Pro athletes fight limits on Calif. workers’ comp
Former professional athletes who have battled countless injuries
since they left the game on Monday criticized a bill in the state
Legislature that would restrict players from collecting workers’
compensation benefits in California.
Two dozen former players, including San Francisco 49ers
defensive player Dana Stubblefield and Reggie Williams of the
Cincinnati Bengals, appeared at the state Capitol to speak against
AB1309, which they said was an effort by team owners to avoid
paying them for legitimate injuries.
”(Players) paid into the system and now they want to take the
system away from us,” said Ickey Woods, who grew up in Fresno and
was a running back for the Bengals.
California is one of nine states that allow professional
athletes from out-of-state teams to seek workers’ compensation
awards, which are paid by their employers. A bill by Assemblyman
Henry Perea, D-Fresno, would allow only players from California
teams to claim workers’ compensation and would shorten the filing
period for claims.
Proponents of AB1309 say out-of-state players abuse California’s
broad workers’ compensation rules by filing claims here even when
they have received awards elsewhere. Allowing non-residents to use
the system increases costs for state taxpayers, they say.
”Professional athletes have every right to file for workers’
comp benefits – but they should do so in their home state or in the
state where they were principally employed,” Perea said in a news
release promoting the bill.
The California Labor Federation and Consumer Attorneys of
California are backing the players and opposing the legislation.
They argue that some injuries athletes suffer while playing may not
be apparent for years, particularly ailments resulting from
repeated stress or injury.
California law has broad limits on filing workers’ compensation
claims, based on when a player knew of the injury and whether they
were properly notified of their compensation rights when they
Under Perea’s bill, workers’ compensation claims would have to
be filed within a year of an athlete’s final game or of a physician
diagnosing the condition, whichever is later.
Opponents said narrowing California’s rules is unfair to players
who paid income taxes for games played within the state and should
be allowed access to California’s compensation system.
”What we want is a fair look at where the injury took place and
whether or not that player deserves to be compensated under the
NFL’s compensation system,” said DeMaurice Smith, executive
director of the National Football League Players Association.
”This isn’t a case where anyone here is seeking a land grab.”
Several of the former athletes leaned on canes as speakers went
to the lectern. Williams recounted how he’s had 24 operations on
his right leg, which were not paid for by the Bengals or the
”The denial of care that the billionaire owners are putting on
players that help make the game as popular as it is is really one
of the most embarrassing things about the game today,” said
Williams, who lifted his pant leg to show his swollen, scarred
A dozen of the state’s professional sports teams, including the
San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, and several
insurance companies are backing the measure.
Revising California’s law would help craft some needed standards
for how and where workers’ compensation claims should be handled,
said Jason Kinney, who is representing the NFL, NBA and other
professional sports associations.