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Senate bill proposes capping pro athletes' benefits

Many people complain that pro athletes are grossly overpaid, but there is no denying that they are in an industry that churns them up and spits them out in a short span of years. Often they suffer career-limiting injuries and risk being killed from an especially hard hit or even a fast-pitched ball.

Most would agree that they deserve some compensation for those injuries. But at present, there is a bill before the Illinois legislature that proposes to limit the benefits that professional athletes can receive via workers' compensation for game-related injuries.

Illinois is the sole state out of the 50 where pro athletes may claim workers' compensation wage differentials until they turn 67. But what does that really mean?

Here, those who suffer job-related injured that force them to work at lower-paying jobs, are protected by workers' compensation laws. Under the present laws, injured workers may collect approximately two-thirds of the wage difference between their pre-injury salaries and what they earn now.

This is the wage differential, and Illinois workers may claim it up until they turn 67, which is a typical age to end to most employees' careers.

Of course, no professional athlete would still be throwing the pigskin or shooting hoops until that ripe old age. This inspired one Republican senator to sponsor Senate Bill 12. Senator Christine Radogno decided to take some action and alter the benefits that the state's pro athletes can receive.

Under the provisions of the bill, the wage differential would end at age 35. Chicago's sports teams support this bill and provided letters to that effect. Their letters stated that, on average, professional ballplayers have a three- to five-year career window.

However, the NFL Players Association is up in arms over proposed SB 12. The president of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith, said recently in an interview on Chicago's "670 The Score,"

"I will tell you from the bottom of my heart that this union will tell every potential free agent player, if this bill passes, to not come to the Bears."

Smith and his union brothers claim SB 12 cuts off medical benefits at 35 for injured athletes. But the general counsel for the Chicago Bears claims that coverage for care of injuries won't change. He alleges that the present system is too generous, and reducing wage payments to professional athletes will eliminate flaws in the system.

Source: WUWM, "NFL Players Union Works To Block Illinois Workers' Comp Bill," Tom Goldman, Feb. 15, 2017

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