A recent players poll showed Roger Goodell has a 39% approval rating amongst active players and those on practice squads; ESPN said it was a low number; I personally think it’s pretty high considering all the legal squabbling between the NFL and the union over the past eighteen months. Players who disapproved cited the Saints bounty scandal and seemingly arbitrary fines; players who approved acknowledged that Goodell has a “thankless” job.
So, more players don’t like him. Fine. The owners do, which leads us to this point, it’s a conversation the NFL and the union need to have now, long before the posturing for the high ground on the next CBA comes in, and long before either side has political motivations to talk, and it begins with concessions each side needs to make.
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The NFL needs to concede that the 16 game schedule needs to remain in place until they have the full backing of the NFLPA, and not try to jam it down the union’s throat, meaning that we will never have an 18 game season. Ultimately, the players are right in saying that if player safety is such an important issue, then extending the season is a horrific idea.
The NFLPA needs to concede that Roger Goodell is well within his authority to fine players for illegal hits, which includes launching onto head gear, helmet to helmet hits on defenseless players, and others. They do have a point in that the current process, to the best of my knowledge, is flawed, which is a legitimate discussion they need to have, but they need to concede the point that Goodell can do that.
The NFL and NFLPA need to acknowledge their roles in the circumstances surrounding the class action suit facing the NFL. The NFL needs to begin negotiating a settlement, and the NFLPA needs to admit that they didn’t think it was a major problem; it has been around long enough for them to share part of the blame, even if it’s just a sliver.
The NFL needs to take a hard line approach towards drunk driving, and the union needs to work with them on a policy; for instance, teams should be required to provide a driving service for players who have had too much to drink, and any player who gets a DUI should have a mandatory one-game suspension; in the case of a tragic accident where someone is hurt or worse, they need to develop a protocol, either with the league or team deciding the additional punishment.
The NFLPA needs to push for a permanent separate appeals board. The bounty scandal proved that the commissioner has the right to be judge and jury, but someone else needs to hear the appeals for punishments he hands down from the bench. It isn’t fair to the players, and quite frankly, it’s not fair to the teams either.
Finally, both sides need to agree that any substantial investments in making the game safer need to come from both sides, and establish a percentage; the NFLPA needs to do this, since many people, including myself, have little sympathy for millionaire players who want the bosses to pay for everything, especially since all NFL footage, as well as the Madden games, have the NFLPA logo on it. I’m not saying that the union needs to invest in better helmets by themselves, although it would be a brilliant move on their part, but I’m sick of players complaining about player safety this and that, then expecting the NFL to pony up the money to fix the problem; don’t complain and not be willing to contribute.
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I doubt they’ll have this conversation; both sides think in the short term, which is one reason why labor talks are so horrendous usually: they’re hammering out the issues for the first time. A few informal talks, and by informal, I mean a private conversation before the one I listed above, and things would go a lot more smoothly. As evidence of this, I point to the 2011 NFL lockout, the 2011 NBA lockout, and the NHL, which cannot have a CBA expire without bedlam resulting in the American hockey world. We can hope, though, we can hope.
I really am hoping by the way.