The Cincinnati Bengals have made headlines recently as they attempt to change the workers' compensation law in Ohio. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has accused the Bengals of trying to strip athletes of their workers' compensation benefits.
Workers' compensation provides benefits to employees who are injured while performing work duties. This coverage can include medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs. In the case of professional athletes, workers' compensation can be especially important due to the physical nature of their work.
According to a report by ESPN, the Bengals have proposed a change to the workers' compensation law in Ohio that would limit the number of benefits available to athletes. The proposal would make it more difficult for athletes to receive compensation for injuries sustained on the job, particularly those that are the result of repetitive stress or wear and tear.
The changes in the workers' compensation law proposed by the Cincinnati Bengals would allow the team to provide less coverage for players without violating Article 41 Section 1 of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). According to the CBA, teams are required to provide workers' compensation benefits to players, but the CBA continues “such benefits will be equivalent to those benefits paid under the compensation law of the state in which his Club is located.”
Changing the state law allows the Bengals to change the burden the CBA places on the club without actually going to the negotiation table to alter the CBA. Changing the law rather than how the CBA applies to the current workers’ compensation law is an interesting strategy by the Bengal organization.
The NFLPA has been quick to condemn the Bengals' proposal, arguing that it would unfairly target athletes and could potentially leave them without adequate support in the event of a serious injury. In a statement, the NFLPA accused the Bengals of "attempting to circumvent the law and strip workers of their rights."
While it is true that some athletes have been accused of fraudulent workers' compensation claims in the past, it is unclear whether the Bengals' proposal is a necessary response to this issue. Critics of the proposal argue that it would make it more difficult for legitimate claims to be processed and would ultimately hurt athletes who rely on workers' compensation benefits.
The controversy surrounding the Bengals' proposal has drawn attention to the broader issue of workers' compensation for professional athletes. Athletes in all sports are at risk of sustaining serious injuries on the job, and many rely on workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.
However, the rules and regulations surrounding workers' compensation can vary from state to state, and athletes may not always be eligible for benefits. Some states have enacted laws specifically designed to make it more difficult for athletes to receive workers' compensation benefits, arguing that the physical risks associated with their job are well-known and therefore should not be covered by insurance.
Critics of this approach argue that it places an unfair burden on athletes, who may not fully understand the risks associated with their job or may not have access to adequate medical care. Additionally, some have argued that workers' compensation benefits should be available to all employees, regardless of their occupation or level of risk.
The controversy surrounding the Bengals' proposal also highlights the larger issue of athlete safety in professional sports. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the long-term health effects of playing professional sports, particularly in contact sports like football.
A growing body of research suggests that repeated head injuries can have serious long-term effects on athletes, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and other neurological conditions. These injuries can have a significant impact on an athlete's quality of life and can lead to significant medical expenses.
While many professional sports leagues have taken steps to address these concerns, including implementing new safety protocols and investing in research, the issue of athlete safety remains a contentious one. The controversy surrounding the Bengals' proposal highlights the tension between athlete safety and the financial interests of sports teams and leagues.
The Bengals have denied commenting on any of these revelations made by the NFLPA. While some commentators have claimed this is simply people hating on the Bengals, the wording used by the NFLPA seems to point to certain knowledge the Player’s Association possesses.
Justin Mader is a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law where he earned a J.D. and a Sports and Entertainment Law Certificate. He can be reached via Twitter: @maderlaw and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/justin-mader-15a602119/.