For the past 10 years, the owners of the NFL have dominated the establishment without very much resistance from the players. Russell Okung, offensive tackle for Los Angeles Chargers, and current Vice President for the National Football League Players Association, is looking to stir things up.
He is the first player to declare his candidacy in the upcoming election to replace Eric Winston, who must step down in March as he is no longer an active player.
Okung’s presidential ambitions come after a tough year of hits, that created blood clots in his lungs and leg; all of which resulted in hospital visits, and ending up on the teams non-football injury list – that could’ve cut his multimillion-dollar salary.
It sparked an ambition to change things in the players favor – after all they are the ones with the most to lose, and their union should be working for them.
In May 2019, league executives and the player’s union began discussions over a new collective bargaining agreement. Their hope is to avoid fourth-month lockout, similar to the debacle of 2011. Members from each party hope to see the NLF into more gains; for the players, they’d like continued growth in player compensation, improvements to player health and safety, and better retirement plans.
Okung does not plan to let negotiations fall on terms that do not favor the players of the sport; with him in the leadership, the NFLPA will see a more aggressive union.
“Are we in an equitable agreement with management?” Okung said. “Right now, the answer is no. This (negotiations) will take as long as it needs to.”
He intends to fight for a greater share of the leagues revenue, and more power to audit the leagues finances. He ultimately wants a stronger arbitration system, to redefine what owners share.
Okung feels the current NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith’s working relationship with Roger Goodell – the NFL’s Commissioner may be a problem. The two worked together back in 2011 in the deal that extended the current CBA from a five- year contract to 10 years.
The league owners have also been wanting to add a 17th game to the regular season, which Okung and many others oppose. The 16 games already endured bring enough damage to their bodies.
An extra game is unthinkable, “without recognizing the suffering of our retired players,” Okung said. “We can’t neglect those issues in order to get more money. Am I going to trade health and safety for a buck?”
It’s safe to say the answer is no.