NFL Lockout Watch, Day 25: Goodell Insisting On HGH Testing In Next CBA
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that the league is "insisting on human growth hormone testing as part of the new collective bargaining agreement with the players," according to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore SUN. Goodell, speaking to a group of Baltimore-area football players, said, "The integrity of the NFL is critical. We have to make sure that we're doing everything possible to have the best drug program in sports. Making changes to our program is critical. We have done that over the years and we have to do more, including the inclusion of HGH testing." Goodell did not "describe the players' reaction to HGH testing last month" during CBA talks. However, he said, "I believe they know the importance of doing it." He added, "We would be naïve to think that people aren't going to cheat the system. But we have to have the best drug testing program to be able to offset it" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 4/4). In Chicago, Rick Telander writes HGH testing is "something the players might not be so hot to agree to." While the substance is "already banned by the league, it is not tested for." Such testing "might require blood-taking, and that's not something the NFL Players Association, decertified or not, has been thrilled about in the past" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/5).
RETIRED PLAYER CASE: The NFL yesterday told a Minnesota federal court that for the same reasons it should reject an antitrust lawsuit brought by nine active NFL players, it should reject one brought by four retired ones. In addition, the NFL said the retired players, led by Carl Eller, also lack standing to bring the antitrust lawsuit. The 24-page legal brief focused extensively on the same arguments the league made against the Tom Brady lawsuit, contending that federal law disallows courts from getting involved in labor disputes. The NFL and class counsel for the Brady class will square off in court tomorrow over whether the lockout should be lifted. The league will not stand in the way of the Eller and Brady classes merging, though the active players have not said if they want the cases to be joined. The NFL reply to Eller did add another piece of evidence to its arguments, noting in the last edition of the NFLPA publication The Huddle the group wrote, "The NFLPA members gave the NFLPA permission to renounce its union status in the event of a lockout." The NFL contends this amounts to a tactic, which labor law disallows as a reason for renouncing union status. Unions cannot sue under antitrust law, so for Brady to succeed the class must not be part of a union. The former union maintains all it has to do is announce it is no longer a union and that is enough. The Eller class grew from four to five, adding Univ. of Wisconsin-Stout WR Antawan Walker. The Eller class seeks to represent all retired and incoming players, the groups largely not covered by Brady (though the named plaintiffs include former Texas A&M LB Von Miller) (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
REACHING OUT TO RETIRED PLAYERS: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports about two weeks after Goodell "wrote to active players and outlined the league's position in the labor dispute," Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson and Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy, members of the NFL Management Council and former NFLers, "have reached out to retired players with a similar letter detailing components of its March 11 offer that could have affected retirees." Richardson and Murphy "assured about 7,000 vested veterans due to receive the letter that NFL owners would continue to fund pensions and benefits for retired players during the lockout," disputing NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith's statement that owners "don't contribute to former player pensions." They wrote, "We want you to be fully informed and to know the facts" (USA TODAY, 4/5).