When Georgia Frontiere owned the Rams in Los Angeles and St. Louis, she believed in helping to care for the whole player well before such holistic attention was in vogue. She employed yoga instructors and financial advisors, nutritionists and psychiatrists. And her dream, before her death in 2008, was to build a retirement home for former players. A former actress, Frontiere wanted to model the home after homes headquartered in the Los Angeles and New York City areas for those who worked in the entertainment industry.
On Friday, her children, Chip and Lucia Rosenbloom, established the Georgia Frontiere/Rosenbloom Family Assistance Fund, making an initial seven-figure contribution. The fund is designed to provide financial assistance to Hall of Fame enshrinees and their families in times of need. It will be administered by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, used immediately to help fill the most basic needs of the men who have been enshrined and who require help. In the past, a "dire needs fund" run by the Hall of Fame has helped pay for housing and medical needs, and to cover electric bills, among other things. The Frontiere fund will be able to do that on a larger scale.
But the Rosenblooms, who sold their stake in the Rams to Stan Kroenke after their mother's death, also hope the new fund is just the start. They want it to inspire others, including owners and current players, to contribute to help former players, and perhaps to take on the idea of the retirement home, which their mother even wrote about in a letter Lucia found while cleaning out Georgia's papers.
"In that letter, she talks about the dream of having something like the motion picture home for retired players," Chip Rosenbloom said in an interview. "The thing that really presented itself to us was the idea that this is something that serves as an example. If we are able to do something like that, perhaps it can expand outwards to be for all players, a future home. That was really an inspiration, how could we help realize this dream we have and honor those who have spent their lives giving to this game."
There is a need for a generous fund, particularly for players from the 1960s and '70s, who did not enjoy the large contracts, guaranteed money, benefits or endorsement deals that so many players earn today. Frontiere and her late husband -- Carroll Rosenbloom, from whom she inherited the Rams -- quietly helped former Rams players who needed assistance, as do other team owners. But among some enshrinees, particularly the oldest ones, there is a greater, ongoing need and a reluctance to seek out support.
Some of those players have no safety net, and the Hall of Fame gets calls from enshrinees' wives or widows, asking for help in paying bills, because the former players and coaches themselves would not reach out. Grants have been made to pay for housing expenses, medical expenses and electric and gas bills, among other things. The Hall of Fame has even arranged -- for enshrinees who are in desperate need but do not want to accept money and are unable to travel -- to sign memorabilia at home, so that they can receive the proceeds when the memorabilia is sold.
"If you're one of the 371 best at your profession, to acknowledge you need help is a challenge," said Rich Desrosiers, the Hall of Fame's Chief Communications and Content Officer. "This does allow us to help more people and in some more significant ways."
The grants will be made on a case-by-case basis, and Desrosiers said the Hall has never turned down a reasonable request. There will be opportunities for others to donate to the fund, including at a golf fundraiser to be held in Los Angeles next year and, for fans, through a "rounding up" program, where those making purchases at the Hall of Fame's store can add something extra.
Still, this is a solution that addresses the most urgent needs of Hall of Famers right now. The fund is part of Frontiere's legacy and, her children hope, just the beginning of plans to help players who need it most and, perhaps, make Frontiere's dream for player care a reality.
"No doubt, had she lived long enough, she would have done something like this," Lucia Rosenbloom said.
Photos courtesy of Chip Rosenbloom.