NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith says a double standard exists in the NFL and that league commissioner Roger Goodell is guilty of treating owners one way and players another.
Smith told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that Goodell has not handed out discipline fairly or equally when it comes to the two groups, such as in the case of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has been allowed to return to work despite being arrested on preliminary charges of impaired driving and possession of controlled substances.
"The commissioner understands that there is a significant credibility gap that exists in the National Football League," Smith said. "What troubles our players is the speed and the deliberateness of the punishment that they have seen in the past when it comes to a player. There isn't the same speed or deliberate action when it comes to an owner, and that's a problem."
NFL players such as Eric Winston and Ryan Clark have called out Goodell for the same perceived inequality. Irsay, who was in possession of $29,000 cash and prescription drugs that were not in his name at the time of his March 16 arrest, tweeted that he was working during the NFL draft in May and later attended the NFL owners meetings and was part of a Super Bowl bid presentation for the city of Indianapolis.
Irsay was formally charged with the two misdemeanor crimes this past Sunday. If found guilty, each charge carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Goodell often but hasn't always waited for charges to be filed before assessing discipline to players in the past, and in the case of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback received a four-game suspension (originally six) in a case where no charges ever were filed.
Smith also took Goodell to task for other topics, including the stalled HGH testing procedures, which have been debated by the NFLPA and the league for years now as a potential addendum to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Smith presumably pointed at Goodell for the extended holdup, although he did not call him out by name.
"It's not being held up on anything that has to do with HGH," Smith said. "It's not being held up on anything that has to do with DUIs. It's not being held up on anything that has to do with the frequency of testing. It's being held up because one man wants to keep the power to be the judge, jury and executioner. That's not right."
Winston, the new NFLPA president, said earlier this month that the players don't agree with the NFL's latest proposal for an HGH plan, which includes Goodell as the final arbiter in disputes over the testing process or individual results. Everything else appears to be in place, but the NFLPA would like third-party arbitration. The union sees Goodell being too closely aligned with the owners, whom he technical works for, and the membership clubs.
As for possibly expanding the playoffs from the current 12-team format to 14 teams — which Goodell strongly hinted was in play for the 2015 season and would be discussed by the owners at the fall meeting in Detroit — Smith said that any change to the NFL season represents a change in work conditions and hence would be a direct violation of the CBA without union consent.
"If there will be an expansion of the playoffs, there will be a proposal by the National Football League pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement," Smith said. "That is a change of working conditions. Changes of working conditions must be negotiated with this union. And I haven't seen a proposal from the National Football League, and I know that is a necessary precondition."
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