Steelers Paid Price For CBA Vote - So Has NFL

The NFL and Roger Goodell had a chance to listen to the Steelers, but they all ignored their unanimous vote. Matt Steel explains how it's all blown up in Goodell's face.

OK, saving Roger Goodell wasn't the Steelers' intention, but had the other 31 teams followed their lead and voted against the CBA, which became official on July 25th, 2011, the current scrutiny upon the NFL and its commissioner likely would have been avoided.

When asked about the Ray Rice case following the release by TMZ of the second surveillance video, Troy Polamalu reminded the media why the Steelers were the lone team to vote against the CBA.

"I know one of our main contentions," said Polamalu, "was that the commissioner had sole power in being the judge and jury in these cases."

Understanding negotiation politics a little bit, I'm not surprised that in the three years the CBA has been in place, the Steelers have been on the road for all three of their Thursday night games, including two straight years against the Baltimore Ravens. Last season, the Steelers became the first team since 2009 to have a road Thursday game following a road game the previous week. In each of the three years since the CBA was passed, they've had a short week going into a contest against their biggest rival. The Steelers are 0-3 in those games.

I guess you're not supposed to shake the giant bear.

To first understand why Goodell remained staunch during negotiations in maintaining judge, jury, and executioner power, one must first understand the primary goal of a corporation. I have a friend who has two business degrees. As he explained to me a long time ago, the rule in business is to increase profit margin every year. Whatever gains were made in a year, the profits should be more than what they were in the previous year.

Taking that corporate philosophy into account, it's not difficult to connect the dots to every one of the decisions Goodell and/or the NFL make. Goodell's supposed tough stance on drugs and conduct off the field, when he first became commissioner, had been done to make the NFL look better in the public eye, and therefore hopefully increase revenue.

The league's supposed concern over head injuries is why they'll penalize hard, clean hits. Yet if the league was so concerned about player safety, would they be trying to push for an 18-game season?

The head injury legislation in the game is another classic case of the league trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. John and Joan Q. Fan watch the game and see the big hit in the open field. Hopefully, those flags will prevent Joan from pulling her son out of little league football. Yet, what John and Joan don't see is the constant, smaller, less visible head-to-head collisions in the mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage.

Defensive end John Abraham of the Arizona Cardinals recently contemplated retirement after his latest concussion. At age 36, he's already experiencing memory loss. Yet I can't remember the last time I've seen a flag thrown for too big of a collision when a running back picks up a blitzing linebacker.

I believe it's just an excuse for the league to legislate more defense out of the game. Every other year, it seems, the league wants to enforce illegal contact beyond five yards. Illegal contact overuse, plus taking away hard hits on receivers and quarterbacks, equals a fantasy football free-for-all. Check out the latest NFL ticket-marketing ads. The latest commercial was all about appealing to the fantasy football guy.

As a business, why wouldn't they gear their product toward fantasy football? They probably know most Thursday night games will be blowouts. The home team has won roughly 80% of those debacles. Yet, Fantasy Guy keeps the ratings up. He wants to see if Bobby Rainey will get him some more points while ignoring the 56-0 score and poor product on the field. There are far more fans that are gambling addicts than football purists.

The NFL has already tipped the competitive balance of the league with Thursday night games. That should tell you how concerned they would be about tipping it further by adding a team in Europe. For a league that tries to project player safety, they don't seem too concerned about players walking out onto a field with serious jet lag against an opponent who doesn't.

The NFL has its Play 60 program. It's designed to make sure kids get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. A noble cause, except if you refer back to the business model you understand that likely the primary goal of the program is to keep kids interested in playing football.

Speaking of noble programs, try Googling "NFL profiting from breast cancer." There you will find several articles detailing all of the pink merchandise the NFL sells to support the cause, and learn that only 8.01% of the profit goes to breast cancer research. One link reveals that for every $100 spent on NFL "Pink" merchandise, only $3.54 goes to cancer research. Should it be a surprise that based on how the NFL has handled domestic violence, it'll use another plight of women to turn a profit?

Goodell wanted to be the judge, jury, and executioner in disciplinary and fine cases because it's what was best for business. When Goodell hands down a fine for illegal contact, he would likely hand out a stiffer fine than an independent body (as the Steelers had wanted), and therefore be more successful at moving the game in the direction he desires. He also would be in position to sweep messes under the rug while out of the public view, such as the 57 domestic violence cases brought to his desk since he was appointed commissioner. Keeping star players on the field is also what's best for business -- and its sponsors. But then technology got in the way, and videos and pictures brought to light the hypocrisy. The lying and backtracking that resulted have been obvious and insulting.

With Goodell being the judge and jury, not only have we watched domestic violence go unpunished, we've seen the most illogical of penalties. In Goodell's world, Rice knocking his fiancée out on an elevator is only twice as bad James Harrison doing his job the way he's been taught while giving maximum effort on a tackle.

According to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, his organization's sudden and drastic change of heart about suspending Adrian Peterson has everything to do with getting it right for the fans first. He wants you to somehow believe it didn't have anything to do with Radisson Hotels pulling out as the team's primary sponsor; or, more likely, Budweiser threatening possible withdrawal as an NFL sponsor.

Goodell's press conference Friday was nothing more than an attempt to save face, pull the wool over your eyes one more time, and hide his true intentions. His newfound passion for making changes to his domestic violence policies maintains face and the league's ability to increase profits. Both press conferences were insulting to anyone's intelligence. And the true league disciplinarians were exposed during these press conferences: the NFL sponsors.

Polamalu's statement was simple, yet powerful. His statement should inform those who are unaware of just how much detail goes into negotiations, that it's not all about pay.

As a teacher, only three pages of my 97-page contract are devoted to pay. Issues range from classroom sizes, working conditions, contract language, etc., all geared to combat an administration that unfortunately is oftentimes looking to do nothing but increase the bottom line at the expense of a child's quality education.

In the NFL, the range of issues negotiated upon is just as, if not more, vast. Sometimes one side can't save the other from itself. Unfortunately, owners couldn't save the players from their right to choose their helmets. The players seem to prefer risking concussions rather than wearing the helmet that makes them look like Rick Moranis in the "Spaceballs." And the players didn't save Goodell from the task of being the disciplinary headmaster, and now it's blown up in his face. As Polamalu said, "It's all on him."

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