It’s been a tough spring for the NFL. The bounty scandal isn’t going anywhere, Junior Seau’s dead, concerns regarding player safety have reached an unprecedented level and now the league is being sued by its players association for allegedly colluding to limit salaries during the final year of the old collective bargaining agreement.
Right now, the lockout looks like the good old days.
NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth joined Glenn Clark on WNST in Baltimore to discuss all of the major issues surrounding the league and its players right now, starting with the collusion case. He also addressed the new regulations regarding knee and thigh pads, the increased concern for player safety and the bounty scandal.
On deciding to take legal action against the league:
“It’s never the direction that we wanna go, and I recognize that there’s a marriage between the NFL where there’s football and there’s business and none of us really like when our football is marred by our business. But that’s the way that it has to be sometimes and obviously avoiding litigation is what we’d all rather do. We’d like it just to be games on Sunday and lots of fun, but when there’s a billion-dollar industry built on those games, there has to be checks and balances. And in this particular case, it’s our belief based on some facts that we’ve been able to amass, that the league tried to — could have potentially tried to pull a fast one on us. And it’s our responsibility to our players to make sure that we’re diligent and looking through the records and making sure that everything that is meant to our players that our players receive, and that it’s a fair league and a fair process for the guys involved in it.”
On the evidence that collusion took place:
“The evidence in our mind is pretty conclusive. But as you know, many times in legal cases you have to be careful with what you say and what you don’t say. I’ll just say that we wouldn’t be filing a suit — we aren’t the NFL, we don’t have kind of a endless money stream. The amount of money and man hours and time it takes for us to to file a suit isn’t worth it unless we feel pretty strongly about the case that we’re presenting. So we believe that the courts will find in our favor.”
On the notion that they make enough money already:
“It’s not necessarily about the cash itself. It’s about a fair process. When you negotiate for something — and I understand that. It’s not my goal to make sure that all fans understand our perspective or all fans agree with our perspective. I recognize that we have a unique opportunity and many listeners and fans cannot relate to the amount of money in this process. But that doesn’t — if you take out a couple of commas in the deal, I think fans would understand a little more. How it hits home for them is that you negotiated a particular amount, so you want access to that amount. If it’s five dollars or five million dollars, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re rightfully owed that money or the opportunity to get that money. If you’re denied that opportunity, anybody, any listeners or any fans of this game, if you take out the fact that we’re football players and we make a lot of money and you think about it and put yourself in those shoes. If you’re owed that money, you believe that you deserve it, and you’re gonna go to whatever energy you need to get that money. I think football is a special sport in the fact that it’s undeniable how dangerous it can be, so even more so in our case as opposed to other sports, the risk that you’re taking has to be worth the reward that you’re receiving, the reward that your family’s receiving. So I feel very strongly about the health and safety of our players and I also feel very strongly about the compensation that is owed our players for risking that health and safety.”
On the appeals for more evidence in the bounty scandal:
“The issue is those facts haven’t come to light. The league refuses to show those facts, and as the leader of the players association, I can’t sit idly by and allow people to be reprimanded based on hearsay. And again, I know it’s difficult for fans and listeners to put themselves in our shoes, but it’s pretty simple from where I stand. If someone that you care about is being accused of something, you need to know for a fact, for sure, and especially someone you trust. So if my players are telling me that they didn’t do what’s being alleged, I’m gonna believe them first until proven otherwise. So they know I stand with them, and they also know that I don’t agree with the allegations that are being made. And if it’s found true that what is being alleged actually took place, I can’t do anything for them.”
On new regulations making knee and thigh pads mandatory starting in 2013:
“Obviously we’re always in favor of improved health and safety. The only issue that I take with this is, it’s kind of a micro health and safety issue. Obviously what everyone is concerned with is hits to the head, better regulations and helmets and mouthpieces, and concussion protection and prevention. So this knee pad/hip pad thing in many ways … there are players and former players who deal with issues that may have been prevented by padding but the overwhelming issue that is important to us is head and neck safety. And any minute that’s spent on something other than that is in my opinion not a minute as well spent as it could be. That’s where we need to be improving regulations, that’s where we need to keep most of our time.”
On if the players association heard more feedback expressing concern regarding player safety or any related issues after Junior Seau commit suicide:
“Surprisingly, no. No more than we normally have. We brought this issue up years ago — the issue of head trauma. And there’s been nothing officially said about what was going on with Junior and how it relates to football, so I’m not trying to imply that in any case. But obviously a lot of the media has taken us down that path. So if that’s the way that it’s going, it’s nothing new then that we haven’t been notifying our players about and alerting our players about up until now, and looking for answers for up until now. So our players, most of our players already know. I think every time something like this happens, it forces quite a bit of a microscope on this issue from outside people, if that makes sense. Guys who aren’t in the game wanna blow this issue up now, but it’s always been a big issue for our guys and I really received no more inquiries from players than I have on a regular basis. We’re always concerned about that.”
On what else can be done on that front:
“There’s always more that can be done. I mentioned a moment ago that helmet regulations is something that is important to us, so that may be the next step. So there’s always something more that can be done. And the important thing I think is that we don’t try to put anything ahead of the health and safety. If there is a particular move or decision that can be made that will make our players’ life after football a little more manageable and make their life in football safer, I think there should be nothing that stands in the way of doing that in a deliberate and organized fashion and the best way that we see fit.”