Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Buffalo Bills do right by Everett

It's not every day that a sports team does the right thing by its players, but I want to tip the hat to the Buffalo Bills.

Tight End Kevin Everett, a third round draft pick in 2005, was looking forward to a breakout season last year when during the season opener's second half opening kickoff, he collided into Denver's Domenik Hixon and severed his third and fourth vertebrae. Paralyzed from the neck down, many thought he'd never walk again. This was a truly awful scene -- people in the normally boisterous crowd were just silent and many bars across North America even more so.

Most teams would just cut their losses -- especially a team which haven't had a few good seasons. Not the Bills. Thanks to a quick acting sports medicine team in the ER as well as extensive rehab in Houston, Everett is walking on his own.

He was officially released today -- technically, placed on the waived / failed list. But the Bills did something else which makes me want to stand up and cheer.

The team made a point of putting him on the reserve injury list last year, and he was paid his salary of $435,000. By doing this, they made sure Everett qualified for the NFL's three and out pension; which guarantees he'll let a pension of $1410 a month for the rest of his life based on years of service. In addition, he'll get disability of $18,700 a month as long as his back doesn't heal (of course it won't), a lump sum payment of $75,000 -- and full medical benefits and dental benefits for him and his family for five years.

In other words, while fate dealt him a cruel hand, his employer made sure he would be taken care of. That's what all companies, not just sports teams (and most don't, as I stated) should do. My only beef is that he doesn't get the medical for life; but $20,000 a month will be more than enough to take care of his worries -- plus he should have no trouble getting a job as a play-by-play announcer for any team or network.

His case is a hard one but it proves the point why America needs universal coverage. Insurance companies look for any excuse to cut off their customers, especially when a spinal cord injury happens. The Bills organization put their foot down -- not just for themselves but for all American companies. I agree, enough is enough. We certainly wouldn't do the same if an athlete, or anyone else, in Canada was dealt the same hand Everett was -- that is, we wouldn't let them rot; we'd make sure they got the best treatment possible no matter how much it cost our public health care system.

And we need to make sure that everyone is entitled to the same kind of gold-plated LTD and rehab that less than 10% get as part of their benefits package, in both countries.

On a more personal level, I also salute Everett himself. He proved spinal cord injuries can be beaten -- and medical science should make all efforts to ensure all of the paralyzed can walk again. Let's burn all the wheelchairs, and get rid of them permanently.

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