The NFL is threatening to suspend Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, along with free-agent Mike Neal if they do not agree to meet with the league for interviews regarding Al Jazeera’s December documentary about doping in sports.
According to USA Today, NFL senior vice president of labour policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch told the NFL Players Association in a letter on Monday that the players must meet with the league by August 25. If they do not, they will be suspended indefinitely on August 26.
Each player would reportedly be suspended until they chose to do their interviews, whereas if and when they were to meet with the league, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would then decide afterwards whether or not they would be suspended.
All four players reportedly responded with their sworn affidavits, which they feel is sufficient. Here’s that of James Harrison:
James Harrison responds to NFL’s interview request with a sworn affidavit: pic.twitter.com/jpRYXUWty5
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 12, 2016
The NFLPA is standing by the four players. From USA Today:
The union also argued that players should not be required to cooperate with the investigation because Charlie Sly, the former anti-ageing clinic who implicated the players in hidden-camera footage in the documentary, later recanted his claims.
It’s hard to know whether or not the NFL will go through with these suspensions, though as we’ve seen time and again, Goodell has the unilateral power to do so under the current collective bargaining agreement, which doesn’t expire until 2021.
If the active NFL players are suspended, it seems likely that they would work with the NFLPA to challenge this in court. Sly, after all, recanted his claims. But as we learned with Deflategate, Goodell has the power to suspend players even without legitimately incriminating proof.
In other words, don’t expect this to go away any time soon.
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