As requested, I will provide my insight/thoughts on the NFL/NFLPA's deal to allow Goodell to discipline 8 players for conduct which occurred during the lockout. Before I lay out my thoughts, please keep in mind I have not practiced in this area of law in a long time. This is simply my legal opinion without doing a massive amount of research. (I'm also laying the groundwork for Josh to contact a local attorney on the issue and place a "Legal Perspective" post on the front page. Ha!)
1. If I am those 8 players I would look to join in a lawsuit against the NFLPA. Normally, when it comes to unions, there are representatives who are elected to represent the interests of the union as a whole. Their votes will bind all membership of the union and they are entrusted with securing the best contract for the members of that union. The interesting aspect here is that the union representative agreed to a "side deal" regarding 8 specific members of the union and this "side deal" was to their detriment. As such, I believe the NFLPA's actions could be held to violate the applicable federal laws. Depending on how the NFLPA is organized, the other NFL players could also have a claim b/c this appears to be a deal brokered by Demaurice Smith and didn't involve the player representatives from each team.
2. One of the other reasons the players could have a valid claim is that they appeared to have been singled out while other players with a history of misconduct were excluded. How did the NFL and NFLPA come to that decision and what was the rationale behind the decision.
3. The players are being disciplined for actions which occurred while they were not members of the NFLPA and were not employees of the NFL. This fact alone is going to give the NFL an uphill battle in attempting to discipline these players.
4. This inequitable treatment of players who have committed misconduct opens Goodell and the NFL up to a lawsuit b/c it costs the players financially and they have no comparative alternative. The NFL has enjoyed years of antitrust protection. Part of their protection has been a result of how they handle situations and the lack of those hardball tactics utilized by AT&T when they were better known as Ma Bell. The government broke up Ma Bell under antitrust laws and, more importantly for the NFL, they forced Ma Bell to assist other companies in getting started (to include using their infrastructure, etc). Part of the reason antitrust laws exist is to protect citizens from being forced into an option where there is a lack of competition. If the NFL and Goodell continues on this path they are going to risk their antitrust protection. If that occurs, they could be forced to assist in the start-up of a competing league, etc. I don't think a result like this is imminent, but I do think their actions are causing the door to open toward an antitrust lawsuit.
5. There could potentially be a collusion lawsuit against the NFL and NFLPA, compromising the NFLPA's union certification.
IMO, this is a pretty arrogant move by both the NFL and NFLPA. If the 8 players push it, I could see it going one of two ways: 1. The NFL and NFLPA really push back hard in an attempt to assert their power and show the players "who is boss". 2. The lawyers for the NFL and NFLPA realize that it isn't worth jeopardizing the antitrust protection and the black eye with the fans by fighting to discipline 7 players (as far as I can tell Hagans has never had any misconduct) and they convince the NFL and NFLPA to just drop it. If it was me, I would push them toward #2. It just isn't worth the risk.
As before, I'll do my best to answer any questions but, since this isn't my area of practice, it may take me some time to respond b/c I'll have to research some things.