Last week, the formerly toothless NFLPA asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to open an investigation as whether there’s any connection between Drew Brees’ prominent role as a union bulldog and the New Orleans Saints inability to come to contract terms with the 33 year-old quarterback. Brees recently likened the league’s alleged stash of Bounty Gate evidence to Iraq’s invisible WMD’s, an analogy that caused labor relations expert Chris Russo to dub the NFL’s 2012 Offensive Player Of The Year, “a phony”. Said dis is the least of Brees’ concerns, however, as The Nation’s Dave Zirin submits the Westlake High (Austin, TX) product is being made to suffer for not accepting the Saints’ Bounty Gate punishments with a smile. ” If the message from the NFL is that being an active unionist is grounds for intimidation and punishment,” writes Zirin, “The AFL-CIO, of which the NFLPA is a member, needs to make it plain: an injury to one is an injury to all. Even quarterbacks.”
There are those who will scoff about Brees, the millionaire quarterback, being any kind of trade union martyr. They are already saying that the NFLPA has no place in this “negotiation.” The scoffers will have television programs, radio shows and nationally read columns. They are the creators of conventional wisdom. They are also wrong.
There is no higher cultural platform in the country than the National Football League. NBC’s Sunday Night Football is the highest-rated program of the fall season. The Super Bowl is the most watched program in the history of this country. Drew Brees has been one of the faces of this league since the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010. If he can be spanked like an unruly child for the crime of standing with his union, what does that portend for the public sector worker in Ohio, the Chicago teacher who just voted to go on strike or the Starbucks barista trying to start a union? I’m not saying that Drew Brees is some kind of Joe Hill with a tight spiral, but this is about ensuring that anyone who wants a union or is in a union can speak out in defense of their livelihood.