NFL excludes women from retiree health talks

From The New York Times:

As the wife of a former N.F.L. player with degenerative dementia, Eleanor Perfetto finds herself performing the most basic tasks for her husband, Ralph Wenzel: she feeds him, bathes him and tries to explain all that is happening to him.
She could not, however, attend a meeting Thursday night in suburban Washington between N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell and former players, the third in a series of discussions regarding the later-life care of retirees. As Perfetto tried to enter the room, Goodell told her the meeting was for players only.

But the problem wasn’t just that the meeting was for players – it’s that it was for men. Goodell told the NYT reporter that women being present could impede the discussion.

Perfetto and the wives of other players with dementia criticized their exclusion, adding their voices to a debate over the care of retired players that has been the subject of two Congressional hearings.
“We wives are the voice of players with dementia, because they can’t speak for themselves,” Perfetto said. “They are only allowing players healthy enough to attend. That means they’re getting a very slanted view of what it’s like out there.”

So sexism is stopping what could be a comprehensive discussion. Nice. Though I’m betting this isn’t just about keeping women out – it’s about keeping caretakers out. These women are the ones who know best what is happening to their loved ones – shutting them out isn’t just sexist, it’s irresponsible.

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  • Thomas

    I’m betting that, without women around, the league intends to gender-police the macho former players. Football players are not supposed to complain about how much it hurts or what they can’t do by themselves anymore; they get called “pussies” for that. It’s a lot easier to do that in an all-male locker-room atmosphere.

  • Danyell

    I’m assuming that this former player’s dementia is related to his years in the NFL. Maybe they want to keep his stories away from others like a dirty secret – or to keep everyone else from being bummed out by it.
    That’s pretty terrible. She should have as much right to be there, since her husband can’t participate on his own.

  • Mama Mia

    I had this thought, as well. My other thought was that this is also about not having to cover health care costs. The women are the ones who represent those in the most dire condition. Keep them out and they don’t raise the issues of that expensive care. Don’t talk about it, don’t pay for it. The big wigs that treat the players like interchangeable pieces of meat can continue to keep the money for themselves. (I know a lot of players make lots of money, but the bulk of them don’t)

  • whatever

    Their case should definitely be heard but I also think it is important for these men to have a space of their own in which they can discuss their own personal health issues amongst themselves. These types of situations should be accounted for and organised appropriately and it is sad that they have to fight to be heard, however if the situations were reversed I would think it would be hard to argue for the general inclusion of men into a female only health group.
    I say this though not knowing much about healthcare provision in the US

  • whatever

    Wouldn’t professional sports people be amongst the most in-tune with their own health though? I would assume that at least throughout their professional careers every slight tinge of pain is investigated, monitored and treated as thoroughly as medically possible, certainly to a much higher degree than the general population.

  • llevinso

    But Whatever, these women aren’t trying to get THEIR health problems talked about in this group. They’re trying to talk about the health problems their husbands are facing. You’re phrasing it as it they’re trying to make this group address female health issues too, but that’s not the case. These are the same health issues. It’s just that these men no longer can participate because of their dementia so their wives and caretakers have to be their voices.

  • SaraLaffs

    Not necessarily. Pro athletes know that if they get a reputation for being inury-prone it’ll be harder to get and keep a contract. And in the NFL, even contracts aren’t always guarantees. But you’re dealing with insanely competitive people who wouldn’t be pro athletes if they gave up easily. My favorite team, the Carolina Panthers, had a player named Dan Morgan who was a brilliant linebacker, but who never played a full season because he was always getting injured. After half a dozen concussions (that the team knew about – he may have had others), the team basically told him that he needed to quit. And what did Morgan do? Signed with another team. (He did end up retiring at the start of this season IIRC, and hopefully he won’t have any long-term damage.)
    (Peter King actually mentioned this in his Sports Illustrated column today…Matt Birk, the center for the Vikings (I think) is asking NFL players to donate money to pick up the slack for retired players who aren’t covered by the league’s pension plan. Some of these guys are just in pitiful shape.)

  • SaraLaffs

    Agreed. If Goodell wants to have rap session about players’ personal experience with health care and injury, then I could see it being players-only. (The “no girls at the clubhouse” stuff is silly, but whatever.) But if it’s a discussion about how the league should be involved in health care for retired players, then it makes sense to have the people who are responsible for that care present.

  • hfs

    The magic internet 8-ball tells me:
    The minimum salary structure for 2007 is as follows:
    * Rookies and first-year players $285,000
    * Second-year players $360,000
    * Third-year $435,000
    * Fourth-year $510,000
    * Fifth- through seventh-year $595,000
    * Eighth- through tenth-year $720,000
    * Eleventh-year and longer $820,000
    The NFLPA further claims that the average career of an NFL player is 3.5 years. That puts them in the top 1% of income. So, I’d say that during their careers, they do make “a lot” of money.

  • kb

    This is my thought as well. That it is not so much about sexism, that’s just a cover in this case. It’s about not having to admit how expensive and exhausting of care these players need. Though I could be wrong. Do we know if male caretakers were excluded?

  • kb

    The issue is wives talking about the health issues that players face for players that can’t talk for themselves. It’s not like they’re trying to deny players the right to talk about their health issues. They’re trying to get all players involved in the discussion. as to your analogy-would you tell a man who had been caring for his wife in a similar situation that he shouldn’t be able to speak in a women’s health group about her? I wouldn’t.

  • Rachel_in_WY

    I think that if they have power of attorney for their husbands then they can’t legally be prevented from a meeting like this. I wonder if anyone investigated that route?

  • whatever

    I’m not implying that at all, but if the presence of the opposite sex in a group effects how any of the people convey their health issues then unfortunately it is a problem that requires a separate arrangement, otherwise you are just excluding the other members of the group from speaking out and distorting what would be the main purpose of the meetings.
    I have already said they should be heard, but I don’t think this should come at the cost of other peoples voices.

  • llevinso

    I’m sorry whatever, but I disagree. If these men are uncomfortable talking about their issues because a woman is in the room that is just too bad. The men these women are representing have the same right to be heard as those men. And I would be saying the same thing if women were put off by a man being allowed in a “women’s only” meeting in order to speak for his wife who couldn’t due to something like dementia. She has a right to have her problems addressed as well. What, just because some people have a disease where they can’t speak for themselves they’re out of luck? I don’t think so.

  • metabonbon

    Right. All NFL players are men, and it’s a sport that specifically excludes women from being players, but that’s circumstantial in the context of what the meeting is supposedly about. One would think that if the retiree could not attend or make decisions on his own, it would be reasonable to expect that his life-partner-proxy would speak for him, and learn from what’s being said in the meeting, to better care for him.

    “If there’s a woman in the room, I have to watch what I say. Maybe we need to go back and make an exception for her and the wives of players with dementia. But then again, men are men and they’ll look at that woman and will not say everything they want to say in the manner they want to say it.”

    Well, okay, and that’s all kinds of fucked up in itself. But is this is a meeting to discuss and learn about giving/receiving a specific kind of medical care, or is it a safe-space support group for emotional growth? Because to combine the two into one meeting seems kinda detrimental to the players who can’t attend.

  • SaraLaffs

    Yeah, that’s the current pay structure. But the NFLPA is also supposed to represent players from the 50s, 60s and 70s who didn’t get nearly that kind of pay. For instance, the King column mentioned a retired player living in a FEMA trailer in Texas on about $600 a month. And then there was Mike Webster, the Steelers center from the 1970s Super Bowl teams who died penniless when he was only in his early 50s. It’s too easy to sidestep the problem by pointing out what a modern player makes.

  • kb

    it’s the voices of the players. the wives are there as voices of the players who can’t be. why is that so hard to understand?

  • kb

    Yeah, but can they get power of attorney for their husbands in time for this meeting? I mean, if the husbands have dementia such that they can’t attend, isn’t getting power of attorney fairly complicated, as I don’t think they can just sign anything at that point.

  • whatever

    It’s “just too bad”? That is an incredibly incompassionate view when dealing with these men’s personal health issues. They all need to be have their voices heard.

  • llevinso

    Yes whatever, because it’s not okay for their rights to trump those of someone elses. I don’t see what about this you don’t get. These women are speaking for those that have lost their voice. And those men have just as much right to have their health issues heard as these other men. As kb said, what is so hard for you to understand here?

  • Mama Mia

    Ok, I’m going to be corny now, but when I read through all the comments this morning, I was so pleased to see that the overriding opinion was that this was about *taking care of people*, whether they are male or female. So much for the man-hating feminists we are all supposed to be.

  • catsman

    I very seldom will put up a quick hit post. If I am going to bother to blog on an issue it is because I have something to say, or that I wish question. I don’t read blogs that cannot be bother to offer incite or that routinely just post links from other blogs with the exception of Alas A Blog…
    Online games

  • Mobile Facebook

    It’s amazing that sexism still exists in 2009. Where is the progress?
    — Submitted from Mobile Facebook

  • Hank Freid

    In my opinion to get power of attorney for their husbands in time for this meeting? I mean, if the husbands have dementia such that they can’t attend, isn’t getting power of attorney fairly complicated, as I don’t think they can just sign anything at that point. 70-536

  • Rachel

    well, as long we don’t fight for our rights no one will… it’s about time to quit playing dress up games on the Net and start making a difference.

  • milesoftrials

    I can’t believe this kind of stuff is still happening. We all know it’s wrong.
    Antique Vases