Russell Okung's Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against NFLPA Dismissed by NLRB

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2020

Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung (76) plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. The Chargers won 33-30. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The National Labor Relations Board dismissed a charge of unfair labor practices filed by Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung against the NFLPA. 

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the board's decision Thursday, noting Okung is expected to file an appeal. He has until May 20 to officially file.

In his initial filing, Okung said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith violated labor practices by pushing a vote on the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement despite the objections of the executive committee. The executive committee voted 6-5 against recommending the CBA, which was later ratified by the players in a close vote.

"Our union learned from press reports yesterday of a charge made by an NFL player referencing a violation of constitutional process for a new collective bargaining agreement," the NFLPA said in a March statement. "We fully complied with our constitution, which spells out the process for the Board of Player Representatives to approve sending a proposed new collective bargaining agreement to the full membership for a vote. With respect to the other allegations reportedly in the charge, those issues were addressed by the full Executive Committee and shared with the Board of Player Representatives." 

Okung has not formally sued Smith or the NFLPA in an attempt to block the agreement. It's unclear if he plans to do so.

Much of the wrangling took place before the coronavirus pandemic sent the entire sports world into a state of uncertainty. While there was strong pushback from members of the union, particularly prominent stars like Aaron Rodgers, it's likely more players support labor peace now than in March. Re-opening the CBA talks, should the complaint or a suit by Okung be successful, would leave players wading uncertain waters in the midst of a pandemic.