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Illinois SB 12, Free Agency, and the Chicago Bears

NFL: Super Bowl LI-NFLPA Annual Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, this site tries to stay away from politics (please go check out our guidelines and keep them in mind in any discussions below). However, on rare occasion, politics do brush against sports unavoidably. On even rarer occasions, politics are actually directed at sports. In this case, a provision has been included in Illinois Senate Bill 12 that seeks to end the workers’ compensation benefits for professional athletes at age 35 (unless they can prove that their pro athlete career would likely have extended beyond that point). By some accounts, this provision is being pushed—at least in part—by the McCaskey family.

The Bears are not the only pro sports team in the state by any stretch of the imagination. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the organization needs to attract quality players in every way possible. According to DeMaurice Smith (executive director of the players’ association), the Bears might face an additional hurdle in attracting free agents should SB12 pass. Smith has stated outright that the NFLPA will advise free agents not to go to the Bears should the law pass.

According to Chris Emma of CBS Chicago, Smith explained:

“Because, think about it, if you’re a free agent player and you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else where you can get lifetime medical for the injury you’re going to have, isn’t a smarter financial decision to go to a team where a bill like this hasn’t passed?”

Such considerations do matter to many free agents, but some might be less concerned. Regardless of any personal or political feelings on labor-employer relations, the potential impact of the law and the players’ reaction to it (individually and as a union) could have ramifications for the Bears moving into what needs to be a productive free agency.

As a reminder, please proceed with caution and good will below...