July 23, 2008

Semi Pro, Semi Screwed: the Saga of Tarrence Rhodes

Unless you are an aficionado of marginal sports, you do not follow arena football, which has taken a classic outdoor sport of considerable violence and transposed it to an indoor setting, with little if any reduction in the violence. The main difference between outdoor and indoor football? Money.

Our focus today is Tarrence Rhodes, a defensive back for the Huntington (WV) Heroes. (Any Heroes fanatics out there?) Rhodes played his first game with the Heroes on April 11, 2008. During the game he tore his right ACL. He was placed in "pre-hab," which is rehabilitation before surgical repair of his torn ACL.

It's safe to say that arena football was not what Rhodes had in mind when he played college ball at Missouri Valley. He was under consideration by NFL teams during the 2006 draft, but apparently did not make the grade. He played briefly for the Florida Firecats (another arena team) and then signed with the Heroes, where his career came to an abrupt end.

Fat Cats and Ordinary Joes
We are all used to the absurdly inflated salaries of professional athletes; a good defensive back often pulls down several million dollars a year. Rhodes, alas, signed a contract that paid him $250 per game (!) with a whopping $50 bonus if the team happened to win. His contract apparently stated he was covered by workers compensation, but when Rhodes filed a claim for his knee injury, Brickstreet (WV's sole insurer at the time) denied it, saying there was no policy in place for the team.

So now Rhodes has filed suit in Cabell Circuit Court against the team and its owner, Barbie Moody-Wood. Rhodes claims he is unable to have his surgery because of BrickStreet's denial. He has no other insurance to cover the cost of his surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.

Rhodes also claims he was not paid his $300 (the Heroes won!) when it was due, and did not receive it until the end of April.

In the three-count suit, Rhodes seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as liquidated damages of $900, plus attorney fees.

Professional athletes remain an outlying conundrum in workers comp. With their inflated salaries, they don't usually care about indemnity - it's the lifetime medical benefits they want, to cover all-too-frequent permanent partial impairments. Tarrence Rhodes, who once dreamed of playing in the NFL, now shares a fate with ordinary workers whose employers neglected to secure comp coverage. There is nothing special or glamorous about his situation. Rhodes would like to see some wage replacement, modest though it may be, and he would like his former team to cover the cost of his surgery.

Football careers can be brutal and short, with that of the unfortunate Rhodes being shorter than most. Here's hoping he took some courses at Missouri Valley to prepare him for life after football.



WVA WC Act states that professional employers do not have to provide WC but may elect to do so. If the contract says that WC was provided, then Mr Rhodes needs to pursue with gusto.

In general, many states have specific clauses re WC for professional athletes and the agents/lawyers for those entering that arena (pun intended) need to protect their clients by seeing that provisions for injuries are specifically spelled out.

Reading through West Virginia Worker's Compensation Law it clearly states that this type of insurance does not have to be provided and the suit alleges that he was not paid timely. April 11 was the game and the end of April he was paid. The end of April sounds ambiguous. A two week pay pay cycle puts the pay period at the end of April. Come on, you have got to be able to find a better story than this!


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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on July 23, 2008 1:50 PM.

Lightning! Safety precautions for work and home was the previous entry in this blog.

Health Wonk Review, help for paraplegics, crane safety, PBM shakeups and more is the next entry in this blog.

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