Eric Reid Puts the NFL (and NFLPA) on Notice

The NFL comes out in support of social justice issues amid questionable investigation results, outstanding grievances, and lawsuits. Off the diamond, and no matter how you spin it, baseball is going to war.

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 15, and welcome to “The Labor Beat,” your weekly breakdown of the biggest stories from the world of collective bargaining and labor disputes in sports. Send tips, exclusives, or suggestions to [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter at @grandstcentral and @al_neal_stl.

It’s not just about random drug screenings:

When does a “random” workplace drug screening stop being coincidence and become suspicious employer behavior? Seven times in the span of 11 weeks, according to Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid.

Such suspicious, targeting behavior launched a joint investigation by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and NFL to determine if the collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA) drug testing policies were violated.

Did they find anything? No.

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joint NFL-NFLPA statement Jan. 9, a rarity in itself, said: “There is no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”

Reid’s legal team rejected the investigations findings, submitted a letter to the NFL and NFLPA demanding a response, and requested more information as to how the those findings were reached.

They also argue some of the dates the NFL-NFLPA used in its report are incorrect and asked for a public correction as soon as possible.

If Reid’s legal team is right, it would mean that the NFL Players Association knowingly worked with the NFL to put out false and misleading information. And it would be the biggest union scandal, following 2008’s “Maddengate,” to hit as players prepare for contract negotiations in 2021.

As the matter moves forward, let’s hope the truth finds otherwise.

Clipping an Eagle’s wings:

No, we’re not talking about Philadelphia’s 20-14 loss in New Orleans, Sunday night. We’re talking about Eagles lineman Lane Johnson.

Back in 2017, Johnson filed a complaint against the NFL and NFLPA in federal court to vacate an arbitration award regarding his 10-game suspension.

The complaint against the players’ union follows Johnson’s unfair labor practice (ULP) charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent agency of the Federal government of the United States with responsibilities for enforcing U.S. labor law.

Johnson argued the union had violated his rights as a union member by not providing fair representation during his grievance, and for not turning over a copy of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA)

Recently, Johnson sought a discovery motion to investigate why the union was slow to respond to his information request.

That request was denied Thursday, Jan. 10, by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan. The denial is a blow to Johnson’s last remaining legal claim that the NFLPA violated his rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

The LMRDA provides for the reporting and disclosure of certain financial transactions and administrative practices of labor organizations and employers, to prevent abuses in the administration of trusteeships by labor organizations, to provide standards with respect to the election of officers of labor organizations, and for other purposes.

The NFL Players Association has a pending motion for summary judgement (dismissal) pending, and it’s likely to be granted.

Social justice or good PR? You decide:

The NFL announced Jan. 11 it was launching the “Inspire Change” platform “showcasing the collaborative efforts of players, owners and the league to create positive change in communities across the country.”

“Working together with the Players Coalition, NFL teams and the league office continue to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on three priority areas:

  • Education and economic advancement
  • Police and community relations
  • ​Criminal justice reform

The Inspire Change platform includes the debut of a new television spot, which will air during this weekend’s playoff games. Additional versions of the television spot will continue to air throughout the post-season, including on Super Bowl Sunday during pregame programming.”

Read the full press release here.

Luxury Tax a luxury for MLB owners?

Tension between the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) and the league continues to escalate, with several players believing team owners are using the competitive balance tax (CBT) as an excuse to keep payrolls low—escalating the fear of a players strike when the current union contract expires in 2021.

“It’s become increasingly clear that some clubs are simply using the CBT as a justification for the historic and short-sighted inactivity in the free-agent market,” said Bruce Meyer, the recently hired senior director for collective bargaining and legal for the MLB Players Association. “Whether it’s become a psychological barrier or just a convenient excuse, the effects are the same and should concern players, fans and clubs alike.”

Click here to look at all of baseball’s issues going into 2021. That’s all for this week on the Labor Beat.

Al Neal
Al Neal
Al Neal is an award-winning columnist at Grandstand Central writing on politics, labor relations, and the general rabble-rousing in professional sports. He spent a decade working in the trade union movement with various locals across the country and currently serves as Dir. of Education and Advocacy for the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society.


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