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 WASHINGTON (AP) -Congress will hear testimony June 26 from retired NFL players who contend the pension plan of the league and union is insufficient, especially for disabled ex-players.
``The NFL is a billion-dollar industry, and yet the players who built the league are too often left to fend for themselves,'' Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and administrative law, said in a statement announcing the hearings.
The hearings are the latest development in a yearlong dispute between a group of retired players and Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association.
The latest flare-up came this week when Joe DeLamielleure, like Upshaw a Hall of Fame guard, said he took literally a newspaper quote from Upshaw that he'd like to ``break his damn neck.'' DeLamielleure said he feared for his and his family's safety.
Upshaw had no comment on the hearing.
``We will participate in the hearing and let things fall where they may,'' union spokesman Carl Francis said Thursday.
Upshaw has been the target of a group of retired players, including ex-stars Mike Ditka, Jerry Kramer, Lem Barney and Harry Carson. They maintain the union has concentrated too much on current players and ignored the health problems of former players.
DeLamielleure contends Upshaw intentionally keeps current players uninformed about the plight of ex-players.
Last week, Upshaw told The Associated Press that he once helped pay Barney's mortgage when he heard of the medical bills of the ex-Detroit cornerback, who like Carson and Ditka is in the Hall of Fame. He also has pointed out his role in forming the ``88 Plan,'' which provides up to $88,000 per year to families of former players suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Sanchez said she called the hearing because the committee had seen recent reports that the benefit plan for retired players ``may be stacked against players who need serious medical care.''
``Specifically, we want to look into whether the arbitration procedure that can determine the health benefits of severely injured, retired players is an equitable use of the arbitration process,'' she said.
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