Many NFL fans saw the 2015 movie Concussion and learned for the first time how badly team owners treated current and former players.  Now, the NFL Players’ Association is facing a lawsuit from one former player who claims that the union is treating him and others even worse.

Andre Royal played linebacker for six years in the NFL, spending time with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.  His career saw him suffer many head injuries, leaving him suffering from seizures before he retired in 2000.  The 46-year-old Alabama native is now saying in a lawsuit that his disability benefits are being undermined by the same union he paid dues to during his playing career. 

The NFL Players’ Association oversees the disability benefits paid to former players, and in the case of Royal, did not explain the different types of plans available, causing him to file for a smaller monthly benefit than he could have.  The union, it is claimed by Royal, put him in the “football degenerative” plan, which are players whose career injures have caught up to them after retirement; it is a plan that pays $4,000/month in benefits.  Since Royal’s injuries were diagnosed during his playing career, the lawsuit claims that he was able to file under the “active football total and permanent” disability plan, which has a higher monthly payout.  The lawsuit goes on to say that trying to get Royal reclassified by the union is “effectively impossible”.  The NFLPA had declined to comment on this lawsuit.

If what Andre Royal is saying it true, it would be a disgrace to the NFL Players’ Association and all those involved in helping players sign up for benefits.  The union screamed pretty loudly when the NFL owners held back information that hurt their membership; yet when it comes time to sign up for the benefits the players need in their post-playing career, the union is not treating the former players any better.

Let’s hope that Royal and many other former players are able to put pressure on their union and the courts award them the benefits they seem to deserve.  Let’s also hope that the people who are, for whatever reason(s), holding back plan information and benefits are shown the door to the unemployment office as soon as the courts rule in Royal’s favor.


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