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League, union handling Johnson talks

We wrote earlier Friday about the settlement talks currently underway regarding Larry Johnson’s future with the Chiefs.

The assumption was that the talks were happening between the Chiefs and Johnson’s agent, but PFT’s Mike Florio has learned that the discussion has reached higher levels of the sport.

The NFL and the NFLPA have been discussing how to handle the issue because this is a potential precedent-setting case. A player hasn’t been suspended for comments on Twitter before, and we’re reporting that both sides fear the possibility of a bad outcome.

For example, the league could lose the hearing outright. There are potential first amendment questions that could be raised. Essentially, how far can a team go in restricting what a player says in the current collective bargaining agreement?

From the union’s perspective, Larry Johnson’s long history as a turd could influence the outcome. Johnson has been suspended by the league before, so he could be viewed as a repeat offender. The union risks losing a precedent-setting case because the player whose rights they are trying to advance is a royal pain.

The quandary brings to mind Terrell Owens’ case against the Eagles in 2005. There was a belief at the time that Owens had a strong case when the NFLPA fought for him, but ultimately Owens’ history of misbehavior cost him. And future players.

Another repercussion is that a binding decision on how Twitter is handled at the league level could be a bargaining chip in the next round of CBA negotiations. Neither side wants to get a bad ruling, then potentially have to fix it when the CBA comes up. The thinking is that the union and the league would rather control their fate now.

Johnson’s appeal is expected to be filed Friday, and a hearing was expected Tuesday.

It sounds like the league and union will be working hard in the meantime to come up with a solution that could have far-reaching effects for NFL players and teams.