In a surprise appearance before the cameras and microphones parked outside NFLPA* headquarters, executive director DeMaurice Smith talked about the question of whether the trade association will lose its asterisk.
“Look, we visited every team some four times over the last two years,” Smith said in comments carried live by ESPN and NFL Network. “The decision by the players to decertify as a union was a significant one. And I think most of you remember by neverending road trip where we went team-by-team to talk about the issues of decertification.
“I know from yesterday that the issues for every player about recertification as a union is going to be an important issue, and here in America every time an employee makes that decision about whether he wants to be a part of a union it’s something that is serious, significant and should be done in a sober way. I know there’s a lot of questions swirling around, and I know from watching the folks at NFL Network that they’ve become experts on the recertification issue.
“Let me tell you, every individuals person has to make a decision about whether they want to be part of a union. And recommendations made by the Executive Committee as the advisors to the class or the board of directors as advisors to the class are just that. But the individual decisions are something that our players take extremely serious.”
That’s fine, but let’s be honest about what happened in 2010. Smith explained to the players that decertification represented the best legal strategy for dealing with a lockout. And so the players overwhelmingly accepted his recommendation to give him the power to shut down the union in order to block the lockout (which failed) and to obtain damages if the season is lost due to a lockout (which could succeed). To now explain it all as an intensely personal decision over which no one should have any influence seems a tad disingenuous at best, flat-out passive-aggressive at worst.
If De Smith tells the players that the best legal strategy for signing a new labor deal comes from recertifying the union (and it does), the players will vote to put the union back together as quickly as they voted to take it apart.
As previously explained, having a union in place insulates the NFL from an antitrust lawsuit that would threaten the draft. And if the draft comes under attack and if the draft is found to be an antitrust violation and if Andrew Luck (pictured) or someone else successfully overturns the draft and the rookie wage scale goes away and Luck can be paid whatever the Cowboys or Redskins or whoever want to pay him, the non-rookies can blame themselves for having less money available to pay their wages under the salary cap.
Let’s repeat that, a bit more bluntly. If the players don’t become a union again, some incoming rookie will sue the league, arguing that the draft and/or the rookie wage scale is illegal. If he wins, kids still playing college football will be paid much more money than the proposed labor deal gives them, and that money will come from the pockets of the 1,900 men who have to make the individual decision as to whether to be a union again.
De Smith may not be willing to make a recommendation, but I am. With protections in place to permit the union to decertify in the future if faced with a lockout, it’s a no-brainer to put the union back together again.