If you read most of the headlines Sunday evening surrounding the NFL players’ vote to approve the controversial collective bargaining agreement, you’d think all was blissful on the league’s labor front.
“NFL players voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with the league’s owners, ensuring NFL labor peace through at least 2030.” That was the common message from the headlines: “Labor peace”.
The NFL Players Association, led by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, announced the approval gleefully, saying: “The result comes after a long and democratic process in accordance with our constitution.”
Opponents of the resolution, however, claim this is false, that the process was neither democratic nor constitutional, but illegally pushed through against the NFLPA’s executive committee’s 7-4 vote against the proposal in the middle of an ever-increasing pandemic, to boot.
So if you read past the headlines and press releases, and listen to those who were behind the scenes as this vote went down, you’ll realize not all is as enchanted as it seems.
“The fact that the NFLPA Executive Committee voted against the proposal, 7-4, but it was still rushed for a full vote during a pandemic without providing players full and accurate information, and instead giving NFL talking points wreaks of bad faith,” said Ben Meisalas, one of Eric Reid’s lawyers, who along with fellow Reid attorney Mark Geragos, reviewed the proposed CBA, and published a four-page fact sheet last week claiming the proposal “disproportionately enriches ownership,” “reduces players safety” and “guts disability benefits.”
Meisalas also noted Executive Committee member Russell Okung issuing a legal claim against the NFLPA on Sunday “with the intention of bringing the truth to light.” Okung retained Peter Ginsberg and his firm Sullivan & Worcester to pursue a National Labor Relations Board Complaint charging the NFLPA had “substantive” procedural violations; asked many players to vote on the CBA “without receiving full or accurate information”, and failed “to disclose health-risk information in the possession of NFLPA staff leadership.”
In an interview with Deadspin on Friday, Reid shared in great detail why he felt the CBA was “a disaster” for players, especially for health and safety concerns that would reduce disability benefits to “historic lows”, while diverting new gambling revenue away from shared revenue.
“This is obviously problematic,” Reid told Deadspin on Sunday in response to news of the Executive Committee’s vote being bypassed.
The vote to approve was 1019-959, a majority by only 60 votes in an election where nearly 500 players didn’t vote, and many players were denied a chance to change their vote after receiving accurate information. All this happened amid a global pandemic that was significant enough for the NFLPA to close its Washington, D.C. offices, but not delay it’s 10-day voting period, which ended at 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday.
As expected, Commissioner Roger Goodell painted an even rosier picture, despite concerns raised by Reid, Okung and several other high-profile players.
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football.”
Putting the NFL public relations machinery aside, there are so many questions that need to be answered by NFLPA leadership:
- What is the point of having an NFL Player Executive Committee, if the wishes of that committee are ignored? Information matters, and it seems the NFLPA failed to take steps to honestly disseminate it.
- And, if reports are true, why wouldn’t the NFLPA honor players’ requests to change their CBA vote before Saturday’s deadline?
- If the amount of players asking to change their vote was significant enough to propose a resolution, was it also significant enough to flip the vote?
- After the request to change votes was denied last Monday, how many more requests by players went unheard?
“The law provides remedies to penalize Unions and potentially overturn their decisions that involve misconduct, bad faith, voting irregularities, and procedural infirmities,” says Meiselas. “All of which appear to have occurred here. This is probably the most absurd and offensive negotiation I have ever seen.”