It’s being reported around the league today that the newly agreed upon CBA between players and owners may be in jeopardy of not being ratified because of the disagreement within the fines system. In the CBA Roger Goodell has unilateral control over the fine system with no say going to the players, and that does not sit well with players – especially the Steelers. The Steelers can kick and scream all they want on this, but in the end Goodell will win.
The fine system is based on conduct, and that conduct is broken down into two separate categories (at least in my world) – ‘on the field’ and ‘off the field.’ I think those are the two driving forces in this issue, and the simple fact that ‘off the field’ is involved will always defer power to Goodell. The personal conduct policy is constructed by the employer (the NFL) and is imposed on the employee (the players). To have players with any say in appeals or punishment would be a direct conflict of interest – especially when it’s union entity vs. non-union entity. The players will never get any traction on this argument. As a fan, I don’t like the players having any say in punishments. I don’t like that Goodell has Judge Dredd like powers in the matter either. But he (as crazy as it sounds) is the lesser of the two evils. Look how long the appeals went for the Vikings’ Williams brothers when there was no player involvement in the process. Do you think it would be any better with players? That’s as dumb an idea as that Sprint commercial where Sprint customers run the government better just simply because they have the ‘push to talk’ feature.
If any fairness is going to derive within the fines system it needs to come from a non-partisan (as it were) 3rd party that can hear appeals and dish out consistent and fair (I cannot stress fair enough) punishment. So why do the Steelers lose out? Well I doubt the players will get any say, and for them to refuse to ratify will be a big slap to fans since the season JUST go underway. I think players are more sensitive to the fans and won’t want that to happen. For the longest time the owners were perceived as the ones stonewalling the CBA progression – now the tables would turn, which wouldn’t go well for the players. I also doubt that both sides would agree to the 3rd party system – they all hate lawyers, remember? Which leaves us option three of keeping the status quo. And that option spells trouble for the Black & Gold. Goodell has already shown amazing inconsistency with delivering punishments with personal conduct violations – on and off the field.
It could all turn out to be a quiet season for the Steelers. It could turn into a complete suspension filled and expensive nightmare. Regardless, Ryan Clark and the other player reps better understand quickly that the Commish is not going to let go of that power. And the players are backed into a corner because the hungry fans have smelled fresh meat with the first crack of helmets and pads from over the weekend. Concede, NFLPA… concede. And, just play some damn football.