As the NFL labor negotiations enter what most hope will be the home stretch, Chris Mortensen reported on the handful of issues left to be resolved at the bargaining table. One issue the owners are fighting for is resolution to a workers compensation claim system that strongly favors the players. NFL players get injured on the job much like any other employee and they have the opportunity to file for workers compensation. The issue that distresses owners is the ability of retired players to forum-shop in hopes of getting the most money in compensation.
As the situation currently stands, California allows retired players to file claims years after they've retired so long as they played at least one game in the state. California allowed such limited contacts with the state as a way of protecting transient workers like truck drivers. Professional athletes have been able to benefit as well.
Players choose to file in California because the state generally provides higher workers comp benefit payouts than many other states. Additionally, the statute of limitations is longer in California, which means players are filing years after they retired. Given the dated injuries involved it is hard for teams to prove the injury is simply an old-age issue more than an on-field injury.
The fight has ended up in court in recent years with teams arguing the issue should be decided by an arbitrator and not a judge. The state of Florida has even gone so far as to pass legislation preventing claims in other states when a Florida resident is a temporary work in said state. Although Florida Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign the legislation into law, it is a safe bet to expect a court battle over the legality of the law.
In the meantime, the owners and players will look to figure out some way to address this issue. Now that the negotiations are in the final days, each side is throwing Hail Mary's hoping to slide through some final demands. Given how late in the process this issue is coming up, it would not appear to be any sort of deal-breaker. The owners may very well concede it in hopes that more states will attempt to pass legislation similar to that in Florida. Or maybe they'll use it as leverage against the players battle for $320 million in unpaid benefits from 2010. These final few pieces of the puzzle can be mixed and matched to determine the final compromise in the final CBA.
For more on the NFL lockout, keep following this StoryStream.