NFLPA Concerned Saints Are Punishing Drew Brees Due to Involvement in Lockout
Many writers and bloggers have speculated that the reason Drew Brees was franchise tagged and has yet to get a long term deal was retaliation for his involvement in the lockout. But now, the NFLPA is worried about it too.
If you remember, Drew Brees (and Tom Brady) allowed their names to be used in the players’ case against the NFL. This was important because the image of the players was helped and the case further legitimized by having golden boys attach their names to it.
But Brees’ involvement was more than just his name. He was particularly vocal during the lockout and its meetings. He was candid with the press about his feeling that during the negotiations the NFL had no real intent of getting a deal done. In March, as the lockout was beginning, Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated published the following quotes from Drew Brees.
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Ever since Gene Upshaw passed away — I’m just going to lay it all out there — the owners saw blood in the water,” Brees said Wednesday after a players-organized workout at Tulane University. “They felt like, ‘This is our opportunity to take a significant piece of the [financial] pie back at all costs, a piece that we will never have to give back again. This is our chance, while they don’t have leadership, while they’re scrambling to find a new executive director. This is our time.’
“I can point to about five different things to prove to you that they were ready to lock us out. They opted out of the last year of the [CBA] deal; they hired Bob Batterman [who oversaw a lockout of NHL players]. They tried to take the American Needle case to the Supreme Court to basically give them an antitrust exemption or single-entity status, but were defeated 9-0; they established new TV deals to pay them in the event of a lockout, but we were able to put a freeze on that money because they did not negotiate in good faith and broke the law. And they had an internal NFL document that was leaked — a decision tree — that said smack dab in the middle of it ‘financial needs in a lockout.’ That was in 2008, OK? So you’re telling me that they had no plans to lock us out and really wanted to get a deal done? I don’t think so.”
“Their philosophy was, We’re going to give you a very subpar deal, a slap-in-the-face deal, and hope that you’ll accept it because hopefully we’ve intimidated you enough into thinking that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and you’re just going to succumb to the pressure,” he said. “Well, guess what. We’re a lot more informed and educated than in the past, and we’re much better businessmen than you think and we’re going to stand up for what is right and what is fair. Fifty-fifty is fair. It’s been fair for the last 20 years and I think the game has done pretty well over the last 20 years. I think franchise values have gone up at a pretty good rate over the last 20 years. So you can’t sit here and tell me that the system is broken.”
It is because of quotes like those that the longer Brees’ contract negotiations drag on the more it looks like he’s being punished for being such a strong advocate for the players
It probably doesn’t help that Brees went on record this week saying that the Saints were “afraid” to challenge the NFL on the way they handled the bounty program investigations and what evidence they really have.
Now one of my favorite reporters Jason La Canfora is reporting that the NFLPA is concerned about any relation Brees’ involvement in the lockout might have to his contract negotiations.
According to sources, the NFLPA is asking the league to investigate possible negative comments members of the Saints management or ownership might have made regarding Brees’ involvement in union matters during the lockout. In the letter to the NFL, sources said the NFLPA cites CBA provision, Article 49, Section 1: “No Discrimination: There shall be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.”
In the letter, the NFLPA asks the NFL to respond in a timely manner. If the union does not believe the matter is being taken seriously, then making a claim to the NLRB would be the next step.
LaCanfora also notes that Brees was one of the players who vehemently opposed the franchise tag during negotiations. (I hate it too!) So it’s no surprise that he has opted not to sign his tag or attend organized team activities (OTAs).
We know that Tom Benson has a record of doing things on the cheap. At one point I believe he had the only debt-free franchise in the NFL. However, this stinks of something more. Most franchises who’d lost their head coach for an entire year and have a new DC as well as an interim head coach (who the NFL believes may have participated in the bounties) would be looking for any bit of stability they could get. In addition, they’d be looking to change the story line on the team. Brees getting a contract would be a happy story, he is universally liked and respected by the Saints fans. He’s also the core of the offense.
The fact that he is being made to wait and is the only elite player of his calibre to be franchise tagged this year feels like a way to embarrass him before the inevitable contract is worked out. If there was a chance in hell the Saints would let Brees go then maybe it wouldn’t seem so shady. But…can anyone see the Saints letting such a talent go? I can’t.