Tag Archives: saints

“No Call” Football Crisis

New Orleans    Ok, I’m entitled.  It was front page news for days after the game, and now it’s even front-page news in the New York Times.  The sports channels are boiling with the reports.   Has Trump tweeted about it yet?  I hope not!  Of course, I’m talking about the no-call on both pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact in the last 1 minute and 40 seconds of the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.  I saw it all on television, so I know as much as anyone, and way more than the referees.

I got in a little trouble with my companera, because I repeated the old saw hardwired into me from years of playing football as a kid up through the high school team that our Saints had lots of chances to win, and it shouldn’t have come down to whether or not a bumbling ref made the right call.  As my coaches used to tell me, all of that is true until it isn’t.  I saw Saints Coach Sean Peyton going ballistic on the sidelines right after the play and over and over again.

There were fifty cameras or more on the field, so sure, all of us from the fans in the Superdome watching the jumbo-tron to all of us at home watching on TV knew this was a penalty.  The Rams defensive back knew it was a penalty and has said so publicly.  The Saints receiver knew it was a foul.  Both of them were looking at the ref, and nothing happened.  Within two minutes there’s an automatic review by the refs of touchdowns and other plays, but blatant situations like this, nada.

Gayle Benson, the owner of the team since her husband, Tom Benson, passed away earlier this year, wrote the NFL saying that this kind of incident attacked the “integrity of the game.”  Given the mealy-mouthed, lame way that Roger Goodell has handled his duties as NFL commissioner from players’ protest to player injuries, it was impossible to expect that he would act within his powers to get fairness for the players and fans.  One sportscaster made an excellent point arguing that if the owner screaming had been Dallas’ Jerry Jones or the Patriots’ Robert Kraft much less the much-hated former Oakland Raiders owner, Goodell and other owners would not be able to ignore this thievery.  He didn’t say what seems obvious to me, that a new, female owner would likely be tut-tutted and patted on the hand rather than given justice.

We’ll still root for the Saints.  It’s hard not to root for the Rams over the Patriots, geez enough already!  But it is also hard to still believe that the NFL and the football played on its fields is about sport, fairness, and even integrity, if they won’t admit mistakes and police their refs as much as their players, rather than simply lining the pocket of their billionaire and millionaire owners.  This has to stop, or we can just watch them kill the game.

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Just Cause: Saints Players and Union Should Challenge Penalties

Saints Player Jonathan Vilma

New Orleans    Ok, yes, I live in New Orleans, and by law, I’m a Saints fan, so it will be hard for some readers not to think I might be biased, but the Saints players who have been suspended for different periods from captain and linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the whole season to lesser penalties for others, are right to join with their union and challenge the NFL and these penalties.  Simply put, the heart of any collective bargaining agreement such as the one between the owners and the players and their union, the NFL Players Association when it comes to discipline has to be “just cause.”

Just cause means that no worker covered by the agreement can be disciplined for any reason other than just cause.  Furthermore, the final burden of proof in determining just cause always rests with the employer, not the union.  Published reports indicate that the NLF bosses investigated the “bounty” program where allegedly players and coaches put money in a pool to encourage opposing players to be hurt and taken out of the game.  When the NFLPA filed grievances on behalf of the players, the NLR refused to share the facts of the investigation or the so-called evidence justifying these suspensions with the players or their union.  In labor law that’s not only a contract violation worthy of arbitration, but also an unfair labor practice before the National Labor Relations Board.  The union always has the right to receive all available information and the files involving any disciplinary action which would take away a worker’s livelihood.  Any union steward at any organized workplace would immediately tell you that when the boss refuses to share any information that justifies a decision, they are going to be wrong on those grounds alone.

Why are the sports pages missing the boat on these grievances?

Simple answer:  sports writers are no longer cigar chewing, beer swilling working guys themselves represented by the Newspaper Guild, but folks who buy the management and owners’ story, hook, line, and sinker, so they don’t know the simplest truths about labor relations in sports.

Coach Sean Peyton and the other management types didn’t have a real choice.  When the head of the NFL said they were dirty, that was the end of the discussion.  They were management and agents of the owners, so end of story.  They could hire lawyers, but it was easier to buckle down and bear up.

With union workers it’s a different story.  Scott Fujita, now with another team, was categorical in his denial that he every participated in any action designed to hurt another player.  Others have also been clear.

The head of the NFL only cares about the how the whole mess looks, not whether or not he made the right call on the participation of individual workers and their involvement.  That’s why these running, tackling, football players have a union so they can fight for and force fairness, and make the employer, no matter how rich and powerful, prove their case based on “just cause,” not advertising dollars.

In fact it’s why all workers need a union, so people shouldn’t begrudge NFL players for having one and demanding a fair shake.

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