NFL and Its Players Union At Odds On a Variety Of Issues As Lawsuits Mount
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports examines the never ending disputes between the NFL and its Players:
ATLANTA – At a time the NFL and the Players Association normally would be enjoying a honeymoon period, their relationship appears to be about as comfortable as the Senate hearings on the Secret Service shenanigans in Cartagena.
A lot of tight lips and no smiles.
In just about every way possible, the league and the union are at odds. That includes a silly flap over whether players should wear knee and thigh pads, and grievances in response to the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal. On Wednesday, the union even filed a collusion claim against the league based on the belief that clubs tacitly agreed to a “secret” cap during the 2010 season.
Adding to the friction is Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell. To be clear, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith did not direct Vilma’s course of action in response to the linebacker being suspended for the 2012 campaign for his role in the Saints’ scandal. At the same time, plenty of people believe that if Smith and Goodell had a more productive relationship, this might have been avoided.
To put it another way, if former union head Gene Upshaw were still alive …
“None of this would be happening,” an NFL source said Tuesday at the league meeting. “Vilma would have probably been suspended for six games, the other guys for one or two each. Gene would have seen the evidence and it would be over. Instead, you have this fight that’s going on forever. It’s all we talk about and that’s not good for the players or the league.”
Or as another league source said: “The worst part of this is the demonizing of [Goodell]. Instead of the players seeing Roger as a resource and a person who wants to help them, he’s the bad guy.”
Some of that is natural. Goodell’s role is not always a positive one and players are clear about the fact that he works for the owners first (a point driven home during last year’s labor negotiations). However, the figurative bridge that connected Goodell to the players has been progressively severed.
“There’s no cooperation on even the smallest ideas,” one of the league sources said. “We come to the union with ideas about programs and the union just gives us blank stares and says, ‘Our leadership is not interested in that.’ We say back to them, ‘OK, if you have ideas, we’ll help with them. We don’t even need to say it’s sponsored by the league, but let’s have a joint effort.’ No response.”
The belief in some circles is that Smith doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of Upshaw, who was sometimes perceived as being too close to Goodell and predecessor Paul Tagliabue.