There is no question that the game of football is dangerous. NFL players get injured on the job – so many that an “injury report” section is ubiquitous in our sports page. In fact, a study run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that the risk of death associated with neurodegenerative disorders is about three times higher among NFL players than the rest of the population.
NFL athletes are not merely players, they are also employees.
Their employers are now trying to take away their collectively bargained right to Workers Compensation Benefits in California. It is not right, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
AB 1309 singles out one group of workers, professional athletes, and treats them differently than other employees by denying them the right to file for California Workers Compensation benefits.
AB1309 is an attempt by the insurance companies and professional teams to shift the cost of care for injured players from themselves to state agencies like Medi-Cal and federal agencies like Medicare. Once that is done, the state and federal taxpayers will also be damaged.
The owners from all the leagues are deserting their best and brightest by introducing legislation that will prevent qualified players from filing workers’ compensation claims in California that impact the quality of their lives.
Let’s be clear, the cost of workers’ compensation for NFL players is not paid for by the State of California. The cost is paid for out of the dollars generated by the sport. The active players have even agreed in their current Collective Bargaining Agreement that the cost of workers’ compensation benefits for all players, both current and former, is to be charged against their salary cap. The end personal result is lower salaries.
Additionally, not all professional athletes are making million dollar salaries. There are more low-income minor league players in California, particularly in baseball, hockey and soccer, than major league players.
Let’s say it: professional sports team owners have a fundamental responsibility to the health and safety of their players.
AB 1309 will further line the pockets of pro sports franchise owners – most of them who live out of the state of California.
California is home to three NFL teams and hundreds of professional athletes. They provide an enormous economic benefit to California. Professional athletes will pay almost $300 million in income taxes to the state of California in 2013. And that includes income tax from those professional athletes who come into the state just to play one game against a California team.
Many professional athletes continue to suffer from the effects of injuries long after their playing careers are over, and the workers’ compensation benefits are a lifeline.
AB 1309 also applies a new rule to all “pending” workers compensation cases. This change in application also carries a dangerous precedent that we have not seen before. That’s why many major Labor groups in California are opposed to AB 1309, including:
- Labor Coalition
- California Labor Federation
- International Brotherhood of Teamsters
- Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
- California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP)
- California Psychological Association
- California School Employees Association (CSEA), AFL-CIO
- Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE Local 20, AFL-CIO
- United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council
I’ll say it again. AB 1309 is a bad idea.