Bounty case underscores possible need for coaches union


Four days after the bounty-related suspensions of four players were sent back to Commissioner Roger Goodell for a new decision, we continue to receive questions from fans who want to know whether this means that the suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton will be vacated.

It won’t be.

The biggest difference between the players and non-players disciplined by the league is that the players have a union, and the non-players don’t.

It happens because coaches have no collectively-bargained rights.  In order to get and to keep their jobs in an inherently competitive industry, coaches agree that the league will resolve any and all disputes and controversies between the employee and his team, or between the employee and the league.  That approach flows from the league’s tremendous bargaining power; it’s take or leave and it if one coach leaves it another coach will take it.

The problem is that coaches won’t be inclined to unionize.  For starters, head coaches will be exempt because they are part of management.  This means that only assistant coaches would be in the “bargaining unit.”  Which in turn means that any assistant coach who would lead the charge for unionization would never become a head coach.

Faced with that reality, there’s no indication that NFL Coaches Association executive director David Cornwell plans to push for the association to become a union.  A September 6 memo to NFL coaches from Cornwell, a copy of which PFT has obtained, makes no mention of the possibility of organizing, talking instead about efforts to improve relations with the teams and the league after years of NFLCA affiliation with the NFL Players Association.  (The memo was dated a day before the player suspensions were vacated; even so, the distinction between the rights of players and non-players was obvious long before the player suspensions were scuttled.)

Toward the goal of getting along with the league, Cornwell encourages the coaches to accept the fact that replacement officials will be used, for now.  “I am confident that the NFL has taken every step necessary to prepare officials to be ready when the regular season starts,” Cornwell said.

The reality is that the squeeze the league is putting on the officials quickly would be directed to the coaches, if they ever try to become a union.  Cornwell knows that the league is aggressive in such business disputes, and he also knows that the league would do everything it legally could to beat back a coaches union.

Still, without one, the players will continue to have far greater rights.  The coaches will continue to have, in comparison, none.

43 responses to “Bounty case underscores possible need for coaches union

  1. Yup, the coaches will just have longer careers, make more money, have a better chance at post coaching gigs on TV/radio (where they will make even more money) and not have to worry about their knees failing them, concussion syndrome, or needing a hip replacement when they are 40. Yup, the players have it way better than the coaches! (Please not the massive level of sarcasm here)

  2. I’m sick of this bounty BS, this whole thing was blown out of proportion, if there’s any player or coach that denys preaching knocking somebody’s head off in the game is a plain flat out liar! Regardless, this bounty case did NOT hurt the integrity of the game, however Spygate more than hurt the integrity of the game, and what happened with that investigation? Goodell swept it under the rug because God forbid, the golden boy team of the NFL get in trouble. So Roger, you lost credibility with REAL NFL fans like me, and this coming from an unbiased Lions fan.

  3. The only thing that would lead to is the coaches being locked out in the future and have them replaced by replacement coaches. . .look how its working out so far in new orleans (yes i know its only week 1) they were the biggest upset this past Sunday

  4. Great timing, I was looking for a new job anyhow, can I head up the Coaches Union? I will push for 50% pay increases for all coaches and we will just find additional ways to tax the fans to create the revenues to sustain the wage increases. Now pay me millions, plus gratuity. And don’t call me greedy or silly, this is how the world works now as I have been inspired by my idols and heroes to one day be like them.

  5. What does a union do? It make people less accountable for mistakes. Just what this country needs more of. Unions were needed before labor laws, now they just drag down society. I had a buddy in the UAW and he told me that a guy had to get caught smoking crack at work 3 times before he could be fired. WOW! More unions please.

  6. There is a coaches “association”, which I thought was basically a union. Only reason I’ve heard of it Is because Bill Belichick isn’t in it.

  7. besides the fact that the replacements dont call holding i like they actually let them play. the nfl is right to about what they want… they want to be able to fire bad refs and pick the best forbplayoffs not just crews. i think we can all agree to that. coaches cant unionize like he said they pretty much are management positions.

  8. Im in the union and I enjoy at least you have someone else to help you have a voice. The only way I would work without a union if I owned my own business and Im shooting for that now

  9. Give me a break! Don’t you think unions are screwing things up enough already ? Can you stop thinking like a lawyer in need of a client?

  10. “God forbid, the golden boy team of the NFL get in trouble. ”

    Still people whining about the Patriots huh? Belichick got fined, the Pats lost a first round draft pick and got fined almost a million dollars.

    The only difference is the Patriots didn’t whine like a bunch of babies. They went out and proved it didn’t matter, and please don’t start telling me that a videotape of defensive signals would have stopped Tyree from making the best play I’ve ever seen.

  11. I really hope they start a union that way when the first strike happens they can hire a scrub like me. I’ d be an NFL coach for 100K a year.

    Seriously this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of. Because if they start a coaches union then they’ll have to have an owners union…

    Oh crap, wait, isn’t that what the NFL is

    Dang it, there goes my union argument. Except when everyone on the field is in different unions with different agenda’s it either becomes a clusterf**k like our government or a bunch of di**wads who can’t agree on how to get something done. Directly affecting us, the common schmuck who works his ass of and just wants to see some good football games so he can forget about his 30K a year earnings and crummy job and boss.

  12. I always thought unions were created to help the common man ensure a fair wage from his employer, not for a bunch of rich guys to hold other rich guys hostage for money they can’t begin to defend as earned.

  13. You don’t need a union to get treated fairly. So many people think Sean Payton admitted to a bounty system when all he did was apologize and Goodell filled in the form as to what for. And it’s not fair that Goodell is forcing Sean to keep quiet or he’ll make it worse. Let the truth come out. According to the CBA, a performance incentive is punishable by only a fine. The charges have clearly been exaggerated and Goodell should fine Sean some money and let him get back to coaching. Goodell has already delivered his message loud and clear, and Saints fans shouldn’t continued to be punished in all this mess.

  14. Coal miners in the 1910’s needed a union.

    Football coaches in the 2010’s ?

    What a spoiled society we’ve become.

  15. “Still, without one, the players will continue to have far greater rights. The coaches will continue to have, in comparison, none.”

    Yes, like the right to non-guaranteed contracts,
    the right to a salary cap,
    the right to to be assigned (via draft) to whom they may work for,
    the right to pay union dues – offset, of course, by the group marketing rights that sell their names and likenesses in whole that the individuals may not want,
    and of course the right to greater use of suspensions by the Commissioner – all in response to the suspension of a single Head Coach.
    Brilliant idea.

  16. I like this sport…a lot. If you’re reading these comments, that means you do too. Would it really surprise you if the NFL was legislated out of existence in less than 20 years? The concussion issue isn’t going away. Way bigger dudes going way faster than just 20 years ago. The league has now subtly adjusted the rules to favor big time passing plays because that’s what we like which means that’s what makes cash money, homey. Bigger players running faster over a greater distance=more concussions. It’s physics. If we have an epidemic of Junior Seaus awaiting us, then the public is going to have to ask itself how it feels about this. Adding a coaches’ union would just put the poor dog out of its misery.

  17. I think the all coaches together need a union this what happens when you not connected with a union when working for a big organization or a corporation you get messed around like Sean Payton and the other coaches that’s just not fair. All coaches of the NFL need to confront Roger Goodell about a NFLCA for 2013 all coaches should agree who knows who’s next this a whole year without pay. Players should be thankful that they have a union if not the NFL will rob you without a gun say anything and you must agree to it because you don’t have a union to back you up.

  18. There is a massive difference between coaches and players though. Coaches have one right the players don’t really have – the right to stick two fingers up at the NFL and earn nearly as much money coaching a college team instead. Indeed many coaches have elected to do this.

    If the NFL treat coaches too badly then they will likely find themselves with only the coaches discarded by the college system.

  19. Coaches must be part of management, putting them on the other side of the fence would be a complete and total disaster.

    LESS unions are what’s needed, in the NFL and everywhere else.

  20. As long as we’re at it, why don’t we have attorneys start a union?

    A coaches union makes no sense. What are they going to hold out for? An 8 hour work day, double overtime on Sunday, night differential pay???

    To be honest, a players union makes no sense. When the average NFL salary is $1,900,000.00 per year (median salary $770,000.00 per year) – what do these guys need with a union?

    What is needed more than a union is a babysitter service to keep the 10%ers out of trouble.

  21. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Look what a mess having a referee union is making already, most of those locked out refs want nothing to do with what’s going on, they would love to be out there.

  22. I don’t understand folks who are anti-union. Unions are the only thing that protects workers from being bullied into lower pay for more work, the free market doesn’t self regulate this kind of stuff in even the most competitive markets, let alone one in which there is a sole operator (the NFL) for an entire industry.


  23. Unions have destroyed this country they had there time in histroy but they crippled/ almost destroyed the auto industry, allow unqualified and under acheiveing teachers to still teach our children in school and have raised the cost of goods and services 2.7 times since the 1980’s so these workers can get paid more/have more benfitis to pay union dues to make someone else rich off of others backs. Unions bosses have it easy the workers pay all the bills and then they hire a lawyer to do all the work.

  24. The NFL doesn’t need another union; what it needs is another commissioner, one with some common sense.

  25. I’m pro union and employ union labor when I can, but this suggestion is absolutely ridiculous.

    People making 4-8 million a year do not need a union. Unions are to protect the little guy from getting screwed, not to protect millionaires from their own wrongful actions.

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