Union briefs agents on spat with Bears over workers’ comp

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The Bears and the NFL Players Association are at odds over a worker compensation benefit bill in the Illinois Legislature. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — With free agency one week away, the NFL Players’ Association briefed agents Thursday on their ongoing disagreement with the Bears over the team’s support of a potential change to Illinois’ workers’ compensation law.

After threatening to steer free agents away from the Bears last month, the union sent a memo and literature to agents and players. The Bears, alongside the city’s other five major pro teams, support Senate Bill 12, which proposes changing the maximum age at which pro athletes can draw “wage differential” workers’ compensation from 67 to either 35 or five years after their injury occurred.

NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah said via phone Thursday that the union has told players to consider other states if contract offers are similar.

“A free agent has a lot of factors to consider when they debate signing with a team,” Atallah said. “Any time a team makes a concerted effort to go after its own players by taking away a right, that puts a strain on the way that particular franchise is perceived among the player and agent community.”

Last month, Bears general counsel Cliff Stein said there was “no realistic fear” the union would steer players away because “agents aren’t really going to listen to what [NFLPA executive director

DeMaurice] Smith says in that regard.”

The Bears claim the change would bring Illinois more in line with other states, while the union has

accused the team of being cheap.

There is no timeline for a vote on the bill.

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Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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