Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner:
THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS .
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
BY EVAN WEINER
Portions of this column are by Evan Weiner and Heather Rascher from ”A Business History of Professional Football,” unpublished manuscript (2005).
The biggest game on the NFL season starts on April 6 when National Football League owners and the remnants of the now defunct National Football League Players Association face off in a Minneapolis courtroom. In a script that looks like a sequel to the days after the National Football League Players Association imploded in October 1987 when the NFLPA decided to sue NFL owners for free agency, the NFLPA is back in a Minneapolis courthouse and suing NFL owners. Ten players, including one college player who was not even a part of the defunct NFLPA, Von Miller, are suing the league in an antitrust action hoping the court will lift the owners lockout.
Miller’s name is on the suit but he is planning to attend the National Football League Draft, an act that restricts the freedom of college players in finding jobs. The only reason the draft is legal is through collective bargaining. The owners and players have agreed to a draft. Miller plans to be in the courtroom while New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, one of the 10 plaintiffs, will not attend the opening day festivities. Brees will be at a golf fundraiser.
Brees last week sounded a conciliatory note to retired and discarded players after being blasted by Sam Huff for criticizing former players who are down and out because of football related injuries. Brees apparently learned well from the late Gene Upshaw (who was the NFLPA Executive Director) who once said that the association could not worry about every problem. While the NFL and the NFLPA duke it out in Minneapolis, the former NFLPA may be involved in another action as former New Orleans and Miami defensive back Gene Atkins is suing the NFL’s retirement board after being denied additional health benefits by the group which included the late Dave Duerson. The former defensive back, Duerson, was on the board which said ‘no’ to Atkins’ football degenerative claim in 2006. Duerson’s suicide in February 2011 raises questions according to the brief filed about Duerson’s competence in light of statements that came out after the suicide that he had memory loss and difficulties spelling words.
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