At a time when the NFL Players Association is working hard to create a sense of unity among the players, the perception of disloyalty to any one of them could create a major problem. And so it was somewhat surprising that the NFLPA issued a statement that subtly yet decisively calls Texans linebacker Brian Cushing a cheater.
As to the suspension of Cushing, Executive Director De Smith had this to say: “Sport is at its best when fans can witness great achievements under the
rules of fair play. Players who break those rules cheat the game, cheat
the fans and cheat themselves. The Players want a clean game as well as a
clean process for enforcing those rules. We intend to address both in
the collective bargaining process to make the system better.”
In other words, the union is saying that Cushing is being suspended because he broke the rules. And, as Smith said it, players who break the rules “cheat the game, cheat the fans and cheat themselves.”
It’s a strong statement, and it should go a long way toward smoothing over any lingering hard feelings that may still exist regarding the StarCaps case. In that instance, the NFL believes (mistakenly, in our view) that the union somehow betrayed the steroids policy by fighting the outcome in court. In this case, the NFLPA has made clear its position regarding cheating — and regarding the question of whether Cushing should be regarded as a cheater.
It would be wrong for any players to be upset with the union for its candor. Smith’s statement proves that the union has its eye firmly on the greater good of the game, and that’s the most encouraging sign we’ve seen to suggest that a new labor deal eventually will be finalized.