Football John Mackey passes away at the age of 69
Athlete had suffered from dementia incurred while playing sport
Rugged Hall of Famer, tight end and union president John Mackey, who
fought for stronger health benefits of retired players while struggling
with dementia, has died. He was 69. Mackey's wife notified the team
about her husband's death, Baltimore Ravens spokesman Chad Steele said
Thursday. No official cause has been given.
John Mackey suffered from fronto-temporal dementia in later years that is believed to have been caused by the contact associated with playing football. Mackey was forced into living in an assisted-living facility four years ago.
Mackey also played for the San Diego Chargers in 1972. He finished his 10-year career with 331 catches for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Mackey's contributions after he left professional athletics were even far more significant. An NFL labor agreement ratified in 2006 includes the "88 Plan," named for Mackey's number, 88, and provides up to $88,000 a year for nursing care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, or $50,000 for home care.
"John Mackey is still our leader. As the president of the NFLPA, he led the fight for fairness with a brilliance and with ferocious drive," union executive director DeMaurice Smith said. "His passion continues to define our organization and inspire our players. His unwavering loyalty to our mission and his exemplary courage will never be forgotten."
Health care of former players has become a prominent issue in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
"John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position. He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association. He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight."
He suffered from fronto-temporal dementia in later years that is believed to have been caused by the contact associated with playing football. Mackey was forced into living in an assisted-living facility four years ago.
The costs associated with his care, which far outpaced Mackey's pension, led to the "88 Plan" for retired players. Former players are pushing for better pension plans and health benefits from the league.
"John Mackey has inspired me and will continue to inspire our players," Smith posted on Twitter. "He will be missed but never forgotten."
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM
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Keywords: Joahn Mackey, football, dementia, health benefits
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