NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.– The series of occasions that made Russell Okung, an offending take on with the Los Angeles Chargers, recognize he required to require modification in the N.F.L. started in July, when he ended up being brief of breath throughout an off-season practice.
He went to the sideline however still had a hard time to breathe. He drove house. His better half insisted he see a medical professional.
The next early morning at the medical facility, a test exposed embolism in his lungs and left leg. Consulting with medical professionals, Okung discovered that individuals like him– 300- pound linemen who take in a great deal of hits — frequently get these embolisms, which he ‘d be fortunate to play once again.
When Okung informed the Chargers about his condition, the group put him on the non-football injury list, which might have permitted the group to slash his multimillion-dollar income.
” I seemed like I was being penalized,” he stated. “In what other occupation do you go to your company with whom you signed an agreement, and assured to honor that agreement, and have some deadly, deadly disorder, and the reaction is to cut your pay?”
Okung recuperated from the scare and went back to the field in November. After prolonged talks with the Chargers, he got his complete income. The episode drove house to Okung, a 10- year veteran, how susceptible N.F.L. gamers are.
Now, as Super Bowl week starts in South Florida, the possibility of an unstable year ahead looms, with a possible labor deadlock when again threatening the world’s most thriving sports league. Okung is outlining to make settlements as confrontational as possible.
Already a member of the executive committee of the N.F.L. Players Association, Okung prepares to run for union president to change Eric Winston, who should step down in March since he is no longer an active lineup. More broadly however, Okung’s life-altering medical diagnosis has actually stimulated him to wish to develop a much more aggressive union, to interrupt the status quo and reverse what he views as years of concessions, even if this causes a lockout or a strike when the cumulative bargaining contract ends after next season.
He wishes to defend a higher share of the league’s profits, and redefine what owners show the gamers. He is looking for much better healthcare and larger pensions for retired gamers. Okung stated the union requires more power to investigate the league’s financial resources and a more powerful arbitration system. He wishes to revamp the wage scale and even examine the existing union structure.
” Are we in a fair contract with management?” Okung stated. “Right now, the response is no. This will take as long as it requires to.”
Okung is the very first gamer to state his candidateship, however Richard Sherman, the star cornerback on the San Francisco 49 ers who has actually spoken frequently in defense of gamers’ rights, is likewise stated to be interested. Sherman, through a representative, decreased to talk about a possible run for union president.
George Atallah, a representative for the union, decreased to discuss the election and Okung’s problems about the existing union management.
Okung’s candidateship comes at a fragile time for the union and the league. The 32 owners have actually been pressing the union and its executive director, DeMaurice Smith, to restore the existing cumulative bargaining contract, which does not end for another 14 months, in March2021 The owners wish to lock down an offer as quickly as possible as a hedge versus the possibility of a compromising economy or lessened tv scores throughout an election year. Either occasion might harm their position in upcoming settlements for brand-new media handle the tv networks, which have actually hesitated to devote to brand-new arrangements without a warranty of long-lasting labor peace in between the owners and gamers.
The owners get about 53 percent of the billions of dollars in tv rights, sponsorships and product sales the league creates. Far, they have actually withstood sharing much more than that. (One portion point deserves $153 million each year based upon the league’s existing profits.)
The owners and the Players Association stay far apart on a number of basic concerns, according to a memo the union dispersed to its members just recently, consisting of the portion of overall profits the gamers would get and bigger pensions for gamers who retired prior to 1993.
The owners likewise wish to include a 17 th regular-season video game, which Okung and lots of gamers oppose. The 16- video game season is currently too harmful to their bodies, they stated.
The additional video game being pressed by owners is illogical “without acknowledging the suffering of our retired gamers,” Okung stated. “We can’t overlook those concerns in order to get more cash. Am I going to trade health and wellness for a dollar?”
To Okung, the owners have actually provided paltry concessions since they feel they can last longer than the gamers.
Former union leaders praised Okung for taking a viewpoint. Charles Grantham, the director of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall University and a long time executive at the National Basketball Players Association, stated Okung got in the league prior to the existing offer was struck in 2011 and can see how the owners outmaneuvered the gamers on a number of crucial concerns, consisting of extending the contract to 10 years from 5.
” It’s essential that a veteran like Russell advise all gamers that the pressure by management to sign a 10- year offer isn’t something you always require to do,” Grantham stated. “He can see the larger photo of where labor and management have actually been.”
The concern is whether Okung’s insurgent project suggests weak point for the gamers, who have actually battled with unity in the past, and whether owners will take on it to make use of a rift in the union.
Okung stated lots of other gamers support his aggressive technique to settlements.
The existing union management, he stated, has actually not pressed back at the owners hard enough.
” I anticipate more, and I’m not happy to be bashful about stating that,” Okung stated. “I’ve made it truly clear we require to tire every chance we have in order to put our gamers in a much better scenario to look after themselves, their households and to safeguard the future of this video game.”