“The more I’ve dug into it, the more frustrating it gets,” Walker Gillette said. “It seems like you hear something one day, and the next day something different.”
Gillette’s mother, Peggy, is 88 years old. His father, Jim Gillette, played in the NFL from 1940 to ’48 and died 22 years ago.
“I think that’s great, if something is finally getting done,” said Walker Gillette, who also played in the NFL, from 1970 to ’76. “Something needed to be done.”
Sylvia Mackey attended Super Bowl festivities in Indianapolis this year and raised her hand at the news conference of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. “What did we do wrong?” she asked.
In response, Smith defended the union and said the players pushed for the legacy fund in the first place.
“The people who fought for that benefit would never try to purposely exclude anyone,” Smith said. “We created a new benefit, and we are proud of it.”
In the four months that followed, Mackey had a difficult time getting answers. She works as a flight attendant and said the legacy fund money would be helpful. Both the NFLPA and the league office kept saying they were working to right a wrong, and Commissioner Roger Goodell personally called her to discuss the matter.
“The fight over it is just embarrassing,” Mackey said. “It’s shameful. It’s dragging us widows through the mud.”
Many retired players have butted heads with union leadership for years over benefits and resources extended to the game’s former athletes. A lawsuit filed by former players against the union was thrown out Friday.
“No jury could reasonably find that the active players did not do better by the retired players in the 2011 CBA,” U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said in her ruling.
The NFLPA points to significant gains in the most recent collective bargaining agreement and said the matter with the widows will be resolved. The question is: Where does the money come from?
“I’m confident that it will get done,” Harrison said. “I’ve expressed that to Sylvia, as well as some of the other widows and survivors. We understand that this is an issue that has to get fixed. But we need to make sure we do it the right way.”