Chiefs offensive tackle Kyle Turley has taken the first step among active NFL players to help retired players in need of financial assistance.
Turley announced Tuesday he will donate his game check from the Chiefs’ game at Detroit on Dec. 23 to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund which provides medical aid and social services to scores of retired NFL players.
Turley, a nine-year veteran, is urging his fellow players to do the same, and Dec. 23 has been designated by as “Gridiron Guardian Sunday” for those donating game checks to Gridiron Greats, the organization that is overseen by Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers and other NFL retirees.
"Many of my friends and colleagues have already signed up to participate,” said Turley, who will donate $25,000 of his game check, which based on a $720,000 salary over 17 weeks would be $42,352 before taxes. “I am issuing a challenge to all current players of this great game to take action and stand with me and show these men that they are not forgotten.
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"I am asking them to join me by donating a portion of their December 23rd game check, whether large or small, to go directly to retired players in need. Whether they choose to keep their participation confidential or release their name as a participant is not important. This is not our responsibility, but let us unite to help many of our brothers that are in need."
The Gridiron Greats organization said 100 percent of all the funds donated will go directly to the many retired players and none will be used for any overhead or administrative costs of the program.
"The Gridiron Greats organization was selected for a number of reasons," said Turley, 32. "They are not affiliated with the union or the league in any way. They have a successful system in place that immediately distributes financial aid and social services to retired players. I really like the fact that they have a great track record of providing hands-on assistance and care to many retired players in need.”
Ditka, speaking at a news conference in Chicago, lauded Turley’s generosity.
“What Kyle is doing is amazing,” said Ditka, who has testified at Congressional hearings on behalf of hundreds of retired NFL players who have received scant medical and disability assistance from the league or the NFL Players Association. “I want to make it clear that this is absolutely not the responsibility of the active players and this in no way excuses the NFLPA from cleaning up the broken disability and benefits system.”
This initiative marks the first time an organized group of active NFL players will stand alongside retired players and take action with regard to the catastrophic conditions facing many retired NFL players due to the inadequate disability and benefits program provided by the NFLPA.
"There has been a great deal of press this past year dealing with ex-players and their struggles with the NFL and NFLPA to improve their pensions and disability benefits," said Turley. "I, along with many other active players, watched as these issues finally made their way in front of a congressional hearing. Ex-players testifying before Congress of a league and union that has seemed to abandoned them. As a player in today's game, where we have multi-million dollar signing bonuses and a league that has become a multi-billion dollar industry, it's hard to believe that the individuals who built the foundation of this game would be so neglected.
“As the league and union continue to neglect this issue, there are players who we idolized and who molded our game that are in dire straights and desperate need of financial aid, social services and medical assistance; and younger players that are having a horrific time with a severely dysfunctional disability system.”