By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL Players Association desperately needs more high-profile stars – namely, quarterbacks – to go to bat for them against Roger Goodell and the National Football League offices. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is starting to do so; Drew Brees already has, and on Wednesday launched another attack.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback, long one of the league’s most prolific (and marketable) talents, spoke out publicly against the NFL as a guest on the Tiki and Tierney show on CBS Sports Radio. He didn’t exactly go full Josh Norman, but he spoke candidly in support of the players and it’s not so much what he said than the fact that he is the one saying these things in the first place.
Brees said what anyone really paying attention already knows: Goodell and the NFL offices cannot be trusted.
“Having been on the NFLPA Executive Committee for eight years and being a part of those negotiations back in 2011, I feel like I’ve got some interesting perspective, and then obviously going through the BountyGate debacle here and then seeing how that carried over to the way things were conducted with Deflategate and then the Ray Rice issue, it’s unfortunate because I feel like the league has lost so much trust from players and just the public in the way that they’ve handled these investigations, the lack of transparency.
“They’re certainly in a position where nobody believes anything that comes out of the league office right now as it pertains to really much of anything. You always feel like there’s an agenda at play and nobody’s ever telling you the truth. So, I think that’s the real issue here, the lack of trust.”
This is not the first time Brees has spoken out against Goodell or the league. In April, just after Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for DeflateGate was reinstated, Brees told SI’s Maggie Gray: “I think we would all agree that [Goodell] definitely has too much power. … He is judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to all the discipline. I’m not going to trust any league-led investigation when it comes to anything. It’s not transparent.”
Brees’ Saints were also subject to massive discipline from the league offices over their own BountyGate scandal, in which Brees himself was not punished but Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season.
It’s clear that the players are beginning to wake up to the reality of where they stand in comparison to the league and that the new CBA will require significant changes. The CBA as currently constituted is fundamentally unfair, as Brees added Wednesday.
“I think we, as players, always have felt like this should be a partnership between players and union that’s governed by this collective bargaining agreement that we all agreed to,” said Brees. “There should be compromises. It should be fair for both sides. I just don’t feel like we’re ever in a position as players where we’re really fighting a fair fight.”
Even with the next CBA in 2021, the Players Association may not get a fair shake from the NFL. The vast majority of players lack long-term financial security and will always face an uphill battle against a league of billionaires. But saving their money and preparing for a lockout is a good start. Two of the league’s elite, most visible players standing up for their peers is another step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, Brees and the players probably will need to make some financial concessions to get the league to relinquish the commissioner’s absolute power and lend more legitimacy and consistency to Goodell’s arbitrary disciplinary behavior. The fight between the league and the players may never be fair, but the NFL is losing trust with each passing day and may finally begin to feel the heat – some heat, any heat – if the players begin to feel more comfortable conceding games.
The players may never really “win” in their battle against the league, but they have to do something. Brees knows it, and the fact that he and other star players are beginning to speak out can only help them as the next CBA approaches.
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.