October 9, 2009: The NFL Alumni Association, a non-profit organization composed of retired professional football players, said that George Martin has been named to the newly created position of executive director, effective Oct. 15.
Martin, who played 14 seasons at defensive end for the New York Giants (1975-88) and was co-captain of the team that won Super Bowl XXI, will oversee all entities of the NFL Alumni Association including the NFL Alumni Caring for Kids charity and Pro Legends marketing. The group is based in Ft. Lauderdale but has more than 30 chapters nationwide.
Martin's appointment comes at a time when retired NFL players have been asserting more of their rights regarding the use of their images in league marketing efforts as well as health issues. The situation drew national attention just prior to Super Bowl XLIII this past February when Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund held a press conference under the auspices of former NFL player and Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka, with several retired players to detail their plight. "Many retired players don't live in areas where they can receive the specialized medical treatment that is required to improve their lives," Ditka said at the press conference. "It's a common misconception that all football players are wealthy and can take care of themselves. Many of the players we help can't afford something to eat, let alone pay for a trip to the doctor's office."
NFL Alumni was formed in 1967 to "seek pension benefits for the men who played in the NFL prior to 1959. This past April it expanded its membership and scope by forming an alliance with Fourth and Goal, an organization headed by former Baltimore Colts al-pro Bruce Laird, who, like Ditka, had become a prominent and vocal advocate for the rights of retired NFL players. The goals of the newly formed group was to "focus on key issues affecting retired players such as medical, financial, and post-career counseling," while also continuing to support youth charities.
The NFL Alumni Association works independently from the NFL Players Association and its Retired Players division, which was formed in 1984. Martin served as president of the NFLPA while with the Giants. After retiring in 1988, he began a business career that included the establishment of a Sports Marketing Department for life insurance and annuity provider Mutual of New York. While there, Martin also instituted a financial education seminar program that was adopted by 20 of 32 NFL franchises, 10 MLB teams, the WNBA and the NBA Retired Players Assn., according to NFL Alumni.
Beyond sports, Martin in 2007 founded and continues to direct a Journey for 9/11, an organization that raises funds to help provide healthcare for rescue and recovery workers now ailing as a result of their service at Ground Zero after 9/11. To raise awareness for the group, Martin began a 3,003 mile coast-to-coast walk from the George Washington Bridge in New York on Sept. 16, 2007, arriving in to San Diego on June 21, 2008. Via a Journey for 9/11, Martin has raised nearly $3.5 million for first responders and 9/11 rescue and recovery workers.
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been granted the opportunity to serve as executive director on behalf of all retired NFL players,” Martin said in a statement. “I truly look forward to this new era of collaboration working with Commissioner [Roger] Goodell and the National Football League, DeMaurice Smith [executive director] of the NFL Players Assn. as well as all alumni who contribute to this great sports industry.”
The NFL Alumni Assn. has a series of events planned for Super Bowl XLIV week this February in Miami to raise awareness and funds, including a golf outting and an awards dinner. Gridiron Greats will hold a "dinner of champions" in conjunction with the Super Bowl that will be hosted by actor/comedian Jamie Foxx.