I could be making too much of a simple tweet, but I'm a blogger. It's what bloggers do.
NFL PA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith tweets that he talked to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. WHAT?
I have been in touch with Roger. He has formally notified me that he will recused himself. Paul Tagliabue will step in.
— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) October 19, 2012
He says Goodell might do something that he apparently suggested. DOUBLE WHAT??
I've seen no official announcement, or even nice things, said about Goodell on NFLPlayers.com, but we could be the verge of worldwide peace in western civilization, meaning the NFL.This is a real hold on to your butts moment.
I assume Smith's tweet, which appears authentic, refers to the ongoing conflict between Jonathan Vilma and suspended New Orleans Saints players and the Commissioner's office.
UPDATE: Roger Goodell confirms that he will recuse himself from Saints Bounty appeal. See the NFL Statement at the end of this story.
We've learned three things about that conflict.
1. The commissioner is supreme and El Supremo has wide authority to run pro football because the labor union voted for him to have it.
2. El Supremo does not have unlimited authority to act, but the limits are set by the CBA, not the Courts. Those three judge panels you read about are formed under terms of the labor agreement. Courts bow to the authority of labor agreements. They have to. It's federal law.
3. Maybe the players are beginning to get it. Hard nose bargaining, not the Courts, is how to deal with hard-nosed owners.
This brings us back to Smith's tweet and the hope that solutions to the Saints' suspension and other disputes will be settled by negotiation. A handshake agreement after bare-knuckled bargaining is cheaper, faster and better than any Court ruling. I'm twice-divorced. Trust me; I know.
The late Gene Upshaw knew this. Upshaw knew that the owners intended to lock out players after the 2010 season. His bargaining chip was the salary cap. If the owners locked out the players, Upshaw swore that players would never again agree to a cap.
Upshaw passed away in 2008. The players hired a sharp courtroom lawyer, Smith, as executive director. Smith played the role well, including knowing when to quit before suffering Appeals Court setbacks. Owners feared losing the cap more than anything, yet the players never played that chip.
The players set as their goal to open 2011 training camp on time, rather than to bargain for fair deal in all respects – the commissioner's authority to punish being one example. They opened camp on time, later to realize that cap levels declined from 2010 and the commissioner remained unchecked.
Upshaw might have held the players out until well into the regular season, when both owners and players squawked.
I'm guessing about that. Upshaw was no lawyer. He bargained like a Hall of Fame lineman run blocking downfield. Get in his way and you'll just get hurt. I wonder if he would have seen training camp as important as protecting cap levels as it was. I wonder if he would have forged a working relationship with Goodell like he enjoyed with Paul Tagliabue that might have made lawsuits unneeded.
Upshaw was the rare labor leader who bargained hard for his members, but understood that labor had a role to play in the health of its industry. It was the league and the union, Tagliabue and Upshaw, working together under terms of the CBA that kept Maurice Clarett out of pro football when all of America saw that as a good thing. Handshakes are how business is done.
Here's hoping that Smith and Goodell find the way to bargain tough when they need to and work together when they ought to for the good of football. All western civilization depends on it.
NFL Statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell
“I have held two hearings to date, and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players. To bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion, I have appointed former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to serve as the hearing officer for the upcoming appeals. Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity."
Image: Roger Goodell with DeMaurice Smith, August 4, 2011, Jason Miller/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com.
Image: Gene Upshaw before U.S. Congress, February 27, 2008, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com.
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