NFLPA president: Rainy day 'Madden checks' fund might be needed

ByVaughn McClure ESPN logo
Friday, February 1, 2019

ATLANTA -- NFLPA executive committee president Eric Winston stressed the need to prepare just in case there is a 2021 lockout, including saving up funds from Madden likenesses and other marketing ventures.

Winston explained how the "Madden checks'' collected over the next three years could equate to $60,000 per player, maybe not a significant number when weighed against lucrative NFL contracts but an amount that would offer some fallback in case of a work stoppage.

"So every year, [NFL] Players Inc. makes a distribution to the players in the form of a check,'' Winston said Thursday. "It's a little over $17,000. The players decided a couple of years ago, 'Hey listen, in an effort to get ready [for a lockout], one of the streams we want to do is, we're going to withhold those checks and keep them in a fund for each player coming down the road.'

"Again, this is fund money. This isn't something that they're living their life on. But we're going to hold them for three years. And we're going to make sure that they have one small part of a bigger piece. But they're going to have a small fund that they can draw on in the event of a work stoppage. It's not the silver bullet. It's not the end all to be all. But again, we start stacking those bricks, and we start stacking those solutions, and hopefully, that's a small part of it.''

Winston said it is referred to as the "Madden checks'' because EA Sports is one of the most significant contributors. There are other contributors such as Fanatics and Panini America.

Executive committee member Mark Herzlich, like Winston, emphasized how saving the Madden check is just a small part of the preparation process.

"It could even be something like -- who knows what happens with their health insurance -- a way for them to purchase health insurance if there happens to be a lockout,'' Herzlich said. "Yes, it doesn't seem like the amount of money that's necessary to live on an NFL salary, but if we can't control the situation, players can be like, 'Look, my family comes first. I've got to protect the health of my family.' Little things like that are where that money will help.

"It's not necessarily keeping the lights on, but it's keeping your family safe.''

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith reiterated what he previously said about the status of negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

"There really aren't any,'' Smith said. "Right now, you have two sides. We have a number of years until the collective bargaining agreement is up. We might have conversations with the league, but, up to this point, nothing substantial.''

Smith said his stance is to prepare the players for the possibility, not that a lockout is inevitable.

"Look, the best preparation for a war is when you never have to fight,'' Smith said. "But it doesn't mean you don't have to prepare for one.''

During Thursday's news conference, the NFLPA approached the topic of alternative forms of pain management, including marijuana, without declaring it a necessary change. Members discussed looking more into the root of such pain issues, such as padded practice time and if it needs to be cut down even more after significant changes already have been made.

The NFLPA also named Rams OT Andrew Whitworth as the 2019 Alan Page Community Award winner. Whitworth donated his Week 10 game check [$60,000] to Ventura County Community Foundation's Conejo Valley Victims Fund in helping families of 12 people who lost their lives.