Hall of Fame lineman speaks out against Panthers owner


by DAVE WAGNER / NewsChannel 36

Bio | Email | Follow: @WagnerWCNC


Posted on February 8, 2012 at 11:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:02 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In a south Charlotte home, you will find the signs of glory on the gridiron.

"My football career was like a dream come true,” said Joe DeLamielleure. The Hall of Fame lineman and blocker for O.J. Simpson is now 60 years old. He has 60 percent hearing loss from being slapped in the helmet by defensive linemen.

"I've had hundreds of minor concussions," DeLamielleure said.

The walls of his garage are filled with his NFL friends who have died too young.

"Mike Webster died from concussions. Leon Gray, Jim Ringo, three of the guys, all died from dementia, getting hits, blows to the head,” said DeLamielleure.

“Joe D.” stays in top shape by working out every day. But his financial health is suffering.

DeLamielleure is among many former NFL greats speaking out about their NFL pensions.

"It's a disgrace how they treat the former players. It's the have and the have nots," he said.

After being selected by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 1973 NFL draft, DeLamielleure never made more than $30,000 a year during his first five years in the league. There were no million dollar contracts and now many are receiving small pensions.

DeLamielleure points the finger at Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

"Here's a guy who played in the NFL. He has done nothing for the pre (1993) guys,” he said.

Richardson helped negotiate a so-called "Legacy Fund" for retired players.

"My legacy for 13 years, after taxes, is gonna be $850. Pre-93 guys are like red-headed stepchildren. He didn't take care of us," said DeLamielleure.  "I'd love to say to Jerry Richardson, 'Is $800 enough for a guy who played 13 years, never missed a game and is in the Hall of Fame? Is that fair?'”

DeLamielleure’s monthly pension, combined with his share of the “Legacy Fund,” is meager compared to today's players.

"I get a total of $2,100 for 13 years in the league. You gotta realize, nobody plays 13 years. That's before taxes,” said DeLamielleure.

The NFL released this statement to Newschannel 36: "Jerry Richardson, as co-chair of the NFL labor committee, helped negotiate $1 billion in improvements for former players in the new CBA, including $620 million in increased pension payments for pre-1993 players."

"We used to have sub-poverty pension. Now, with this new agreement, we're up to poverty," DeLamielleure responded.

DeLamielleure and at least 300 other former players are also suing the NFL and Riddell. They claim the league and the helmets did not protect them against head injury.

"We didn't know this. We had no clue. We were like the cigarette smokers of the 50's," DeLamielleure said.

DeLamielleure believes the league he and others helped build has turned its back on him.

"So we did all this to make it a better game for what it is today and now what do we get for it? You don't get anything,” said DeLamielleure.

In its statement the NFL maintains that "Mr. Richardson has been a consistent supporter of retired players, and was a leader in establishing the Player Care Foundation that provides a wide range of medical and other benefits for players at free or reduced costs."