Oct 14, 2013
California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that bars a large number of professional athletes from filing workers’ compensation claims.
The law says that to qualify for workers’ comp insurance in California, it’s not enough that the injury occurred in California – the athlete has to be a “California athlete.” An athlete will be considered “out of state,” and not qualify for workers’ comp, if he played less than two years for a California team, or seven years or more for a team from another state, no matter how long he played for a California team.
Obviously, this “out of state” clause is just an excuse to deny athletes insurance. And it’s also obvious who the law’s target is: former NFL players suffering from concussion-related ailments.
The team owners wanted this bill because they were worried that insurance companies would raise their workers’ comp premiums, or that they would have to pay expensive medical bills themselves.
For the injured players, this law blocks one of the last avenues they had for any compensation.
Only a small portion of professional players make enough money during their careers – less than four years on average for NFL players – to be able to pay for their medical costs. But a large number of them were seriously injured during their short careers.
Besides football, the law applies to baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer, and it also applies to minor leagues, where players are paid even less. And companies in other industries that operate across state lines, such as airlines and trucking companies, for example, will probably try to use this law as a “legal precedent” against their own workers.
California lawmakers have thus sided squarely with the team owners who refuse to help players out with medical bills. This is a huge gift to billionaire team owners. And it’s coming from Democrats, who control both chambers of the California legislature with large majorities, and passed it almost unanimously.