When it comes to #Deflategate and other disciplinary matters falling within the exclusive province of the Commissioner, some in the media routinely criticize the NFL Players Association for not securing third-party arbitration during the last round of labor negotiations.
Apart from the concession(s) that the union would have had to make to secure enhanced protections for, as a practical matter, a small handful of players every year is the question of whether any concession(s) could have been made to convince the Commissioner to delegate his authority for integrity-of-the-game violations to someone not working in the league office. Apparently, the answer was and still is, “No.”
“We’re not going to hand the integrity of the game off” to someone else, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s golf tournament, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
Goodell also said that there are currently no settlement talks regarding the pending four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That’s no surprise; the NFL wasn’t willing to engage in meaningful talks before Judge Richard Berman ruled in Brady’s favor last September. Now that the NFL is operating from a position of significant strength, there’s no reason to suddenly waver.
The end result is that, despite the (misguided) concerns of some that the NFLPA fights the league in court too frequently, the only way to secure relief and protection for Brady is to continue to challenge the league through the external avenues aimed at forcing Goodell to utilize his power in a fair and proper way. If the NFLPA eventually wins, it could be easier to persuade Goodell to relent on his position regarding the use of outside arbitration. If the NFL prevails in its effort to secure full and complete endorsement of the notion that Goodell’s powers are extensive and nearly absolute, the cost of persuading him to give them up will become prohibitive.