Retired NFL quarterback Don Majkowski and running back Aveion Cason, who sued the league and the NFLPA in July, have filed an amended complaint on behalf of a proposed class of permanently disabled former NFL players. The pair assert the new collective bargaining agreement must be undone and voted on again.
As Sportico detailed in July, Majkowski and Cason maintain the league and the union unlawfully conspired to eliminate valuable protections for retired players. They did so, the plaintiffs charge, as part of a strategy to secure “yea” votes for the CBA on March 5.
NFL players narrowly voted in favor of the CBA—which runs through the 2030 season—1,019 to 959. Majkowski, 56, and Cason, 41, maintain the vote occurred under false pretenses and amid a disinformation campaign. A re-vote, they insist, is necessary for compliance with the law.
The allegation stems from the alteration of a CBA provision, the Social Security Offset, after the vote. This offset reduces the NFL’s obligation to pay certain categories of retired players if those players are also paid by government programs. According to Majkowski and Cason, the offset was modified to impact more retired players and deprive them of thousands of dollars a month in expected benefits. The players assert such a change shows the NFL and NFLPA violated fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Labor Management Relations Act.
The amended complaint further details what the players portray as unethical and surreptitious conduct. They describe NFLPA leaders as willfully ignoring procedural steps compelled by the union’s own constitution. Required consultations and votes allegedly did not occur. The players also sharply criticize the NFL Management Council, which bargains on behalf of the league. The NFL purportedly “resorted to a clandestine meeting to unlawfully amend the CBA” and did so while “it knew [the NFLPA] was not acting as an authorized party for these purposes.”
Also stressed is the vulnerable position of retired players, who aren’t allowed to vote on the CBA but are nonetheless affected by it. “Although plaintiffs and [class] members are not members of the NFLPA,” the amended complaint recognizes, “they are intended third-party beneficiaries under the CBA.” From that lens, retired players “have a legally protectable interest . . . in not having their total and permanent disability benefits detrimentally impacted by unauthorized actions by the NFLPA and Management Council.”
Among other desired remedies, Majkowski and Cason demand a court declaration that the NFL and NFLPA violated the CBA “by adding disability language not in the version of the CBA voted upon.” They also seek an order declaring that the CBA is subject to a re-vote.
The case is before Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Undoing the CBA could open the door to other legal challenges, particularly if a re-vote led to a rejection.
In court filings, the NFL and NFLPA insist Majkowski and Cason’s lawsuit lacks merit and ought to be dismissed. Attorneys for the union stress that under ERISA, “the NFLPA has no duty or responsibility to maintain any particular level of former player benefits and may not administer retired player benefit plans.” They also argue the union has “no duty to represent the interest of former players when the union collectively bargains with its management counterpart.”
NFLPA attorneys further contend that a re-vote wouldn’t necessarily benefit Majkowski and Cason. “[E]ven if the court could require the NFLPA to re-do its CBA ratification processes,” the attorneys assert, “it still would not ‘likely’ redress plaintiffs’ injuries, as there are no assurances that a new CBA would eliminate the Social Security disability offset . . . or if it did so, that it would not require an offsetting reduction in welfare benefits that would leave plaintiffs no better off.”
Majkowski, who has battled health ailments, finds these arguments starkly at odds with assurances the former Pro Bowl and All-Pro QB received over the years. “They told us a benefit was for life,” Majkowski lamented in comments to Sportico, “and then bargained our healthcare away. It’s shameful.” He added that he still “hold[s] out hope” that the league and union will “do the right thing.” However, he worries the NFLPA has told Judge McFadden it doesn’t “represent retired players” and he fears “each entity is sidestepping responsibility . . . this suit is to save over 400 families—guys who built the game.”
Paul Secunda, one of the attorneys representing the players, said the case is largely about telling the defendants: “You knew that false statements were being made to current and former NFL players and allowed those misleading statements to persist in order to help with the passage of the 2020 CBA.” He insisted that “because the ratification happened under circumstances in which the voting players did not understand what they were voting [for],” the “entire CBA must now be unwound and a new vote must happen.”