Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung has officially filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board against DeMarice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFLPA. Is he correct to do so?
Russell Okung has filed a grievance against the NFLPA for ignoring and circumventing (paraphrased) the constitution of the Players’ Association, and “And as a result, the proposed CBA falls short in providing important protections and rights for the Players.”
The whole letter from the attorney was tweeted by Russell Okung.
I’ve retained Peter Ginsberg and his firm Sullivan & Worcester to pursue this claim with the intention of bringing the truth to light. The NLRB charge is further unpacked in the attached letter. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/buYR8xYS3x
— russ (@RussellOkung) March 12, 2020
This all stems from the executive committee voting against recommending the CBA to the Players, and the NFLPA still sent it to each team’s player rep for a vote anyway. This is merely a recommendation, though.
So, who is right? Let’s examine.
Russell Okung’s case
Okung’s case is built all on speculation. That being said, if he is correct, the NFLPA, and Smith specifically, did violate the constitution by shutting out some of the executive committee from the negotiating portion with the owners.
When it comes to the executive committee’s recommendation, though, Smith didn’t do anything wrong, because the language of the constitution is as follows:
A recommendation from the Board of Representatives may accompany any collective bargaining agreement so proposed to the members for ratification, but a recommendation shall be adopted by the Board of Representatives only upon a two-thirds (2/3) vote.
The key word is may. The CBA can go to the rank and file without a recommendation or if the executive committee votes against recommendation.
DeMaurice Smith’s case
The NFLPA’s responsibility is to protect the rights of the players as a whole. Acting in the manner that Okung is accusing him of is definitely a violation of the constitution. That said, Smith has one ace up his sleeve, and that’s television.
That seems like an ownership issue, and while it is, it is also a player issue. The television deal affects the total dollars the players can get in terms of the portion of revenue.
The deal with ESPN is up after 2021, and the deals with CBS, NBC, and Fox are up after 2022. The longer this goes, the less likely it is that the money pours in. The less the players see as a collective.
Smith could’ve been trying to make sure it goes through so the league can negotiate with the networks sooner for an extension and getting more money for the players.
In the end, the grievance is about acting in good faith. In reality, no matter his intentions, Smith must include everyone in the negotiations with the owners. If he purposely left them out, he violated the constitution and the CBA wasn’t negotiated in good faith.
Okung is absolutely right in this fight if he believes this to be the case. If Okung’s belief proves to be true, the players should consider a change at the top of the NFLPA. Also, the new CBA would not be permitted to stand, even if it’s passed.