Clovis Athlete Zack Follett to Assem. Perea:
Whose side are you on: Billionaires or Athletes?
AB 1309 takes side of NFL owners vs. players
Why help Detroit Lions deny care for my injuries?
FRESNO, CA – Clovis resident Zack Follett, a former Detroit Lions linebacker who would be barred by AB 1309 (Perea) from even filing a claim against the Lions’ workers’ compensation insurance carrier in California, today protested the measure outside Assem. Perea’s office. “I don’t understand why Assemblyman Perea is authoring AB 1309 that increases owner profits at the expense of player medical care and disability compensation. Whose side are you on? AB 1309 favors a well-connected special interest with a unique exemption from insurance requirements that all others must follow. Why is Assem. Perea helping pro sports team owners take away athletes’ medical care and disability compensation? AB 1309 would shift NFL owners’ injury costs to taxpayers, aiding them in avoiding responsibility for players’ injuries, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease,” asked Follett.
The sports team owners are working across the nation to close the door to injured workers’ claims that should be paid by the team
s’ workers’ compensation insurance.
“AB 1309, sponsored by NFL owners, is the owners’ attempt to shirk their responsibility for their injured players,” said Follett. “If these few richest individuals in America can avoid providing medical care and disability compensation for work-related injuries, the taxpayers will end up paying for care that should be paid by professional sports teams’ insurers. Assemblyman Perea is supposed to represent the people of his district, not billionaire sports team owners from out of state. I call upon Assem. Perea to drop AB 1309.”
NFL players pay for their workers’ compensation insurance from their portion of the salary cap. Players agreed to have less money available for salaries to ensure they would have workers’ compensation coverage. Now, the owners seek to cut off access to medical care and disability compensation.
Professional athletes, including those from non-California teams, pay over $300 million in income taxes for earnings while playing games in California. Workers’ compensation insurance claims are not paid by taxpayers, but by the employer’s insurance carrier. (There are a few cases where teams’ insurers have gone bankrupt, and these claims are referred to the California Insurance Guarantee Association – CIGA – that addresses all claims filed against bankrupt insurers.)
Professional athletes have short playing careers, and face the prospect of injury on a daily basis. Professional athletes suffer from the effects of their injuries long after their playing careers are over, and rely on workers’ compensation insurance claims for medical care and disability compensation.
NFL owners have long denied that professional football is dangerous, or that football injuries lead to long-term health problems. Now that medical science has documented the horrible connection between years of pounding and Alzheimer’s, dementia and even ALS, the NFL owners are enlisting California legislators to help them escape the responsibility to provide medical treatment and compensation for these legitimate work injuries.
Workers’ compensation is insurance that employers are required to purchase to cover injuries to employees arising from their work. NFL owners and their insurers are responsible to provide medical treatment and disability compensation to injured players.
California is one of only nine states that recognizes “cumulative trauma” from repeated collisions or activities. Some states (Texas) do not even require workers’ compensation insurance. Other states (Florida) exempt professional sports teams from workers’ compensation insurance.
Although AB 1309 seems to be aimed only at professional athletes, it could set a precedent that undercuts workers’ compensation insurance coverage for many other "everyday occupations." The restrictions in AB 1309 could limit the ability of truck drivers, flight attendants, farmworkers, and others who work in multiple states, to seek medical care and disability compensation for their legitimate work-related injuries.
AB 1309 is set to be voted upon in the Assembly Insurance Committee on Wednesday, April 24.
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