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Judge Orders NFL to Maintain Benefits to Injured Players

A federal judge ordered National Football League team owners to stop trying to reduce workers’ compensation benefits to former players who were injured while playing.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in New York issued a permanent injunction March 25 enforcing an earlier judgment won by the NFL Players Association against a council representing the teams.

The players association filed grievances against NFL teams in 2005 on behalf of injured players including Steve Harvey and Dusty Renfro. The Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Carolina Panthers claimed “dollar for dollar” offsets from workers’ compensation awards paid to the men, according to court papers.

The association argued that the teams were entitled to only limited offsets. An arbitrator ruled in the players’ favor in 2007. The association sued in 2008 to confirm the arbitrator’s award and received a court judgment in its favor in 2009.

“These benefits are important to the players and we’re pleased the judge preserved them,” Richard Berthelsen, the general counsel for the players association, said in a telephone interview. “The clubs should be made to abide by the arbitrator’s ruling that they cannot offset salary against future workers’ compensation benefits.”

Lawyers for the NFL Management Council didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

“Because management admits that the clubs persist in claiming dollar for dollar offsets, the players have met their burden for a permanent injunction,” Crotty said in his order.

The suit was also filed on behalf of players David Alexander, Marlon Kerner, Charles Smith, Michael Swift and Jason Peter.

The case is National Football League Players Association v. National Football League Management Council, 08-3658, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

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