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Ditka Fights for Disabled Players

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 9, 2007 1:50PM

2007_03_sports_ditka.jpgWhen Ditka speaks, Chicago listens to what Da Coach has to say. Does the same go for the NFL Players Association?

While Ditka has certainly done OK for himself financially since his playing days — coaching the Bears, opening a successful steakhouse, TV football analyst gigs — not all former NFL players are doing so well. Back in the day, they just didn't get the ridiculous contracts today's players get. Careers in the NFL are often short, and football-related injuries often cause costly long-term health issues.

Ditka has been fighting to get the NFLPA to increase health and pension benefits for retired vets of the NFL, along with former Packer Jerry Kramer.

Yesterday, the two held an auction to raise money for former players at Ditka's Steakhouse, which included the $12,000 sale of Ditka's 1975 NFC Championship ring.

The money raised will go to help players who need financial assistance while fighting the NFLPA to receive benefits. Ditka and Kramer's Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund has already raised $200,000 in its first two weeks.

While they consider the money they raise to be nothing more than a "band-aid" solution to helping the players in need, hopefully Ditka's high profile and big mouth can help pressure the NFLPA to do the right thing. When its current stars can live a lifestyle few people ever live, it should reach out to those who helped make the NFL what it is and yet can't pay their health care, are living in homeless shelters, or can't cover their own funerals.

Image via Harry Walker Agency.