When it comes to the ongoing labor drama between the NFL and the players’ union, we’re constantly leery of the possibility that every news item has a specific P.R. component.
For example, we suspect that the league’s full-court media press regarding the “enhanced season” arises at least in part from a desire to attract the average fan to the league’s overall position, assuming that the union will resist (as it has) the league’s desire to give the average fan more football. And so, in light of the fact that the union wasn’t pleased with the league’s conduct in this regard, we’re skeptical regarding the latest development, which apparently was leaked by someone with the union to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal.
Per Mullen, federal authorities have informed the union that it “may have been a victim of violations of federal laws.” The assertion comes not from federal authorities, but from an internal memo sent to all NFLPA employees on Friday by associate general counsel Heather McPhee. (So, frankly, it’s not confirmed that federal authorities have even used such language.)
The memo informs the employees that they may be contacted by the feds. “If you are contacted, you may choose to speak to federal authorities and/or you may request that an attorney be present for this interview,” the memo states. “If you choose to have an attorney present, the NFLPA will designate outside counsel pursuant to its policies; that lawyer can advise you of your rights and represent you individually for this purpose at no cost to you.”
As we explained last September, the investigation puts the union in a delicate position. Former NFLPA employee Mary Moran claims in a lawsuit that the union retaliated against her because she cooperated with the investigation, the union could be inclined to attempt to undermine her allegations of direct dealing between the union and the NFL. On the other hand, the investigation could give the union strong leverage against the league — especially since it’s widely presumed that Troy Vincent was the person who primarily (allegedly) communicated with the NFL.
The fact that Vincent has since accepted a job with the NFL could make the situation even dicier for the league.
As a source with knowledge of the dynamics told us last year, “Roger dealing with Troy could be like the assasination of Archduke
Ferdinand. Much more explosive than anyone thought
at the time.” (And, no, the source wasn’t Dennis Miller.)
Still, we’re currently inclined to conclude that the union hoped that word of the communication from the feds would get into the media, as a tit-for-tat move for this week’s “enhanced season” assault. If it was, the timing could have been better. After all, late Friday afternoons in the summer are the place where news stories go to be largely ignored.