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.