By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Roger Goodell and the NFL owners have too much power over their players. But it sounds as if the players are not only waking up to this reality but preparing to fight it. Really, actually fight it this time.READ MORE: Will The Ford Maverick Be A Game-Changer In The Auto Industry?
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Football League and Players Association expires in 2021, which if not renewed could spark a lengthy work stoppage. Roger Goodell’s virtually unfettered disciplinary power continues to go unchecked, this time with the four players targeted in a PED investigation who agreed to interviews amid threats of suspensions.
Limiting Goodell’s power will be an essential change to the CBA when the time comes, but the only way for the players to make that happen is to stand strong and withstand something as potentially costly as a lockout.
Steelers NFLPA rep Ramon Foster is urging his fellow players to do exactly that. Speaking to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Foster called upon NFL players to start saving their money in the case of a potentially long, nasty battle over the new CBA.
“Hit them in the pocket. That way, money always talks,” said Foster. “For us to do that, we have to save on our end. We can’t be just blowing money and not realize what’s coming, especially with guys coming into the league now.”
Know who doesn’t really need to save money? Quarterbacks. High-paid elites. Guys with financial security regardless of a few weeks (or months) of game checks potentially lost in a 2021 lockout, due to fat bank accounts or endorsements and other secondary sources of income. And those guys typically aren’t the ones speaking out publicly against the league.
Outspoken Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, brother of Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, recently called out the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, who will always be among the highest-profile players in the league, for failing to speak out on social issues. He was mainly speaking in terms of racial division permeating the U.S., which is one of many factors in a complicated ecosystem. He accused them of being content with just making their money and letting the league conduct itself as it pleases.
“Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys,” said Bennett. “They’re not really on the forefront of trying to change what’s going on.”READ MORE: UMass Lowell Closed Tuesday Due To 'Possible Cybersecurity Incident'
When the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton stay silent on such issues, it’s tough to engender any kind of significant change. But it sounds like Rodgers is now looking to use his prominence in the league to make a difference. He joined Jim Rome last Wednesday and spoke candidly about the league and its authoritarian commissioner, opening up to an extent rarely heard among the NFL’s elite.
“I just think as far as the league goes, there’s been some negative things that have come their way and the way they’ve responded is maybe not been the best way to handle it,” Rodgers said.
A new column by SI’s Andrew Brandt touched upon recent conversations he had with Rodgers, who reportedly compared the NFL to the NBA in terms of the outspoken nature of basketball players and strong leadership among the NBA’s elite players. With NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaking more openly about greater social issues and the NBA Players Association being led by the likes of president Chris Paul and vice president LeBron James, there’s simply a different dynamic in the NBA as compared to the NFL.
However, there’s also a massive difference between the two sports in terms of power and control. The success of NBA teams is wholly dependent on the players, while most of a 53-man roster in the NFL is interchangeable year-to-year and contracts are not guaranteed like they are in the NBA.
Despite the stark contrasts between the two leagues, it’s striking that there’s such a lack of candor from NFL players, who ultimately are the league’s product just like basketball players are the reason NBA viewers watch the games. In a league of elite players falling more in line with management than their counterparts in the locker room, Rodgers is becoming an outlier.
It would behoove the NFLPA to have more guys like Rodgers speaking more openly and standing up for players’ rights against the owners. All due respect to NFLPA president Eric Winston, who has done a fantastic job stepping up for the players in the public eye, he’s Eric Winston. He’s not a quarterback or similarly marketable star. He’s the right tackle for one of the least likable teams (publicly, anyway) in the league in Cincinnati. There’s no question that the NFLPA would be far better off with someone like Rodgers, Cam Newton, or hell, even Brady (but if he hasn’t spoken out by now, he never will) leading them in the inevitable battle against the league.
And make no mistake … a battle is coming. The players can’t continue on living this way, with not only their lack of financial control but their lack of recourse against Goodell’s disciplinary power. The new CBA has to change, and the only way for that to happen is for the NFLPA to hunker down, survive a lockout, and get better leadership from their most prominent voices in the process.
It sounds like they are finally shifting in that direction.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Announces $1M 'VaxMillions' COVID Vaccine Lottery; 'If You're Not Vaccinated, You Can't Play'
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.