Portis Just the Tip of the Iceberg


So there are three bits of old news I’d like to cover. Normally I won’t cover old news, but I think these three items which happened over the course of the last two weeks have more to do with each other than people think.

The first is the announcement that the NFL is suspending Tank Johnson for 8 games. I think you’ve all heard about it, and I really don’t have anything to say. This is just another in a string of new suspensions for poor behavior.

The next is the now infamous Clinton Portis and Chris Samuels giggle fest over Vick’s dog fighting. More on this in a moment.

The final piece to this puzzle is the very interesting announcement that Mark Cuban is thinking about starting his own football league to compete against the NFL.

The common thread here is the NFL Player’s Union. Since the strike in the 80’s, the NFLPA has essentially given in to every demand ownership has made. The success of the replacement player gambit has instilled the fear of god in the NFLPA. Despite technically winning the legal battles, the players have believed since 1987 that if they truly balked at anything the NFL wanted, the league would simply replace them again. So now we have a salary cap, smaller rosters, the franchise tag, fines for socks being too high or too low, and the No Fun League rules against touchdown celebrations.

Fast forward to the present day. Tank Johnson gets 8 games for gun violations and prison time, but Pac Man Jones gets a full season before his trials have started. Mike Vick has multiple offseason run ins with the law and so far escapes penalty. You can argue that there are decent reasons for each of these decisions, but to the players and anyone else outside of Roger Goodell’s inner circle, it is starting to look a little inconsistent and sometimes draconian.

So when we look at CP’s comments about dog fighting we have to look beyond the stupidity of the actual statements and see the underlying cause. I believe that Portis was reacting to the pressures being put on by Goodell. The NFLPA has accepted every new mandate from the commisioner’s office. They didn’t even complain when they were told they can’t have a beer on an airplane anymore. Portis is a young, rich man who was really reacting to the NFL trying to tell him how to live his life and there was nothing he could do about it. It was frustrating him.

Enter Cuban. Mark Cuban represents the best chance since 1983 for the players to start getting the kind of financial and institutional freedom they’ve been trying to get for 25 years. Cuban is the kind of swashbuckling, customer-friendly businessman to give the NFL a run just like the owners of the AFL did. Imagine a league led by billionaires the likes of Cuban, the Maloof brothers, Donald Trump (former owner of a USFL team), Vince McMahon (you know he’d like another chance after the XFL), maybe even Richard Branson who seems to love to invest in crazy ideas.

Now imagine that league offering free agency and a safe harbor to the likes of Pac Man Jones and Mike Vick. Imagine getting drafted by both leagues and you can work for Mark Cuban or Dan Rooney? The Maloof Brothers or Ralph Wilson? Which would you choose?

Keep this in mind as Goodell pushes harder and harder. Don’t be surprised if you see the players push back every time Cuban announces a new franchise for his league.