At some point, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison will likely have to meet with the league as part of their investigation into several players being implicated as users of performance-enhancing drugs in a report by Al-Jazeera America last year. If he ultimately fails to comply, Harrison runs the possibility of being punished by the league.
According to a Thursday report by Lindsay Jones of USA Today, NFL senior vice president of labor affairs Adolpho Birch recently sent a letter to the NFLPA that stated the stance they are currently taking regarding interviews with Harrison, and Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal is “fundamentally at odds with the CBA” when it comes to the standard the league needs to meet to begin an investigation.
“While we readily agree that such evidence is required to support the imposition of discipline, nothing in the CBA or the policy imposes such a requirement before possible violations of the policy may be investigated,” Birch reportedly wrote in his reply to the NFLPA after they demanded “sufficient credible evidence” be provided to them to warrant the league meeting with the aforementioned players. “Obviously, the standard that you advocate — that the league cannot undertake an investigation unless and until it has established the facts and claims to be investigated — would simply ensure that there would be no investigations at all. For the same reason, we are under no obligation to disclose all evidence uncovered thus far as a condition to interviewing the players, which would clearly compromise the investigation.”
According to Jones’ report, Birch reportedly reiterated in his latest letter to the NFLPA that the active players the league are seeking interviews with have an “obligation to cooperate with league investigations and may be disciplined for failing to do so.”
Harrison recently made it known that he is willing to meet with the league under the conditions that said meeting takes place at his home with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell present and before the start of training camp. Since then, however, the NFLPA reportedly sent a letter to the NFL on behalf of Harrison, in which the union reiterated its request “that the NFL inform the players and the NFLPA whether the NFL possesses any credible evidence (e.g., verified documents or verified testimony of witnesses) that warrants an interview of Mr. Harrison regarding a potential violation” of the PED policy.”
Below is a copy of that letter courtesy of Tom Pelissero.
NFLPA sent this letter yesterday on behalf of each player named by Al-Jazeera. Same argument: show us the evidence. pic.twitter.com/zDk735xX8c
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 29, 2016
By the sound of things, this dance between the NFL and the NFLPA still has a few more rounds left in it. The league makes it sound like they already have enough evidence to warrant interviewing all of the players named in the undercover documentary by Al-Jazeera America and that they have no plans to reveal any of it ahead of time. They are, in essence, claiming that the CBA provides no stipulations that evidence of potential wrong doings needs to be provided to the NFLPA or player before interviews concerning the matter take place.
According to Jones’ Thursday report, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah has yet to receive the league’s latest letter and thus he was not ready to comment on the matter. If you are scoring at home, it appears as though the NFLPA is now on the clock when it comes to issuing a reply to the league. I have a feeling these two sides will be exchanging quite a few more letters before any interviews ultimately take place.
The league appears set to strong-arm their way to get these interviews done while the NFLPA, as you would expect, is doing their best to protect their members. If I am Harrison, I’m not granting the league an interview until the NFLPA tells me I have to.