Niners Greats Join Fans to Help Distressed Retired Teammates

by Ken Bastida and Molly McCrea

SANTA CLARA (KPIX) — Seventy-eight percent of retired NFL players go bankrupt within two years of their last game, due to financial stress, divorce or unemployment. Medical problems play a particularly important role.

KPIX asked some 49er greats from the team’s dynasty years.

“You know how time flies!,” remarked Roger Craig.

“Those bonds are important because, you know, if you slip, somebody’s there to catch you,” said Ronnie Lott.

“You’ve seen each other in good times and the bad. You know each other intimately,” commented Ron Ferrari.

“It’s not a meat factory. They’re out there. They’re warriors but they get hurt,” declared Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.

“You live together for so long and it’s almost 24/7 sometimes,” recalled Joe Montana.

All these men share a strong bond that’s also all-too-human.

“You know we look around and we look at the team way back from the 80s and there are a lot of teammates who have passed away,” Montana said.

Not all have had good fortune.

The late Larry Roberts suffered financially and medically. He was diagnosed with heart disease and lost both his legs to complications from diabetes.

“Larry Roberts — great teammate — had some medical challenges that broke our hearts,” Ferrari recalls.

KPIX recently confirmed Roberts also had CTE, a neuro-degenerative disease.

These teammates have helped create a charitable trust called the Golden Heart Fund. Their goal: to offer a hand up to any former 49er player in need.

On November 19, the team will throw a 4.9k run-walk inaugural fundraiser at Levi’s Stadium. The public is invited — especially The Faithful.

“It’s a good time to show your thanks,” Ronnie Lott said.

Registration starts at $40. Participants get a T-shirt, a medal and free entry to the post party.

“I assure you that everything is going strictly, strictly to players who need this help,” DeBartolo said.

In 2015, Dwight Clark was diagnosed with ALS. He has asked fans to donate to the Golden Heart Fund in his name and to help lift up those who did so much for the Bay Area.

Eddie DeBartolo and the York family have already pledged $1 million each to the fund.

The 49ers are donating use of the stadium.

WEB LINKS: www.goldenheartrun.com

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