Former New Orleans Saints Tight End Boo Williams Calls Out NFL Disability Program
Former NFL tight end Boo Williams calls out the league's disability program after he was denied benefits for his neck and shoulder injury.
Boo Williams played 59 games in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints from 2001-05, and every morning he wakes up feeling the toll those games took. Williams now suffers from a litany of issues due to his time in the league, including debilitating headaches and pain shooting down his neck. Now he needs surgery, medicine, and doctors ,but isn’t able to afford it, NBC News reported.
The Mississippi resident was recently awarded $5,000 a month by the NFL’s Disability Benefit Plan, a pittance compared to the $500,000 he believes the league should’ve paid him over the last 14 years and has accused the league of repeatedly mishandling his claims.
“I need all the help I can get because, some days, it feels like it’s going to be all over,” he told The Associated Press. “Sometimes I can’t sleep. It all makes it harder when you’re fighting to get what you deserve, and all you do is get frustrated.”
Williams is one of dozens of former NFL players who believe the NFL’s Disability Benefit Plan has swindled them, and as a result, they spend their days dealing with a tangled web of lawyers, paperwork, and bureaucracy fighting with the NFL and its NFL Player Disability & Neurocognitive Benefit Plan, according to the outlet.
NBC News reported the NFL has added millions of dollars to the plan for retired players suffering from injuries long after their playing days were over. The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) will pay more than $330 million in benefits this year, according to NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy.
However, lawyers representing the former players say the system is rigged due to the NFL’s high rate of claim denials and the fact that doctors assigned to examine players are paid by the NFL.
This has been a years-long fight for retired players. In 2018, a group of Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Lawrence Taylor, and Sarah White, the widow of Reggie White, wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith demanding better health insurance coverage and a share of NFL revenue, threatening to boycott Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Additionally, 10 NFL players, including former Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee, filed a lawsuit accusing the NFL of financially incentivizing doctors to deny more claims.
“These benefits are not a gift, these were bargained for, this is part of the deal, they are entitled to it,” Christopher Seeger, one of the lawyers representing the players, told reporters during a video news conference.
Willians, who signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent, made about $2 million during his career and sought benefits under the league’s “line of duty” disability policy for active and recently retired players who suffer football-related injuries.
Dr. George Canizares, an orthopedist who was assigned by the plan, evaluated Williams and graded him with “whole person impairment,” which qualified him for benefits. However, weeks later, Canizares downgraded an injury to Williams’ shoulder at “the suggestion” of NFL Disability Plan Director Dr. Stephen Haas. That started a 14-year fight for Williams to receive benefits, which he said led to depression.
Since being approved earlier this year, Williams has received about $45,000 but says it’s still not enough for the medical care he needs for his neck injury and has contemplated suicide more than once.