NFLPA pushing back against Bengals owners' alleged attempt to end workers comp for Ohio pro athletes

Bill could impact Browns, Cavs, Guardians and minor league affiliates
Browns Bengals Football
Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 12, 2023

CINCINNATI — The NFL's player union, the NFLPA, is pushing back and working against an alleged push from Cincinnati Bengals ownership—led by Mike Brown—to add language to a bill that would make professional athletes in Ohio ineligible for workers compensation for injuries sustained with their team, sources have told News 5.

Players around the league received an email from the union Saturday providing them information about the proposed move, urging them to stay informed and remain in contact with the union with questions and concerns.

According to a source, the Bengals ownership is aiming to add the following language to Ohio's workers' comp law:

"Athletes who are under contract to play for a professional athletic team are not eligible to file for or receive a permanent partial disability award under this section."

Should the bill pass and that language added into the law, active players on any professional team who remains under contract with a professional sports team for five years after they are injured would not be able to file or obtain compensation or medical benefits for their work-related injury, sources said.

The passage of the legislation would also make it so pro athletes would be required to pay for their own medical care and pay for it at the billed amount rather than the reduced rate employers and their carriers pay based on current Ohio Workers' Compensation laws.

Right now, workers comp costs for NFL players come out of the athlete side of the salary cap and the typical filing comes to allow them access to future medical care after their careers are over and when they are not getting paid because of their injuries.

While most may think of the professional athletes who make multiple millions of dollars in their contracts, the concern the NFLPA and others opposing the proposed language in the legislation have is with other Ohio professional athletes who are not making that kind of money. It would also impact those who do have career longevity who would not be able to make a claim on a prior injury that impacts them down the road if they're five years removed from the injury.

That language would not only impact the Bengals players, as a state law it would impact players on teams including the Cleveland Guardians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Crew and Columbus Blue Jackets—but also minor league players on teams like the Cleveland Monsters, Cleveland Charge, Akron Rubber Ducks, Lake County Captains and many others around the state.

According to sources, the Bengals ownership group is claiming the reason behind their push is a "timing issue." But those against the added language say as tax payer dollars are not used for workers' comp claims, those benefitting from the proposal would be the owners/teams themselves.

The NFLPA plans to continue fighting against the proposed language to ensure it's athletes and other professional athletes across Ohio remain able to have lifetime care for injuries sustained while competing, including concussion care and joint replacement.

The Bengals ownership has not yet responded to the NFLPA's comments.

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