The NFL Players Association will conduct its annual meeting in Hawaii, beginning today. According to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, the union hopes to “[u]nite and prepare” players for a possibility lockout in 2011.
The NFLPA has been sounding the lockout alarm for months. Some within the union believe that management hopes to force a lockout in order to ultimately forge a better long-term deal for the players, after Executive Director DeMaurice Smith uses political influence to bash the league for taking away football from millions of registered voters. We think/hope that the union is instead using the lockout threat to soften up the rank-and-file to accept the best deal the NFL ultimately will do.
Either way, “lockout” looms like a pregnant cloud, with the “Lockout Watch” image etched onto every page of the NFLPA web site and a “Lockout Central” area that regards a management-imposed work stoppage as a fait accompli. (That’s a fancy term meaning “done deal”; we use words like that once in a while to balance out the references to farting.)
Preparations for a lockout shouldn’t be the only item on the agenda. Two years after the late Gene Upshaw believed that former NFLPA President Troy Vincent was trying to launch a coup, Smith should be bracing for an overhaul in union leadership. As Mullen points out, current NFLPA President Kevin Mawae could face a challenge to re-election, and four members of the 10-man Executive Committee (Keenan McCardell, Donovin Darius, Mark Bruener, and Kevin Carter) are stepping down.
If there’s a “Red Knights”-style sentiment brewing against those who are calling the shots, the annual meeting provides the only meaningful opportunity for an uprising. Given that we’re convinced there will not be a lockout (more on that is coming later today), we think that Smith and company would be wise to worry more about the possibility of mutiny.