Earlier in the day, I wrote an article on the conclusion of the James Harrison saga versus the NFL with regard to pursuing allegations against him and several other players that they were supplied performance-enhancing drugs in an investigation in which the informant later recanted his covertly-obtained claims.
There was much debate over whether or not that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker should cooperate, even after the league revealed that players who chose not to consent to an interview as part of the investigation would receive an indefinite suspension until they chose to cooperate, citing principle on their side over practice.
I argued that the precedent had already been set, or at least made irrelevant, back in 2011 when 31 of the league’s 32 teams and their players consented to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which set forth the framework of giving the league such power as they invoked against Harrison and others during this process.
Harrison and the other players all ultimately relented in an inevitable conclusion to the process, and I believe it was the inevitability of this and other circumstances in recent years that drove Steelers NFLPA representative and starting guard Ramon Foster to warn his peers of the tribulations to come in 2021.
You see, the CBA agreed to in 2011 came with a 10-year shelf-life. At that time, there was already enough ire between the league and the Players’ Association that it resulted in a work stoppage and a lockout through most of the summer, with the exclusion of the draft.
Things have only grown more contentious between the head office and the players since then, drawing high-profile cases such as the 2012 suspensions of several players associated with an alleged bounty scandal in New Orleans, the ‘Deflategate’ controversy in New England, and the repeated and incessant leaks of confidential medical and personal information.
The news of Le’Veon Bell’s missed drug tests was leaked long before it was ever made official, and it was essentially discussed months in advance of it ‘actually’ happening. Between this and the handling of Harrison for retracted claims, Foster certainly has his share of personal ammunition to relate to.
Foster went so far as to warn players to save their money in order to prepare for what he sees on the horizon five years from now, the next time that the two sides must try to come together to work out a new mutual agreement.
You can have no doubt that the NFLPA will push hard to reduce the unilateral power over discipline and other matters that the league holds over its players, powers that expanded with the last CBA, but the NFL will no doubt ask for hard concessions in return, and may even seek to expand its powers even further.
It may seem a bit off in the distance at the moment, but I am appreciative of a player such as Foster who has the foresight to look ahead in that manner and see the battle brewing on the horizon. That is especially the case if you consider that he is 30 now and under a three-year contract. The odds of him still playing in 2021 at the age of 35 are shaky.