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Friday, March 10, 2006

NFLPA: Ensuring More Players Like Owens

A side note to the National Football League agreeing to a new labor deal appears to be that very soon to be ex-Eagle Terrell Owens will not be punished the next time he decides to destroy a team because his mental instability got the best of him. The Inquirer (and, no doubt, other sources) reported that as part of the new deal teams can no longer deactivate a player for disciplinary reasons.

I don’t get why this isn’t getting more attention. It’s absolutely pathetic. The fact that the NFLPA would bring something like this into negotiations is flat-out laughable. Owners no doubt got something in return for giving into this clause, which is sad enough. But for a union representing millionaires to act like it’s protecting its members with a we-can-be-idiots-if-we-want clause is a slap in the face to fans, players who choose to act like adults, and people who actually need unions to ensure fair working conditions.

In a small story the Inquirer reported:

"We essentially reversed the T.O. decision for any future cases," Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel, said last night.

In November, the Eagles suspended Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, then deactivated him with pay for the final five games of the season.

A league spokesman confirmed that, under the terms of the extension, a player can be deactivated week-to-week but not as a long-term punishment.

The new deal also prohibits teams from forcing players to return portions of their signing bonuses for misbehavior, according to the union.

The union's leaders had been concerned about the growing frequency of clauses in players' contracts compelling them to return signing-bonus money to clubs for transgressions ranging from failing drug tests to skipping off-season workouts to participating in recreational activities considered dangerous.

Under the extension, players can be forced to return bonus money only for a refusal to play, such as a retirement or holdout, according to Berthelsen.

At least the players are held to some standard. I mean, they can trash their teammates and coaches, refuse to speak to anyone, have fights in the locker room, and essentially announce intentions to act like a crabby 3-year-old . . . all of which Owens did . . . but these poor souls have to actually play in the games before they’re paid.

Players should be embarrassed by this. (Of course, they’re not.) At the very least, I hope members of other unions that once picketed the Vet along with their “brethren” are cringing. Unions are supposed to be about protecting workers from unfair labor practices, not coddling spoiled brats.

I think a big part of what keeps the NFL great is the fact that contracts are not guaranteed. Players who under-perform don’t get to hang on because a GM gave him an extended million dollar contract after one great year. They also can’t act like idiots with no fear of being cut.

Well, thanks to the hard work of their union, now they can. Like bonus money, this clause is another chink in the NFL owners’ armor against tolerating players who just aren’t worth what their contract calls for. Soon, the NFLPA will completely erode that armor . . . and proudly watch the game erode (even more) to what’s offered up by the NBA.

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