The supposed Roger Goodell – Colin Kaepernick meeting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently asked for a 1:1 meeting with Colin Kaepernick. It seems that he requested the meeting as long ago as October 31st, which is after Kaepernick and his legal team had announced that they were filing a collusion complaint against the NFL.
Although the initial leak claimed that Kaepernick had not formally responded to the invitation, it seems that he did in fact respond. In alignment with the policy of the NFLPA, Kaepernick said that he would attend the meeting on two conditions: (1) the subjects did not include his grievance claim for collusion, and (2) a mediator was present at the meeting. (2) has been part of the NFLPA policy on meetings with the Commissioner for a while. Quite simply, the NFLPA does not trust Goodell to act in the best interests of the players. The trust has been eroded by three consecutive issues: the new CBA is less favorable to the players in terms of revenue distribution, the players believe that the Commissioner has been abusing his powers to levy discipline, and now the Commissioner has been weaselling over the anthem protests.
The NFL apparently rejected the proposal for a mediator to be present, and so the meeting, in common with several other proposed meetings, is not going to happen in its originally proposed form. The NFLPA insists on a mediator being part of the process; the NFL is declining to have one involved.
What is also clear is that until quite recently Roger Goodell’s position as Commissioner was far from secure. His contract expires in 2019, and negotiations to give him a new 5 year contract had become bogged down, with several NFL owners (including Jerry Jones) said to be lobbying for additional performance clauses in the contract. However, it seems that Jones may now have removed himself from that process, which will allow a new contract to be finalized.
The deterioration in the relationship between the players and the NFL owners over the anthem protests is a visible result of a more fundamental tension that Goodell is stuck with; namely that 70+% of the players in the NFL are black, but over 70% of the audience and fans are white, and the NFL owners are (with one exception) older white men, some of them very politically conservative.
The bigger demographic issue that the NFL must also be aware of is that the average age of NFL supporters is steadily increasing. The current NFL does not have much appeal to younger people. The games are too long, the game is seen as violent, and the NFL has been seen as negligent in its tolerance of CTE and bad behavior at all levels as long as teams win games and are perceived as successful.
Right now, the relationship between the NFLPA and the commissioner is a fragile one, but Goodell is smart enough to realize that in 3 years’s time he will be leading a re-negotiation of the CBA, and he will need a much better relationship by then if that negotiation is to be a win:win. This will be especially true if NFL viewing figures continue to decline, meaning that there will be a lot less money to go around. The players felt that the owners screwed them over financially in the last CBA, so they will be taking a hard line on that issue, and the discipline process will also be on the table. This negotiation will be fractious. The NFLPA ought to be preparing for a lock-out.

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