NFLPA* gets a taste of the downside of decertification

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Last week, when we were arguing that all 32 owners should be at the mediation session in Minnesota, a league-leaning source responded by contending that, if all owners should attend mediation, all 1,900 players should be there, too, since they’ll ultimately have to vote on any final offers.

But that’s not the reality.  When the NFLPA decertified, the players gave up their ability to vote on whatever offer the players hand picked to serve as the named plaintiffs in the Tom Brady class action decided to accept.  Instead, the players who aren’t among the 10 named plaintiffs will have the ability to object to any settlement as part of the approval process that applies to the resolution of every class action.  Those players also retain the ability to file their own lawsuit.

Or, as Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reported earlier today, to try to intervene in the current lawsuit.

The players, reportedly of the “mid tier” variety, want a seat at the table.  And perhaps for good reason.  Under Brady lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s view of the NFL, there eventually will be no rules of any kind regarding player acquisition — and thus no minimum guarantees for low-level players.  As a result, five percent of the players could make 95 percent of the money.

So, yeah, the other 95 percent of the players may want to have a chance to apply some duct tape to Kessler’s mouth, before he conducts an all-out assault on the draft and free-agency limits and any other restriction that currently keeps the bulk of the cash from going to the superstar players.

Speaking of a need for the placement of duct tape over the primary cranial orifice, linebacker Mike Vrabel may have unwittingly given the NFL strong ammunition to support its argument that the decertification of the union wasn’t legitimate, and that the NFLPA* is still behaving as a union.

“We’re players here to represent players and De works for us,” Vrabel told Albert Breer of NFL Network.  “They do [have a seat]. And if they’re unhappy with that seat, we have to vote in a new executive committee, and a new board of reps.”


What Vrabel is saying is that the NFLPA* is still calling the shots, with De Smith and the executive committee and the player reps speaking on behalf the players.  But once the union decertified, that all was supposed to end.  The NFL players were supposed to become, as cornerback Antonio Cromartie wisely put it, a group of one-man unions.

We won’t be surprised if the NFL files a supplemental brief as soon as tomorrow morning explaining that Vrabel’s comments prove that the NFLPA* is still acting as the NFLPA.  That’s a far different argument than the league’s attack on the union’s ability to shut down for leverage purposes.  Vrabel’s comments support an argument that the union really hasn’t decertified.

And anyone who’s been paying attention to this knows that, right or wrong, the union hasn’t really decertified.  Vrabel’s comments serve only to confirm this fact.

Unfortunately, this development could further complicate every aspect of the lockout and the antitrust litigation, making it much harder to work out a deal with which everyone can live over the long haul.  But the owners, who clearly benefit both from in-fighting among the players and gift-wrapped evidence proving that union leadership still views the union as a union, have to be smiling right now, since the end result will be an increased likelihood that the final deal is a lot closer to the offer that was made on March 11 — the one that De Smith consistently has called the worst deal in the history of sports.

53 responses to “NFLPA* gets a taste of the downside of decertification

  1. I wonder if Vrabel had a few beers before making that comment? Hell…the owners probably have a open tab for him at his hotel. Loose lips sinks the NFLPA* ship….LOL.

    NFLPA*= Keystone Cops.

  2. The appeals court will certainly side with the NFL if the motion to end the lockout is granted.

    I still can’t beleive that the players asked DeMaurice Smith to “help” with negotiations.

  3. This…sooner or going to come back & bite players…BADLY.

    They were fools to not try & further negociate owners offer…which was strong.

    So..lets all listen to DEB now….talk about how players got screwed by owners…just like her fellow chambermaids need a new deal on minimum wage.

    This will never end up pretty for players.

  4. I strongly disagree with both sides in the argument. However, if I were a betting man, I’m doubling down on the owners getting pretty darn close to exactly what they want. If you have a guy who gets busted for stealing beer at a casino and who single-handedly nearly destroys your whole bargaining position with his idiotic comment as one of your chief negotiators, good luck. Pretty sad when some of the most articulate comments from the players concerning this situation come from freaking Cromartie. De is done and the players are going to fold like a cheap suit.

  5. It was my understanding it’s a class action lawsuit. As such the players need to have some sort of organization in order to be properly represented. While it may appear to be a union it equally could be considered the organizational apparatus that is being used for the lawsuit. Plus the judge has already made it clear this mediation can not be used for or against the players or the owners.

  6. I guess we should all be rooting for the players side in the lawsuit, so that free agency and other league business can begin again, but seeing this makes me smile nonetheless.

  7. Good. Hopefully Smith chokes on his words. He would have gotten the best deal extending and negotiating the final offered presented down. You don’t walk away when the other side makes major concessions. I hope the owners get more now, just because this guy is a dink. That and the players keep getting arrested, and like 60% of them are out of money, it’s pretty humorous.

  8. I have a feeling that if Gene Upshaw was still alive and in charge there would already be a new CBA in place. I think De Smith is putting stuff in the players heads to make them hold out for more & more & more. If De Smith was to get out the picture (somehow) I think this would all be over in a matter of a couple of weeks.

  9. The owners have got to be sitting back, assessing the situation, and thinking one way or another, they are in pretty good shape here.

    The players just seem disjointed. Almost like they de-certified without really understanding what the implications may be.

  10. MF, good article. Well written, sticks to the facts, didn’t take sides, clearly and concisely explains the details. Let’s see more of your articles written in this style.

  11. “Under Brady lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s view of the NFL, there eventually will be no rules of any kind regarding player acquisition — and thus no minimum guarantees for low-level players. As a result, five percent of the players could make 95 percent of the money.”

    Therein lies the problem with what the players are doing. They have taken a position that, if successfully aruged, ruins the game of football, as we fans know it and enjoy it, moving forward.

    While I would hate to lose games, I find that outcome preferable in the short-term, if stability and competitive balance is maintained in the long-run.

  12. get rid of the stars who want all the $$ and let whoever wants to compromise on a new deal, they get to play. i bet you get 60%-70% of the players on board and you get college players to fill the rest up. anyone who says they wont watch unless the stars are playing, you arent a die hard fball fan, you are just a casual fan. i will watch football as long as the players are decent. i dont need stars to play for me to watch, i just need solid fball players. the only exception might be good qb’s, watching scrubs play qb can get old

  13. It’s interesting that I love football so much because the people who play it for the most part are stupid. Is it me or do the players always have to open their mouths just to pretend they’re somebody rather than what they are off the football field…….an image. Even I know if I can’t say the correct thing and especially in the business world to keep my mouth shut. How is it we make more excuses for “grown men” when they commit acts of violence and are detrimental not only to society but to themselves. I’ll bet at least 3/4 of the player reps can’t even wipe their ass let alone know what’s going on in the players strike and are incredibly uninformed and ignorant when it comes to apprising their teammates (see ignorant comments) with updates. Why do we keep making excuses for players when we know they don’t makes pills for “stupid”!

  14. With DeMo Smith becoming more and more of a distraction, burden, and pariah to the player’s cause they have considered putting him in the courtroom disguised as an exotic lamp. Or perhaps smuggling him in in a backpack, worn by one of the larger members of the team.

  15. if it looks like a union,smells like a union , it is a union. get all these dumbass,s out of the players negotion team and get a contract.

  16. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy than Mike “Five Finger Discount” Vrabel.

    Here’s hoping the league crushes these spoiled brats and gets a deal done soon.

  17. goawayeverybody says:
    Apr 20, 2011 3:01 PM
    I think it’s hilarious how you always put up pictures of the players, yet never identify them, like in this article.
    Do you mean that’s not Mike Vrabel, You know who was mentioned and quoted in the article.

  18. This is going to be a never ending joke of legal interpretation and misinterpretation because the players are playing games with the law (sham decertification) rather than actually trying to get a deal done.

    The NFL should just bring on the scabplayers and offer any current and future player a really good deal that pays them well and increases retirement benefits. Then anyone who wants to play football (mid tier guys, new draft picks, etc.) can. Those 5% of the players who are trying to use scum like jeffrey kessler to file lawsuits to pad their pockets can sit out and whine about how evil the nfl is while the rest of them get paid extremely well for playing a game.

  19. DeMaurice Smith is the biggest problem here. I have little doubt that if A) Gene Upshaw was still alive or B) Someone else was elected Union Rep, we’d be discussing what team Vincent Jackson signed with and if DeAngelo Williams will be productive at his new home.

    Fire that damn idiot already.

  20. @goawayeverybody: after reading the post who do you think that is?
    Its Mike Vrabel of course. D’oh!

  21. Vrabel has been mouthy, indignant and pissed off at the owners this whole time. It would be poetic justice if his unstoppable mouth is what ultimatley screws the group of morons formerly known as the NFLPA.

  22. What a cluster-you-know-what.

    This whole lock out is becoming a comedy of errors.

    Enough already. I’m done worrying about.

    If there is football on Sunday come 9/11, great. I’ll enjoy it.

    If not, who cares. I’ll spend the day with my family.

  23. The head of the idiots(de smith) vs. heads of successful corporations (owners) Hmmmm I’m betting on the owners

  24. goawayeverybody says:
    Apr 20, 2011 3:01 PM
    I think it’s hilarious how you always put up pictures of the players, yet never identify them, like in this article.
    pictures are more fun than words huh! If you’d have read the article you’d know who that player was, sometimes reading has it’s rewards!


  25. I believe this of a splinter group when I see one player named other than Antonio Cromartie

  26. mightygiants says:
    Apr 20, 2011 3:09 PM

    “It was my understanding it’s a class action lawsuit. As such the players need to have some sort of organization in order to be properly represented. While it may appear to be a union it equally could be considered the organizational apparatus that is being used for the lawsuit.”

    Don’t try to sound smart when you don’t know what you are talking about. There are only ten “high level” players named in the class action lawsuit. The other 1890 players have no bearing or interest in the case as it stands. So for Vrabel to make the comment that he did, shows that the NFLPA is who is really being represented here.


  27. What? Are they finally thinking about MY convention approach? The NFLPA* doesn’t exist anymore since they decertified and walked out last month. The players don’t have any representation (except a bunch of idiot lawyers) and the owners’ “committee” with JJ and Richardson leading them obviously doesn’t work.

  28. I’ve been saying for a while that the NFLPA* needs to switch its focus from the big stars to the nobodies. I believe had the NFLPA* focused on the nobodies of the NFL, they MIGHT just have a very strong case for irreparable harm, despite no game checks being missed yet.

    This is the time of the year when the former undrafted free agents, late round picks, and former busts begin to earn their roster spots. I am a Ravens fan, so I’ll speak in terms of Ravens players since that’s what I know. At wr Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason know they’ve got roster spots waiting for them, this time of the offseason means nothing to them. But for guys like Justin Harper, James Hardy, Brandon Jones and Marcus Smith who are fighting for that 5th/6th wr spot this is their time to learn the playbook, get in good with the coaches and possibly even catch a coaches eye. This is the only time of an NFL season when most of the coaches focus is on them. By starting the offseason late, some of that time is taken away and could cost these guys roster spots at the end of the day. And there is no guarantee that an opportunity to earn another one will ever come again. The NFL cant compensate for these guys missing an opportunity at getting their big break.

  29. Didn’t Vrabel learn anything playing for Belichick? Keep your mouth shut and play, or in this case negotiate. Everybody knew it was still a union and now there is documentation. Hopefully, the judge is paying attention. Nice going Vrabs.

  30. @mightygiants — Vrabels comments were NOT part of the mediation process – they were completely outside of it.

    This is what happens when people get all “caught-up in themselves”. An easy thing to do when the players decided to dance to their new drummer – De Smith. Vrabel suddenly thought of himself as an intellectual instead of a football player – now he’s nothing more than a jackass.

    The only attorney I’ve seen conduct himself with dignity, maturity and intelligence is David Boise – and the players are about to find out just how much they’re going to regret going-up against him. Just as soon as Judge Nelson’s “preliminary” court process is over. Welcome to the abyss Mr. Vrabel.

  31. Sorry that posted without me finishing:

    The people who believe that the NFLPA decertification wasnot a sham are the same people who believe that we invaded Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction.

  32. The players were stupid to elect two of the highest paid players in the league onto its board. They’re situation is clearly not representative of the vast majority of the players in this league. There are players who have no insuranse, whose families have no insurance… I have no sympathy for the blingers and ballers who now have to trim their entourage’s stripper cash, but a lot of these players have real needs and do the right thing. I feel for them. For every Brady and Manning there’s an obscure guy on the kickoff team and practice squad who deserves to have his voice heard too…

  33. That is why I believe they didn’t show in court. Would your case look good if a judge asks can you survive on your $20+ million a year salary?? It should have been the blue collar guys. The NFLPA thought the fans would support the big names. If much of what is being said is true can Brady/Manning/Brees get a lot of look out blocks if and when there are games??

  34. Let’s see…the article mentioned three players, so the picture could have been Mike Vrabel, Tom Brady or Antonio Cromartie 🙂

  35. There is only professional football league in the world that pays a significant wage, the NFL.

    All but one of the owners made their money through other businesses. The Football teams are just hobbies for the owners.

    For almost all of the players, this is their only source of income.

    If you add all that up, it adds up to the owners destroying the players.

  36. HAhahahHAHHAHAHaaaaahHHAHHAHAHhaaaa, good for Vrabel. He has been acting like he is some big time businessman through this entire process. This just proves that in the real world none of the players weilding the power would be successful in the business world.
    This just shows you that the players are no different than the technicians at a drug manufacturer who think they are the reason the business is successful. Realworld shows that the talent is just a commodity or resource used by the true business people to make money for the masses. Forget the Unions.

  37. According to the “Days Without An Arrest Police Blotter”….Vrabel’s gonna be saying more “yes your honor…, your honor” than calling plays on the field this year.

  38. When will one of the middle level or lower players sue the NFLPA* for trying to illegally represent then when they have been decertified?

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