Regardless of whether his claim with the National Labor Relations Board does or doesn’t have merit, Panthers tackle Russell Okung (No. 76 in the photo) did the right thing by taking his issues with the NFL Players Association out of the shadows and into the light of day.
It was clear that something far deeper than agreement-to-disagree on the terms of a labor deal had been going on, and now that Okung officially has made his allegations of bad-faith activity by NFLPA leadership, the deeper issues can be hashed out with both sides producing whatever evidence they may have to support their respective positions.
And the players, who may have believed that a “no” vote on the proposed CBA was nothing more than a middle finger to the owners, will realize that voting against the deal amounts to voting against NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and outgoing (as of today) NFLPA president Eric Winston. Ideally, voters would have had that kind of clarify from the moment voting opened five days ago; perhaps this balances out the fact that players didn’t receive a side-by-side comparison of the new CBA to the existing CBA from the NFLPA until Monday, the same day Okung’s complaint came to light.
Okung, one of the candidates for Winston’s position, probably didn’t help his campaign by taking aim at union leadership, but there wasn’t a strong belief that he could ever get 17 votes from the board of player representatives, given that 17 of them already have voted for the CBA that Okung so staunchly opposes. Indeed, it’s possible that Okung pivoted to the more public effort to clean house only after realizing his more subtle plan wasn’t going to work. Either way, it’s good that the players (and everyone else) now know where he stands.
However things play out, the NFLPA finds itself plunged into a rare state of chaos as voting continues on the new CBA, with Okung intent on blowing up the deal — and blowing out union leadership — whether through the office of the union presidency or through any available legal means (and the NLRB filing quite possibly will be followed at some point with a lawsuit). Whether Okung is right or wrong, every member of the union definitely now knows where he stands.