The off-field skirmishes among the league, the current players, and the former players officially has become a free-for-all.
With the NFL and NFLPA at odds on various fronts and thousands of former players suing the NFL, 20 retired players (including seven Hall of Famers) have now requested that the AFL-CIO expel the players’ union. They are: Joe DeLamielleure, Paul Krause, Lem Barney, Bruce Laird, John Hannah, Elvin Bethea, Ron Yary, Conrad Dobler, John Riggins, Al “Bubba” Baker, Reggie McKenzie, Billy Joe Dupree, Ken Stabler, Roman Gabriel, George Visger, Tommy Nobis, Fred Smerlas, Art Sill, Myron Pottios, and Lou Piccone.
The request comes via letter from lawyer Michael Hausfeld (pictured) to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. Citing remarks by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith that acknowledge a “moral obligation . . . to retired players” that must manifest itself in “both words and deeds,” the players claim that the NFLPA has failed on both counts.
Much of the letter rehashes arguments Hausfeld unsuccessfully advanced in litigation against the NFLPA during and after the 2011 lockout regarding the union’s efforts to bind the retired players to benefits under the new labor deal at a time when the NFLPA lacked the legal right to collectively bargain, since it was no longer a union. But Hausfeld also points to the union’s historic attitude toward retired player benefits, along with past comments from the NFLPA regarding the union’s role in the concussion crisis, including admissions that the union was “complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability” on concussions, and that the NFLPA “owed an obligation” to no longer “denigrate” or “suppress” or “ignore” the medical findings regarding head trauma.
“The objects and principles of the AFL-CIO Constitution as well as its Mission and Vision are to be inclusive and to improve the ‘welfare’ of workers of all ages, former and current,” Hausfeld writes. “The NFLPA has disregarded and interfered with the rights and needs of its retired members at a time when their issues are of paramount importance. Its moral failures disgrace the principles and foundations of a union organization.”
Hausfeld concludes by asking that the AFL-CIO either expel the NFLPA from the organization, or take “other appropriate remedial measures . . . such as removal of its officers.”
Though expulsion from the AFL-CIO wouldn’t impact in any meaningful way the business of the NFLPA, it would create the impression that the NFLPA isn’t a “union” in the classic sense, making it harder to persuade other unions to stand in solidarity with the NFLPA the next time the current players are facing a lockout.
Of course, given the money paid to NFL players, plenty of people already believe that the NFLPA isn’t a “union” in the classic sense.