St. Clair, the 49ers Hall of Fame offensive tackle, is not bothered by the lockout taking this long. However, he is very angry at how the NFL continues to disregard the players who came before.
“What really disappoints me,” St. Clair said, “is that we are not represented by the NFLPA. They only deal with the active players. They have even come out and said they don’t represent us (retired players).”
The root of the problem is long-term health care. Former Detroit Lion offensive tackle Lomas Brown said that the NFL should provide lifetime health care for its retired players. Some think that is excessive. Not St. Clair.
“Absolutely (they should),” St. Clair said. “Hell yes. That’s what we are fighting for. I am really lucky, luckier than most of the guys. The helmets when I played didn’t provide any protection at all. Concussions? We’d get concussions every game. I know I am having trouble with my memory.
“But I go to golf tournaments and I see guys I played with and against in wheelchairs, unable to walk. Dementia, crippled bodies, there’s no question it’s caused by the sport. No question.”
What also angers St. Clair is the current NFL health insurance plan: It covers a player for only the first five years after retirement. For most players that’s around 30. The disabling injuries don’t surface, typically, until later.
Considering what the retired players have done for the league, lifetime health insurance for players is not an insipid request. The owners owe the players that. It’s called respect.
Even a modified plan would be better than what is currently in place: Five years of health insurance for every year played.
Video-taping a player with dementia is not the kind of publicity the NFL likes.