We’ve criticized Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson for trying to get something for himself via a lawsuit that he joined ostensibly in the hopes of getting the best possible deal for his football brethren. And so now that he reportedly has decided not to seek free agency or free money in the amount of $10 million, we need to applaud him.
As the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (best. name. ever.) once wrote in the case of Henslee vs. Union Planters Bank, “Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.” In this case, Jackson’s late-arriving wisdom likely was coerced via teammates and other NFL players, but it surely took a lot to overcome the recommendation of his hard-charging agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, who undoubtedly believed that someone eventually would peel off 500,000 portraits of Andrew Jackson for Vincent Jackson in order to allow football to return.
In the end, Jackson’s decision to drop his claims was, without question, the right one. He joined the case alleging potential damages arising from an illegal lockout and, if the lockout were overturned by the courts, various antitrust violations. His only claim at this point is that the lockout was illegal, and his only measure of damages would be the money he lost during the lockout.
He has lost none. As the Chargers’ franchise player, he’ll get his full eight-figure salary if he shows up on the eve of Week One and signs the franchise tender.
The leverage that has resulted in a settlement (almost) between the NFL and the NFLPA* came not from the current damages claims of the players but from the possibility that, after a lost season, the players could cash in with a verdict of $12 billion or more. By settling the case before that point arrived, the players will be allowed to earn their money, and thus as a practical matter they have lost nothing — especially if players will be paid their offseason workout bonuses if they report for and participate in training camp.
For Jackson, there was no offseason workout bonus. Thus, he suffered no damages. His claim for special treatment wasn’t a potential settlement of his claims; it potentially was extortion. And he has finally done the right thing, better late than never.