A group of 21 Hall of Famers—including Joe Namath and Jerry Rice—announced in a letter to NFL leadership Tuesday that they will not attend the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony until they receive health insurance and an annual salary with a cut of the NFL’s revenue. “We, the undersigned Pro Football Hall of Famers, were integral to the creation of the modern NFL, which in 2017 generated $14 billion in revenue. But when the league enshrined us as the greatest ever to play America’s most popular sport, they gave us a gold jacket, a bust and a ring—and that was it,” the letter begins, according to a copy tweeted by ESPN reporter Arash Markazi.
The letter focused on the physical and mental toll football has taken on many of the signing members: “As a group we are struggling with severe health and financial problems,” the letter explains. “To build this game, we sacrificed our bodies. In many cases, and despite the fact that we were led to believe otherwise, we sacrificed our minds. We believe we deserve more. We write to demand two things: Health insurance and annual salary for all Hall of Famers that includes a share of league revenue.” Until these demands are met, the letter adds, the signatories will not attend future Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. “It’s well-known that the NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020,” the letter stated, “and while we are proud of our role in building this league, we don’t believe 100 years of player exploitation is something to celebrate.”