The NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) is currently under federal investigation for allegedly holding secret meetings with NFL owners to discuss the future of the collective bargaining agreement. Confirmation of these investigations came after Mary Moran, the Director of Human Resources for the NFLPA, who is on forced administrative leave, filed a lawsuit claiming that she had been wrongfully removed from her job because she acted as a confidential informant in the investigation. Moran claimed she was placed on leave because she provided information about secret meetings between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Houston Texans owner Roger McNair, and NFLPA representative Tony Vincent that took place without the knowledge of former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw last year. The unauthorized meetings were allegedly conducted to give those NFLPA members influence within the NFL by providing the NFL a “toehold” within the union. The NFL personnel implicated all deny the allegations, stating that meetings were not illegal or secretive and that regular contact with the NFLPA has consistently occurred over the years, covering a wide range of matters.

With regards to Moran’s wrongful termination suit, the union may have viewed Moran as a factious employee who made “secret meeting” allegations in an attempt to disparage Troy Vincent, who had been accused of trying to stage a coup when he was running for executive director of the union following Upshaw’s death. (He was defeated by DeMaurice Smith).

Although the NFL is not implicated in the current collusion investigations, the allegations of unauthorized meetings could prove to be more costly for the NFL as an organization than the NFLPA. Because conducting unauthorized meetings hurts union members, the NFLPA, like the federal investigators, has every incentive to stop them from occurring. The existence of unauthorized meetings would thus create the biggest problems for the implicated rogue negotiators–it is almost certain the NFLPA would get rid of them, and they would be asking Moran for tips on how to pack up their desks and start a job hunt in the current economy.

However, for the NFL as an organization, the implications if such meetings occurred could be more serious. In conducting these alleged meetings, the NFL would have been dealing directly with an unauthorized representative of the union, which could lead to a finding that the league engaged in unfair labor practices.

Thus, Moran’s allegations have potential consequences that reach far beyond her own 9 to 5 job. To take an optimist’s perspective, perhaps the scandal surrounding these alleged talks will light a fire under both the NFLPA and the NFL to reach a satisfactory new agreement before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2011, and discourage the incentives on both sides for any further questionable activity by locking in a new agreement. Alternatively, the underground meetings, if they occurred, may signal a real breakdown of the NFL’s consistently peaceful (at least for major league sports) labor agreement. Overall, I hope both the player’s union and the team owners both remember that they really are two parts of the same professional football team and, to quote University of Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson, “if a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team.”

Rachel Purcell

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