Cornelius Bennett, one of the greatest defensive players of his generation and a true leader since his playing career ended, recently was re-elected as Chairman of the NFLPA Former Players Board of Directors.
Bennett’s re-election to the position occurred March 29 during the Former Players Convention in Marco Island, Fla. He will continue in his role as chairman of the board under a new two-year term.
“I’m very grateful that the guys thought enough of me on the board to re-elect me, and that they trust in my ability to lead for two more years,” Bennett told Pro Player Insiders in an exclusive interview. “To be elected once is something, but to be re-elected is something special.”
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is pleased that the former player leadership chose to re-elect Bennett.
“Cornelius was integral to making sure our former player members had a strong and active voice during the CBA negotiations,” Smith said. “Under his leadership, we will continue to make strides and fight for gains that will help our former players and their families in their everyday lives.”
Bennett said by phone Wednesday that he was more thankful than surprised to get the news. He outlined part of his to-do list during his second term, saying there’s much still to accomplish.
“There are still a lot of things that are out there—No. 1 being the widows and survivors—trying to come to some resolution as far as including them into the Legacy Benefit,” Bennett said. “We’re always looking at health and safety for our active players, but the health portion goes all the way through for the rest our lives as former players.”
As part of his duties on the Former Players Board of Directors, Bennett has a seat on the NFLPA Executive Committee with active players and was active in the CBA negotiations. He also has served on the alliance that was formed by the union and the NFL to help improve the care and quality of life for former players. He told PPI he wants to institute more programs covering health-related issues for former players.
“Right now, we’re looking at dental assistance because we found out that lot of guys’ health problems come from bad dental hygiene,” he said.
Looking ahead to nine more years of labor peace, Bennett also stressed the importance of his group of constituents continuing to grow its relationship with the active NFL players. He added that he wants the Former Players Board of Directors to continue improving communication amongst its members.
Bennett said, “Being able to have the joint convention was one of the biggest things that we did—allowing ourselves to get together with the active players, them embracing us and us embracing them—so we have to continue to build on that. Going through the CBA negotiations, the closer we are, the stronger we are, and management understands that.
“To stay close and keep our relationship strong with the AFL-CIO, when management sees that, that means we have a giant in our [corner], and I think that meant a lot going through these past CBA negotiations.”
Nolan Harrison, senior director of former player services at the NFLPA, said Bennett was re-elected by “great majority.”
“He was instrumental in getting the Legacy Benefit, and gave lots of his time and years of his life throughout the negotiation sessions, doing all the things you’d expect,” Harrison said. “It was a no-brainer to me that he got re-elected, and I’m looking forward to working with him for two more years.”
By Khalil Garriott
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