By Keysha Hogan
Just a few days after Labor Day, it seemed the NFL Players Association declared victory as the arbitration panel lifted the bans that prohibited four New Orleans Saint’s players from starting the season. It all felt like a masterful strike against Commissioner Roger Goodell and his legacy of harsh discipline. But although the appeal was won, this is really just a deliberation rather than a declaration of innocence.
Basically, the panel decided that the Commissioner must submit evidence showing that the players’ actions proved detrimental to the league under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). And who decides what is detrimental to the league? Why Commissioner Roger Goodell, of course!
Even in the face of the authoritarian system, the CBA has the right to petition and appeal it’s way to a fair shot. But because of past dealings this case is no longer just about the conduct of the Saints organization, it is building into a war between the egocentric league and the players that feel mistreated.
During the off-season we witnessed how the league’s tough negotiations with the referee lockout looked eerily similar to the ones used in the player lockout. The refs have gone from being invisible, to stepping into the spotlight to showcase their lackluster conditions and the frugalness of the owners. And although the scabs are doing their best, as this lockout drags on the issues will plague the season.
The fresh reminder of the leagues tactics mixed with this scandal will definitely make for a contentious season as future fines and suspensions are handed down. And honestly, this is all a product of that hasty CBA from last year. The union signed an unwise deal to get players back on the field while simultaneously losing basic protections and allowing Goodell to maintain his unchecked reign. It’s a wonder that the league even continue as it does, because the justice system has repeatedly ruled against them and in support of the players.
With the latest headlines over safety, it seems even the public is shifting it’s views of Goodell. Everyone can agree that there must be more done to protect the short and long term health of participants. But last Thursday, the NFL moved to dismiss lawsuits about permanent brain injuries from thousands of former players. The statement referred to the issue as a “labor dispute.”Goodell was smart enough to write the rules about it and used his power to sanction them, but now he’s willfully disregarding them.
Wouldn’t it be nice to start a season without talks of lockouts and arbitration? I’m excited the season has started and it was great to see my Cowboys start strong, but I’m afraid it won’t last. Maybe a scab ref will make a devastating call or player will get too intense and take a cheap shot after the whistle, but somehow…someway…Goodell is going to push his luck and overstep the bounds of what a good commissioner should be.