Professional athletes are seen as having dream jobs. They get to do what they love and get paid extraordinary amount of money for it. Meanwhile, workers’ compensation is seen as something to help financially-strapped workers in need of monetary assistance so they can pay their medical bills and life expenses after a workplace accident.
However, professional athletes are employees too, and they can also receive workers’ compensation benefits. There is something unique about professional athletes, though. They generally retire in the 30’s or 40’s at the latest and they can’t do their athletic jobs anymore. They have to move onto something else. This begs the question, should professional athletes be able to receive wage compensation benefits up to the age of 67 like other employees, if they would never have been doing their jobs that long?
The National Football League’s Players Association and the Chicago Bears are currently discussing this issue with the Illinois Legislature. The discussions are part of a fight concerning the state’s budget that has been going on for the last two years.
In negotiating with the state of Illinois, the Chicago Bears and other major sports franchises are supporting a new law to reduce the ability of former professional athletes to receive workers’ compensation benefits following an injury that ends their careers. They want benefits to stop at either the age of 35 or up to five years following an injury. However, at this time, injured athletes can get wage-replacement benefits all the way up until the age of 67.
However, not everyone agrees with the idea. According to ex-NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris, who is currently an Illinois state senator, the proposed rule change would prevent professional athletes from getting the same benefits of other kinds of employees. He said it feel like the athletes are getting used.
As it stands, most Illinois residents are not professional athletes, so this new change to the law will not affect them. However, it is frightening to think that a simple vote in the senate could quickly strip any worker of the employment benefits he or she currently relies on for financial support. If you have been injured in a workplace event, you may want to talk with a lawyer to find out what benefits you can qualify for.
Source: Lima Ohio, “How long should injured pro athletes get workers comp?,” Kiannah Sepeda-Miller, Feb. 20, 2017