. Some of that is also the responsibility of the insurance company themselves and I think that players should be given options as to who their insurance carriers will be. The NFL and the owners have, in my opinion, a duty to cover the players when their playing days are over and working diligently to provide care for players who suffer from long lasting injuries as a result of the abuse they take playing the game. I do not however feel that the owners should be fully responsible for all of it. The players need to give some as well. In fact, it was pointed out in her letter that there is no disability for players without major examination.
Mrs. Fujita, I don’t know what you think disability is, but if your husband, or any ex-player can climb out of bed and play golf they are not 100 percent disabled. If the eat themselves to 400 pounds, they are not NFL disabled. So there is a difference and it’s not simply a broad stroke to fix the issues.
In the comments section on that site, there are self-proclaimed wives of NFL stars and some complain about the COBRA payment coming out of their pockets because of the lockout. One says it’s around 1100 a month. So what? While most NFL players receive between 500,000 and 800,000 on average, you can’t tell me that in the two years leading up to this point, you didn’t realize that you might have to save some money? My family pays around 4 to 500 a month for insurance and an additional 100 for dental. We don’t make a 1/4 of what the lowest paid NFL player does (on an active roster).
Mrs. Fujita talks about what might be in store for her husband down the road and one of the comments was so to the point, I can’t pass it up.
Why did Scott sign with the Browns if he knows his career is coming to and end and he has had so many concussions already to the point th? For another million dollars? – or something like that.
That is a very good question as Scott Fujita makes more than the league average.
Fujita signed a three-year contract with the Browns that will reportedly pay him $14 million, with $8 million guaranteed. With various incentives, the contract could be worth $16 million, according to a league source.
So why play longer if you are already that bad off? It’s not for the love of the game entirely. Look at Zach Thomas. One of the classiest NFL players in recent memory. He played far longer than he should have for the love of the game and I am sure that to this day he struggles moving around in the morning. But he won’t complain because he knew the risks.
The fact is this and it doesn’t matter if you believe the owners have a right to earn more money or the players deserve to get more. Almost all players live outside of what many Americans would call normal means. A player making 500,000 likely lives as though he were making 1 million. I know I lived outside of my means at a very low salary.
There is a practice squad player for the Carolina Panthers who spoke recently about how the lockout has affected him and his lifestyle. He made 400.00 a week on the squad. He said that he has cut back on his “nightlife” and won’t be buying a condo in Charlotte any time soon. Because he needs to wait now. My question would be, “why are you looking at buying anything to live in when you can rent an apartment until you are more financially secure?”
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for NFL players who simply don’t spend their money with some decorum. Nor do I find sympathy for their families who simply want more knowing the inherent risks vs. the rewards and then taking the time to point a finger at the big bad owner for doing more.
If the CBA, lockout, litigation, decertification, anti-trust suit was more about securing future needs for ex-players, retired veterans, and their families, like a good portion was in the CBA following the 1987 strike, I would be taking up arms here to get the message across to the owners in any way, shape, or form. But it’s not. The players want their money now, and have little regard for their future, until their future becomes their present.
It is a shame to see grown men play for so long and their bodies simply don’t work anymore. They have dementia from the concussions, they begin suffering signs of Alzheimer’s and ALS, bouts of depression, and more. Yet they have the opportunity to fix that now knowing what the future will hold and yet they do little. They want it up front yet do nothing to prepare for their own existence outside of someone else holding their hands.
Players have staff on teams to tell them where to go, when to go, and how to go. In the end, they have to figure it out on their own. Instead of fighting for what might amount to another few thousand dollars, maybe they should be sitting at a bargaining table discussing what they can get for themselves after they have left the game. Perhaps maybe, after that “great deal” they just got, taking some concessions for the later might be in their best interests after all.
Might make their families a little happier too. In the long run.
Here is the full Jaclyn Fujita letter.