NFLPA warns agents about proposed bill that could cost injured Saints

The NFLPA is upset with a proposed Louisiana bill that that would substantially reduce workers' compensation benefits for players’ injures at any other time other than during the 17 weeks of the regular season.

If a proposed Louisiana bill becomes a law, New Orleans Saints players injured in the offseason would receive substantially fewer workers' compensation benefits.

Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Players Association continued to warn players of the “possible consequences” of signing with the New Orleans Saints, reiterating its opposition to proposed workers’ compensation legislation in Louisiana.

In a memo sent out to player agents obtained by FOX Sports, the union reminded all certified contract advisors that the Saints organization sponsored legislation last week "that would substantially reduce workers' compensation benefits for players’ injuries at any other time other than during the 17 weeks of the regular season."

Players are paid their base salaries in 17-week installments. During offseason workouts, OTAs and training camp, their pay is drastically reduced, though some players receive workout bonuses and roster bonuses paid in the spring.

Under proposed law (Louisiana House Bill 1069), the calculations for wage-loss benefits would be based on the player's wages at the time of the injury.

Players earn $175 per day during offseason workouts and minicamps. Veterans earn $1,700 per week during training camp, and first-year players earn $925 per week.

"There is no financial benefit to the state with this bill, only team management. I am disappointed that (bill sponsors) Representative (Chris) Broadwater and (Cameron) Henry would take such a stance against our players and other Louisiana workers," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in a statement via the NFLPA. "Whether we get hurt during the season or in the preseason, it is all the same. It is in preparation to help us win a championship for our community.”

Broadwater told FOX Sports on Friday he introduced the bill because the current laws included "nothing specific to the unique ways professional athletes are paid" and that the issue has been litigated. Broadwater said six of seven appellate-court rulings since 2000 on how payments should be calculated were in line with the way the bill is presented. 

Broadwater said he has been in communication with the Saints since filing the bill but has not spoken to them extensively.

Attorney Chris Kane, assisting the Saints as outside counsel on workers’ compensation-related issues, agreed with Broadwater in this email response to FOX Sports:

“The proposed law (HB1069) referenced in the NFLPA’s advisory to agents is intended to reflect what Louisiana courts have previously decided regarding the timing aspect of when to calculate a professional athletes average weekly wage for purposes of determining state workers’ compensation benefits.  HB1069 in no way reduces any eligible workers’ compensation benefits to any potential free agent or current professional athlete in Louisiana.  Importantly, this law is not new, and in fact first arose from a professional athlete claim filed in April 2000.  Since 2006, the Louisiana appellate court system, including both the Louisiana Fourth (1 favorable case) and Fifth circuits (5 favorable cases), have held that average weekly wages for professional athletes should be determined based on the wages earned at the time of the injury and from a historical perspective and rejected calculating them based on potential future earning capacity or speculative wages.”

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As for the NFLPA's assertion players should consider the bill when deciding whether to sign with the Saints, Broadwater noted Louisiana's overall workers' compensation program is "far more favorable to employees" than that of other states, in part because of the maximum of 10 years of payments.

Broadwater also noted the proposed system could benefit players. For example, if they're injured while playing in a Super Bowl, their rate of pay could be higher than it would be during the regular season. 

"To say this one issue tips the scales and is a disservice to the players and very short-sighted," he said.

All injured players are entitled to benefits from the league under the collective bargaining agreement. The proposed legislation, which is in the state senate and not yet scheduled for a vote, would affect only additional compensation the Saints would be required by law to pay players for up to 10 years. 

“Our union has been fighting to protect the workers compensation rights of players in Louisiana and across the country for years," said veteran NFL offensive lineman Eric Winston, who was recently elected the union's president. "In fact, there is no cost to the team owner or the taxpayer for NFL players to obtain this benefit for the injuries they suffered at work because the award costs are offset by players ourselves. This is nothing more than greed.”

Kane had his own take on the Saints' behalf:

"While the NFLPA has inappropriately and unprofessionally discouraged free agents from coming to Louisiana, they fail to mention that they have aggressively instigated legislative efforts in Louisiana since 2010 in an effort to undo the prevailing case law. In 2010, 2012 and 2014, the NFLPA first filed bills in each session proposing an exception for professional athletes from the case law. Only in response to those legislative efforts did the Saints lodge an opposition in an effort to protect the jurisprudence. After defeating the NFLPA’s legislative effort, the Saints did not previously move their bills in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, after two more consistent cases came from the appellate courts, the NFLPA unsuccessfully tried to change the law yet again. Consequently, HB1069 is now being sought for passage to stop the needless litigation and annual lobbying efforts of the NFLPA to circumvent the established case law."

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