So why didn’t the NFLPA reduce Goodell’s power in 2011?


A common theme has emerged in recent days regarding the suspension imposed by the NFL on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  And it goes a little something like this:  “The NFLPA has no room to complain because the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to do whatever he wants.”

While it’s true that the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to determine discipline under the personal conduct policy and in turn to resolve the appeal, those powers must be exercised properly and responsibly.  Failure to do so arguably has contributed to the current problems the NFL faces as a result of the Peterson case and, more importantly, the Ray Rice case.

It’s also important to consider the broader context.  In 2007, the late Gene Upshaw agreed to give the Commissioner broad authority to discipline players for off-field misconduct.  The league unveiled the revamped policy in connection with the suspensions of Adam Jones and the late Chris Henry.

In 2011, the NFL and NFLPA returned to the bargaining table for the negotiation of a new labor deal.  The primary struggle at that point related to money.  While the quality of the financial package remains the subject of periodic debate, the NFLPA also achieved unprecedented limitations on offseason workouts, training camp practices, and in-season practices.

If (and that could be a big if) the Commissioner would have traded his power over the personal conduct policy for the practice limitations, should the NFLPA have done that?  Doesn’t it make far more sense to achieve protections that directly benefit all players in lieu of protections that, as a practical matter, will help only a few?

Sure, all players are subject to the arbitrary application of the personal conduct policy, where the rules are whatever the rules have to be in order to reach the predetermined outcome.  But only two or three players find themselves caught in the gears of the personal conduct policy every year.  Every player experiences the impact of reduced practice time and less intense practice sessions.

The next time the NFL and NFLPA try to hammer out a new labor deal, that same question will emerge.  How much of the protections for the many will be sacrificed to ultimately protect a few?

12 responses to “So why didn’t the NFLPA reduce Goodell’s power in 2011?

  1. All things considered, given how badly the NFLPA loses every time it goes to the table, getting any concessions at all was an achievement.

  2. When are the NFL players going to realize they have no power. Work stoppages do not affect the owners. They were Billionaires before they owned teams and they will remain Billionaires if the NFL ceases to exist. On the other hand 85% of the players would be broke within 2 years of a work stoppage. What are they going to do? Most don’t have college degrees and if there is no Football there are no commentator jobs to fill. Owners have all the power and they know this, which is why the NFLPA never succeeds at successfully gaining any ground when it comes to a new labor deal. Goodell lives another day with all the power.

  3. Bringing me back to my original point I always make: players and fans want to blame Goodell and the owners for everything when they should simply be looking at the players and the NFLPA reps. Can’t blame the owners and commish for wanting the same money and power the players want. But you can blame players for sacrificing many things in order to save others.

  4. NFLPA absolutely to blame for the last deal….and it has been and is being panned by nearly every media source with credibility. Players caved as the deadline neared, and ceded power to the owners, via Roger.
    It’s their fault.
    But remember, most players are not criminal bums…the majority are getting paid far more money under the new CBA, and dont run into legal issues and suspensions.

    That said, none of us like Rog.

  5. The NFLPA picked a very weak person to run their union. The new Exec Dir of the NBA union has already shown more balls than De Smith without even having a pair.

  6. The rules state that a first offense is six games. I’m not sure what the rule was before they instituted the new rule. However, I doubt it was as high as six games. I believe that is what the NFLPA is arguing. If both sides agree to a rule, it shouldn’t be altered as one side sees fit. I truly believe, in Ray Rice’s case, they are operating under double jeopardy. The NFLPA should not allow Goodell to change the rules as he sees fit. Would you work for a union that allowed companies to change the rules anytime they see fit? I doubt it. If the two sides don’t come together, I can see this ordeal escalating all the way up to a strike. I do not condone what any of these players have done. But rules are rules. And it’s time for both sides to start playing by them.

  7. The NFL and Roger Goodell have basically become a dictatorship. And yes, while we have a right to be angry with how they’ve used that power, let’s also acknowledge that it was the “union” that gave them that power. Really, what kind of a union is it that gives them so much power?

  8. Still remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers players were the only team out of the 32 not to agree to this CBA because Goodell had to much power. Even if it was 1 team the players union should of took the Steelers players complaints about it more seriously.

    A lot of the same people in the comments criticized them are crying about Goodell now. smh

  9. The CBA can be broken down like this: it’s average to poorly educated millionaires and their lawyers vs. Generally highly educated billionaires and their lawyers. This will never be a fair fight for the players. Not taking sides, just stating a fact.

  10. I guarantee you, there will not be football when this current CBA expires. The next lockout/strike will make the baseball shutdown in the early 1990s look like a blip on the radar. The owners will lose billions. The players will do it to spite just to inflict pain.

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