David Cornwell: ‘Union Is Not Protecting Players’ Interests’

Regardless of your opinion on Adrian Peterson and the NFL’s decision to suspend him for the rest of the season, you have to ask yourself a very important question: Is giving the commissioner absolute power in cases like this a wise thing? After all, history has taught us that giving one person absolute power is usually not a good idea.

“This is really a complicated issue that goes back to the early 1900s with (former MLB commissioner) Judge Landis and the Black Sox scandal,” executive director of the NFL coaches association David Cornwell said on The MoJo Show. “Commissioners are empowered to protect the integrity of the game, and these disciplinary issues carry over . . . to the public’s support to the game. So that’s properly within the commissioner’s authority, but the question is how he exercises it. And when you have something like what we saw today – the discipline against Adrian – I think we recognize that the union missed an opportunity in 2011 with the collective bargaining agreement. This issue is overwhelming everything else in the NFL. The parties need to call time out, go away and figure out a plan to address discipline going forward.”

Chris Moore suggested that both sides – the NFL and the union – need to agree on an independent third party to help them work together and influence major decisions such as the one involving Peterson. Could such a model be on the horizon?

“I think it might be a little bit of a different structure, a little twist on what you suggest,” Cornwell said. “But you may have some type of disciplinary board that reviews cases and makes disciplinary recommendations based on a framework that’s previously agreed to. But ultimately, I think it will fall on the commissioner’s desk as the final authority to impose discipline and perhaps the disciplinary board would give him options if they didn’t agree with what he decided. Maybe an appeal goes back to the board or something like that.

“But I think we have to be careful and not let the pendulum swing too far in recognizing that the commissioner’s power to protect the integrity of the game is also the reason why we’ve had such extraordinary growth in football and the other sports in America,” Cornwell continued. “They have this exclusive authority because they understand the business and they make good judgments on behalf of the owners. So we do not want to take his power away because it’s been used successfully in other areas.”

That’s a fair point. But wouldn’t it make sense for the NFL to do something that at least gives players the impression that they have a voice?

“What disappoints me in Adrian’s case is we have seen a pattern from the union with these broad pronouncements and fake toughness and creating the illusion of protecting players’ interests,” Cornwell said. “But look at what happened. Adrian was sacrificed. He was sacrificed to make a point. We cannot have this anymore. The union is chasing headlines and not protecting players’ interests. They forgot to address discipline in 2011 – or was afraid to. Who knows? But look what’s happening. This union needs to step up, change its approach, get in the room with the commissioner and figure this out.”

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