Sayers Says NFL Could Have Helped Save John Mackey

Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune reports Gale Sayers accused the NFL and its players of being selfish and disrespectful as they haggle over how to divvy up some $9 billion during an extended labor impasse.

The Bears Hall of Fame running back also said the NFL and its players could have done more to help ailing Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who passed away last week.

Sayers and other retired NFL players would like to see increased player pensions and benefits be a part of the negotiated labor settlement.

“It’s not for me; I’m OK,” Sayers said Monday in an interview with the Tribune. “But it’s for the rest of them.”

Mackey, the first president of the NFL Players Association, helped organize the strike that helped players earn $11 million in pensions and benefits.

Mackey was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia about four years ago, forcing him to live full-time in an assisted living facility. Initially, the NFLPA refused to pay a disability income because there was no proven direct link between brain injury and football participation at that time.

Eventually, the league and NFLPA agreed to an “88 Plan,” which provides $88,000 a year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care. Mackey wore No. 88 for the Baltimore Colts.

Still, Sayers feels the NFL could have done more to help Mackey during his final years.

“You know, John Mackey died at 60-something (69),” said Sayers. “(The NFL) could have helped him more, I felt. But they didn’t, and the players (NFLPA) could have helped more, and it didn’t happen.”

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