Will Russell Okung sue to block the CBA vote?
Russell Okung’s effort to block the proposed CBA from within the NFL Players Association has ended. He will now presumably continue his fight externally.
With the window for the CBA vote closing on Saturday night, the clock is ticking loudly. If Okung hopes to prevent the CBA from becoming effective, he’ll need to seek a court order that ends the voting so that the issues raised by Okung’s filing with the National Labor Relations Board can properly be addressed.
Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com reports that Okung has hired attorney Peter Ginsberg to handle the matter. Ginsberg has a history of grappling with the league; he’ll now turn his attention to the NFLPA. And his best chance of keeping the CBA from becoming final and effective and binding between the NFL and the NFLPA will be to obtain a preliminary injunction that will allow Okung’s claims against the NFLPA to be resolved through litigation.
Whether a court will intervene remains to be seen. Based on the NLRB charge, Okung will argue that the NFLPA tried to silence him with threats of criminal prosecution and union sanction, “specifically for behaviors that could not be construed under any circumstances as harmful.” If Okung can offer compelling evidence of such claims within the confines of a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction, a judge could decide to press pause on the voting.
But other factors will make it harder for Okung to block the voting. First, the NFL is poised to embark on a new league year, with dramatic differences between the rules applicable to the last year of the current CBA and the first year of the new CBA. Delaying the vote operates, as a practical matter, as defeating the vote, forcing the league to embark on the 2020 season under rules that could reduce spending in the coming year by $600 million to $700 million.
Second, Okung could have started the legal effort to block the voting more than two weeks ago, when the NFLPA pushed the new CBA to a vote of the board of player representatives even though the Executive Committee voted against the CBA. Within those two weeks (which otherwise has seen the world change dramatically), a lot of things could have been done differently by the NFL and the NFLPA to avoid what will be a major inconvenience if the voting is postponed until after players are signed (or not signed) under the more restrictive rules of the final year of the pending CBA.
However it plays out, the exit of Okung from union leadership means that the fight isn’t ending but merely starting. Either way, it needs to move quickly.