Agent Brad Blank remembers the last time the NFL Players Association decertified in the early 1990s and there were dire predictions of chaos and player poaching among the agent ranks. The chaos never materialized and Blank smartly knows why.
He tells it this way: In theory, when the union is normally a union, if one agent steals the client of another agent, the pilfered can file a complaint against the pilferer within the NFLPA. Such a case usually goes before arbitrator Roger Kaplan, whose teeth aren't necessarily all that sharp (the arbitrator has no subpoena power) and the outcome is ... well, nothing.
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While not as sexy a target as the draft the incoming rookies might also stay away from a recent staple: the rookie symposium. Read
Consider this fact: no agent has ever been punished for stealing a client by the arbitrator. Ever. Not since the arbitration system was set up in 1993. This despite client stealing happening all the time, practically every day, in the NFL.
In a decertified world -- then and now -- there's no union. No collective bargaining agreement. No arbitrator. So let the poaching begin, right?
Blank says no. Under the CBA, agents must settle their disputes before Kaplan. Now, with no arbitration system, agents can sue alleged client stealers under state and federal law. Thus, in effect, with no union, agents are free to litigate in court, and that prospect is far scarier to potential client stealers than a toothless arbitrator.
"There's not going to be a lot of poaching and stealing of clients," said Blank, "because now without the union, agents can sue. There's going to be the opposite of chaos."
Supposedly, disorder will descend upon the NFL now that the union has decertified. Cats and dogs, Usher sex tapes.
The New York Times called this CBA-less period a "test of morals," like the NFL has suddenly become Sodom and Gomorrah.
An agent stealing from other agents was one supposed piece of no-CBA insanity. Players failing drug tests or getting arrested in large numbers is supposed to be another.
Due to the absence of a CBA, there's no drug testing or criminal-conduct policy in place. They expired along with the CBA. There is also no retroactive punishment.
You know what's going to happen as the two sides work on a new agreement?
Nothing abnormal. It'll be the same old offseason. Players aren't suddenly going to start trafficking drugs or putting heroin in their system because the CBA just died. A legion of Pacman Joneses won't suddenly sprout like weeds in an untreated lawn.
"I'm robbing a bank now," one veteran player said sarcastically.
Players who want to commit malfeasance are going to do it anyway. A CBA never stopped those with bad intentions.
This is one place a difference might be felt: the rookie symposium. The NFL considers the symposium its first line of defense in keeping players out of financial and legal trouble.
If no agreement, no symposium, and that could have longer-term issues.
But for now -- for right now -- as the labor situation drones on, there won't be chaos.