Sitting on the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown, among other legislation sent his way this month, is the NFL Bill, AB 1309, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno.
I have come out against this bill since the beginning and I know that my rants here won't make a rat's arse difference to the Governor; he's going to sign it because my words are not as powerful as the NFL lobby.
But that won't preclude me from pointing out what a travesty this piece of thoughtless legislation is, and how it not only will deny professional athletes from rightly deserved workers' compensation, but likely will increase the cost of providing coverage because of the litigation that is going to follow.
The reason is that professional athletes move around a lot, and there is always going to be a debate about what happened when and where.
Not only that, but in order to preserve rights in California, athletes are going to file claims much earlier, and more frequently, to ensure they are protected against the new statute of limitations in the bill.
AB 1309 provides that an athlete who spent fewer than 20% of his "duty days" in California in the year preceding an on-the-field injury, must file a claim in his home state. Additionally, the bill says an athlete must spend at least 20% of his career duty days or two years for a California team, and spend fewer than seven years with an out-of-state team to file such an occupational disease or cumulative trauma claim in California.
Our report on the bill this morning includes vignettes of popular athletes that would create such litigation over these restrictions after a review of a database of professional athlete work comp claims in California published by the Los Angeles Times.
Basketball star Bill Walton would not have been allowed to file his two cumulative trauma claims that are included in the L.A. Times database. While in college at UCLA, Walton led the Bruins to two national championships. But because of injuries he saw limited action while on the roster for the San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers from 1979 to 1985, after playing or the Portland Trail Blazers from 1974 to 1978, and for the Boston Celtics from 1985 to 1987.
Walton's case would exceed the requirement to play fewer than seven years for an out-of-state team despite the fact that the end of his career was in California.
Walton has filed 14 claims for specific injuries reflected in the L.A. Times list of about 800 NBA players who have filed claims in California. Would Walton be excluded from those claims because of the "duty day" requirement?
Bo Jackson, the cross-sport wonder, played football for the Los Angeles Raiders and baseball for the Kansas City Royals. He dislocated his hip in 1990 during a playoff game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ending his professional football career after just four years.
At the time, he had played five seasons for the Royals and then went on to play three years for the Chicago White Sox and another season for the California Angels.
The L.A. Times database shows Jackson filed a cumulative trauma claim against the Chicago White Sox and another claim against the Los Angeles Angels.
Because Jackson played baseball for eight years for teams outside of California, Jackson would be prohibited from filing a claim in California, even though his last year in baseball was in California and even though his football career ended with his injury in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times points out other absurd results under the bill because of the perception that professional athletes earn big money - that's not the case for most athletes covered by AB 1309.
For instance, hockey player David Cousineau, who skated for teams such as the Las Vegas Wranglers, Phoenix Roadrunners and Long Beach Ice Dogs, earned just $650 a week toward the end of his five-year career.
Though he never made the NHL, The LA Times database reflects a string of traumas to his head, shoulders, back and legs. In 2010, Cousineau settled claims against his last two teams for $68,000 by compromise and release thus agreeing to cover his own medical expenses for these injuries.
The professional sports franchises are banking that the general public doesn't know or care about the athletes; they want their entertainment and they want it fast, furious, competitive. The more damage the better.
The only way to make an impact against what I feel is not only poor legislation and a draconian law is for the player's unions to organize strikes and refuse to play. Whether the unions have the resources, and the support of their members, to do that is questionable.
Athletes generally tend to be in a state of denial with regard to injuries - that's built into their mentality through years of training while young, supple, and able to quickly recover.
I think it's a forgone conclusion that Brown will sign AB 1309. I also think it's foolish for anyone to be a professional athlete in football, baseball, basketball, hockey or soccer.