A small group of former NFL players scheduled a press conference this morning to question the NFL Players Association leadership and compare talks between the players and owners about a new collective bargaining agreement to the 1982 players' strike. However, it wasn't long before Jeff Nixon, an ex-Buffalo Bills defense lineman, exposed the event as a promotion of a new book co-written by former Cowboys tight end (and city of Dallas worker) Billy Joe DuPree and Spencer Kopf, who Nixon described as the lawyer instrumental in hammering out the deal that ended the '82 strike.
Nixon criticized NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, a Washington lawyer who replaced the late Gene Upshaw in March 2009, while citing information from The Unbroken Line: The Untold Story of Gridiron Greats and Their Struggle to Save Professional Football. Nixon said Smith, who attempted last week to reach out to retired players, is using scare tactics and has kept active players in the dark "just like in '82."
Nixon also said an anonymous source sent him a list of the payments through Players, Inc., the marketing arm of the NFL which Smith also heads, and only about 150 of the more than 15,000 active and retired players have received payments in a five-year span. Nixon refused to provide the documents to the media.
The current CBA situation is worse than in '82, Kopf said, because there are billions of dollars at stake now as opposed to millions. He claimed huge chunks of the Players, Inc. revenue is paid to executive salaries and bonuses instead of to current and former players.
"That is despicable," he said. "That is deplorable. It's flat-out wrong."
University of North Texas grad and former Dallas Texans and NFL running back Abner Haynes was on hand with his two sons and launched into a tirade about race just before DuPree took the stage. He said "black players really suffered" during his playing days, and Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans were the most unfriendly road trips.
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"Those were terrible, racist cities for blacks," Haynes said. "I caught hell in all of 'em."
He also touched on not being hired because of his race, fans, media and the league ignoring the issues faced by former players, the "violation of young people in this country by adults" and getting "sick and tired of the games of life."
Other former players in attendance included Elvin Bethea (Hall of Fame Houston Oilers defensive end), Joe DeLamielleure (HOF Buffalo Bills guard) and Fred Dean (Bears and Redskins guard).
We left just as DuPree started talking because, well, it had already been an hour. But he was awfully proud of Emmitt Smith's quote on the cover: "This book honors retired NFL players of today, and of tomorrow."