Let’s hope all the drama ends and la­bor peace wins in the NFL

The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY RON COOK Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

I don’t care about player safety in the NFL. The play­ers don’t care. The own­ers cer­tainly don’t care. Why should I care?

I also don’t care if the own­ers win the ne­go­ti­a­tions for a new col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment and get even richer. They’re al­ready bil­lion­aires. I can’t re­late to that. Can you?

I’m just a guy who loves NFL foot­ball. For­get the con­tro­ver­sial 17-game sched­ule that the own­ers are de­mand­ing, be­gin­ning with the 2021 sea­son. I wish the teams played 40 weeks a year. I can’t get enough.

I just want la­bor peace for the next 10 years with no strikes and no lock­outs.

It’s go­ing to hap­pen, thank­fully, by the weekend af­ter the play­ers ap­prove the pro­posed CBA by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote.

I just never imag­ined we would have to en­dure so much drama and so much hys­te­ria to get there.

Look at what hap­pened in the past few days.

ESPN re­ported a num­ber of NFL own­ers se­cretly are hop­ing the play­ers turn down the pro­posed CBA be­cause they think they can get a bet­ter deal af­ter the 2020 sea­son, in­clud­ing – get this – an 18-game sched­ule.

Does that seem like a planted story or what, a not-so-sub­tle way of turn­ing up the heat on the play­ers? The im­pli­ca­tion is the play­ers had bet­ter ac­cept the deal now or get much less, in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble work stop­page later.

The own­ers don’t want the games to stop un­der any cir­cum­stances, but it can’t hurt their cause if the play­ers be­lieve they will shut ev­ery­thing down.

Soon-to-be Carolina Pan­thers of­fen­sive tackle Russell Okung – a clear “no” vote for the CBA – filed an un­fair la­bor charge with the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board al­leg­ing the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion ne­go­ti­ated the pro­posed CBA in bad faith and took it to the rankand-file for a vote over the ob­jec­tions of its ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Okung is a mem­ber of that com­mit­tee and was in on the ne­go­ti­a­tions. That’s bizarre.

Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers out­side line­backer Sam Acho, an­other com­mit­tee mem­ber, went public with his “yes” vote and said the pro­posed CBA ben­e­fited the ma­jor­ity of NFL play­ers. He down­played the loud, of­ten emo­tional ob­jec­tions of the most prom­i­nent play­ers as just noise.

“Big names have big voices,” Acho said. He ran for NFLPA pres­i­dent on Tues­day and lost the elec­tion to Cleve­land Browns cen­ter JC Tret­ter.

Pan­thers safety Eric Reid had his at­tor­neys re­view the 456-page pro­posed CBA and posted their re­sponse on so­cial me­dia.

“It’s a big­ger dis­as­ter than we could have imag­ined,” Reid wrote. That prompted a prover­bial thumb’s up from Steel­ers cen­ter Mau­r­kice Pouncey, who tweeted, “Facts!! Play­ers please be aware!! The own­ers do not care about you!”

You might have heard Pouncey is a “no” vote. Per­haps you saw his pro­fan­ity-laced video in which he, al­most com­i­cally, pledged to help young, strug­gling play­ers with their “rent money” dur­ing a pos­si­ble work stop­page if the CBA is voted down. I’m think­ing Pouncey is one of the big voices that Acho ref­er­enced. He has made an es­ti­mated

$67 mil­lion dur­ing his ca­reer.

All of it seems to be a bit over­whelm­ing for the play­ers. ESPN re­ported sev­eral voted on the pro­posed agree­ment but went back to union lead­er­ship to ask if they could change their vote. They were turned down,

I hope the “yes” vote car­ries the day.

It’s the right vote for all of us who love NFL foot­ball.

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