On Friday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith mentioned during an appearance on the Spiegel & Parkins Show that they are prepared to tell potential free agents not to sign with the Bears if the new Illinois bill that targets athletes is passed.
The bill in question is being pushed by the McCaskey family, who own the Bears, and would end workers’ compensation benefits for professional athletes when they turn 35, unless they can prove their playing career is likely to extend beyond this point.
As of now, most permanently injured workers in the state of Illinois can claim compensation benefits until they’re 67 years old.
“This bill being sponsored by Ms. Radogno is simply designed to target professional athletes, and take away their right to health care that every worker in the state of Illinois is entitled to,” Smith said, via CBS Chicago. “The Bears’ owners are behind it as well, to be blunt, it’s just another way to bankroll the coffers of the rich owners who own these teams at the expense of the players who actually do all the work. … They’re pushing the bill. Our understanding is they are the people who have lined up a lobbyist to promote the bill.”
Smith made clear that they will inform every potential free agent to not join the Bears in the coming months if this bills passes.
“I will tell you from the bottom of my heart that this union will tell every potential free agent player, if this bill passes, to not come to the Bears,” Smith said. “Because, think about it, if you’re a free agent player and you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else where you can get lifetime medical for the injury you’re going to have, isn’t a smarter financial decision to go to a team where a bill like this hasn’t passed?”
The Bears issued the following statement to 670 The Score following Smith’s comments.
“We join the four other major professional Chicago teams in monitoring and supporting changes to the system that protect athletes’ rights under the workers’ compensation system while acknowledging athletes are not competing professionally until age 67. Nothing in the wage differential language under consideration impacts the right for any athlete to receive just compensation for partial or permanent injury, medical benefits or to file a claim itself.”
This is an interesting situation to watch moving forward, but it’s hard to say just how much of an impact this will have on Chicago’s ability to lure free agents if it becomes law.
There are only so many jobs out there and this impacts such a small number of players that it seems like it wouldn’t be a major consideration from free agents.
Even so, the NFLPA is clearly concerned about how this could impact things moving forward with other states.
We’ll have more regarding this matter as the news is available.