The NFL Is Kicking the NFLPA's Butt
The battle between labor and management never ends, and right now the battle between the NFL and NFLPA is turning into a rout.
The league’s latest demand is that four players (James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Mike Neal) named in an Al-Jazeera report on performance enhancing drug use comply with an NFL investigation, despite no positive drug tests between the four of them in connection to this report.
All of the league’s recent bravado stems from the Tom Brady “Deflategate” case, where multiple appeals courts ruled that Roger Goodell has the authority to inflict discipline wherever he sees fit, regardless of the outcome of an investigation.
As a result of these court decision, the league is now pursuing action against the four players in the Al-Jazeera report. The four have all agreed to meet with the NFL, with Matthews and Peppers meeting with league representatives in Green Bay today.
Of the four, only Neal has served a performance enhancing drug-related suspension. Peppers has previously been suspended for a banned substance, but not for PEDs. Nonetheless, they are all being forced to comply with the investigation lest they face an indefinite suspension.
But don’t blame the league for this debacle. The only group at fault in this situation is the NFLPA. They literally asked for this.
Player discipline is a matter of the collective bargaining agreement, and in 2011 the NFLPA had the chance to change the commissioner’s power as it relates to player discipline. It didn’t. Those talks focused on revenue, player safety, and other (also important) matters. The missed opportunity, however, is now back to haunt the union, and there’s almost nothing they can do about it.
Seriously, what can they do? The NFL’s argument since the start of the Tom Brady situation has been “comply or get suspended, since we have the authority to suspend you and you gave us this authority.” The courts agree, and the league has been almost gleeful in using their authority to mete out discipline.
Harrison, Matthews, Peppers, and Neal could have tested the NFL's power. They could have refused to meet. But it likely wouldn't have done them any good, since this battle was decided a long time ago. When the NFLPA chose not to push back on Goodell's disciplinary power when there was real bargaining power to be had, it conceded battles like this for years to come.