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NFL Players Assn. to Seek Benefits for Pre-1959ers

The National Football League Players Assn., meeting in Honolulu this week, voted unanimously Tuesday to ask NFL owners to bring about 400 pre-1959 players into the league’s Bert Bell Retirement Fund.

“The player reps of the 28 NFL teams have voted to make the inclusion of the pre-59ers one of eight major issues in their 1987 bargaining agreement negotiations with the owners,” said Frank Woschitz, public relations director for the NFLPA.

NFL players who retired before 1959 have never been covered by the players’ pension plan, which also provides medical benefits. In a Jan. 26 story, The Times pointed out that many NFL retired players--including Hall of Fame players Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Tom Fears and Bulldog Turner--were excluded from NFL retirement benefits.

Woschitz said: “It’s an unjustice the players have always wanted to correct. They proposed this to the owners in 1982, ’77, ’74 and ’70, and it was turned down each time. But this time the pension fund is overfunded and there is money available to take care of the pre-59ers.

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“Someone checked recently and found that 60 of the 128 players in the Hall of Fame are not covered by the retirement plan. When we polled all of the league’s active players, we found 82.5% believed the pre-59ers should be covered.”

Said Dave Williams of Irvine, chairman of the National Football League Retired Players Assn., and the man who submitted the pre-59er proposal at the NFLPA meetings: “The players have voted to correct an injustice. Now it’s up to the owners. The owners could bring the pre-59ers into the retirement plan immediately, or they could wait and deal with it during negotiations for the ’87 collective bargaining agreement.”


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