It’s been more than three decades since Don “The Magic Man” Majkowski led the NFL in passing. The one-time Green Bay Packers star threw for 4,318 yards in 1989, a season for which he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. But shoulder and ankle injuries would then derail Majkowski’s career. By 1992, a young QB by the name of Brett Favre had replaced him in the Packers’ lineup. The Magic Man would disappear from the NFL just four years later.
Life went on for Majkowski, who has undergone multiple surgeries to treat back and ankle problems. Like thousands of fellow retired players, the 56-year-old relies on NFL retirement and disability benefits to help him cope with long-term health ailments related to playing football.
Yet according to a new federal lawsuit filed by Majkowski and retired running back Aveion Cason, the NFL and NFLPA haven’t been honest brokers in crafting retiree and disability policies. The league and union have allegedly violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Labor Management Relations Act. Majkowski and Cason hope their complaint, which was filed in D.C. federal court on Friday, is certified as a class action.
The case centers on the allegation that the NFL and NFLPA—two entities that are often at odds—unlawfully conspired to reduce retirement and disability benefits. At issue is the new collective bargaining agreement, which NFL players ratified by a narrow vote of 1,019 to 959 on March 5. When the CBA appeared on the NFLPA’s website 10 days later, Majkowski and Cason found that some key language was different.
One important change concerns the CBA’s so-called “Social Security Offset.” Generally speaking, the offset reduces the amount of money paid to certain categories of retired players by amounts they receive from the government. According to attorneys for Majkowski and Cason, the offset was altered, without explanation, to expand the scope of affected players and will cost impacted retirees somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 a month.
The complaint depicts the NFLPA as acting in bad faith, specifically alleging the union engaged in “secret” and “surreptitious” tactics to modify the CBA’s language post-vote. The complaint maintains that, under the law, substantive changes required new votes.
To that point, the complaint cites Article 67, Section 9 of the CBA. It expresses “the Agreement may not be changed, altered, or amended other than by a written agreement signed by authorized representatives of the parties.” Of particular concern to Majkowski and Cason, the changes include downgraded benefits for the people who arguably need them the most: retired players who are disabled.
The complaint goes on to describe NFLPA officials as “withholding accurate and timely information from disabled player families.” For instance, the complaint asserts that Majkowski’s wife, Kelly, sent more than 18 emails to the NFLPA from March 4 to March 17 seeking clarification on policy changes. She was allegedly denied pertinent details.
Majkowski and Cason demand that the court order “illegal” changes be undone.
Paul Secunda, one of the attorneys representing the players, tells Sportico, “disabled former NFL players literally gave blood, sweat and tears to build the League. And how does the NFL repay them? By taking away their ability to live. This class action seeks to undo these unlawful disability cutbacks in the 2020 CBA.”