The NFL Players Association will soon provide financial aid to in-need members. But the young players who may potentially need the most help won’t qualify for maximum assistance.
A source told FOXSports.com on Thursday that 958 of the 2,032 players who were on an active roster for at least one game last season qualify for the maximum $60,000 that will be offered starting April 15. The other 53 percent of those players will be limited to lesser amounts because they weren’t on the 53-man roster for all of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
The NFLPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The $60,000 maximum stems largely from money earned by players in rights and royalty payments that were set aside by the NFLPA over the past few seasons.
"This is not money through a route that the players haven’t earned," ex-Chicago Bears linebacker and NFLPA player representative Hunter Hillenmeyer told co-host Jim Miller and me on Sirius NFL Radio. "This is more of a forced savings than the NFLPA itself doling out anything sitting in their cash reserve."
The NFLPA repeatedly urged players to set aside as much as 25 percent of their 2010 salary in case of a work stoppage. The NFL locked out its players March 11 after labor talks collapsed, the collective bargaining agreement expired and the NFLPA decertified as a union.
The lockout leaves players unable to collect offseason roster bonuses that were due or pending free agents from signing new contracts that include signing bonuses. A Minnesota judge will weigh whether to lift the lockout during an April 6 hearing at the request of the attorneys of 10 players who have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.
While the names and number of players who apply for aid should remain confidential, any signs of financial problems will be monitored closely by the NFL as a potential cracking point for NFLPA solidarity. NFL owners are far better heeled financially for a long-term work stoppage than players.
The NFL minimum salary for a first-year player in 2010 was $325,000. According to businessweek.com, the average NFL salary was $1.9 million with a median salary of $770,000.
Hillenmeyer said even athletes who are earning large salaries may have struggled managing their finances.
"It’s no surprise pro athletes are not the best at saving money," Hillenmeyer said Thursday. "Certainly, some guys do a better job than others. Everybody in professional sports makes a good living. The league minimum (salary) in all leagues is substantially more than the average American makes.
"I don’t expect any fan to feel bad. NFL players making $300,000 a year should be able to live on it until next season starts."