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Richard Sherman explains criticisms of NFL, commissioner, owners: “We have issues we need solved”

Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard on Jets, Richard Sherman, more

Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard talks with the media Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at team headquarters in Renton.
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Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard talks with the media Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at team headquarters in Renton.

RENTON Richard Sherman has expanded his platform far beyond playing football. Again.

This time, he’s going after pro football itself. As in, the people who run it.

The Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro cornerback sat at his locker, away from the television cameras this time, before Thursday’s practice and explained his criticisms of the NFL and in particular commissioner Roger Goodell -- beefs he also discussed in his segment on The Players’ Tribune earlier in the day.

His comments on The Players’ Tribune included “the NFL really could care less” about player safety and “we really don’t have a reason to trust the NFL...they are a bottom-line business.”

“Just got to give the people the information that they don’t get -- and they probably really don’t care about,” Sherman said at his locker, when I asked him about expanding his platform that last week included his stance on police killings in America.

“A lot of times when you are dealing with the league, you know, they want a good game -- but only as long as they are making money. People say they don’t like this, if they stop watching for any reason, they will change the game. They will change the rules. They will do anything they can to make sure people will continue to watch. That’s one thing we are all cognizant of, because that’s the one (bit of) leverage we have.”

I asked Sherman what his intent was in taking on the NFL and raising issues now that may end up collectively bargained between the league and its players’ union -- for which Sherman is on the executive committee. Thing is, the NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement doesn’t end until after the 2020 season.

“Just to inform,” he said. “To make sure people are informed about things. When we don’t have labor peace I think the players get the short end of the stick. Fans blame the players, usually, and make it seem like the players are the bad guys and that we should just sit back and play the game and be appreciative. (That’s) not understanding the sacrifices and issues that players deal with.

“I think sometimes it’s better to inform people than to attack them.”

With his place on the NFL Players’ Association’s executive committee, Sherman is in the know on discussions going on among players and their leadership league-wide. Sherman is the Seahawks’ player representative to the union, with defensive end Michael Bennett and quarterback Russell Wilson as Seattle’s alternates. This is the first year Wilson’s been an alternate player rep.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have said this my rookie year because I just didn’t know enough. The rookies come in, they don’t know the status of the league or negotiations,” Sherman said. “I mean, they shake hands with the commissioner at the draft. That’s obvious, that’s apparent that they don’t understand. So as they spend more time in the league they understand there are issues that are going on, there are disparities. There are things that are out of their control that should be in their control. When they get fined $20,000 when they only make $16,000 (a week), they realize what the league is doing, and that we have issues that we need to solve.”

Asked if he believed rookies should not shake Goodell’s hand at the draft once they are selected, Sherman said: “I just think at that point they think the commissioner cares about them and is happy for them, and by the time they are done with their first or second year they understand what the job really is.”

Sherman says a big player contention right now is the size of the fines Goodell levies for on- and off-the-field incidents.

“This game is played at an incredible, break-neck speed,” Sherman said. “Some of the fines these guys are getting, the money that’s being taken out of their pockets, are for things they can’t control. Their coaches are asking them to do a job and they are doing it to the best of their ability.

“With the NBA, for example, I don’t see fines exceeding, you know, $5,000, $6,000, as the usual -- unless somebody has done something really egregious. But I think our fine schedule with what the owners and the front-office guys and their fine schedule. And the maximum they can be fined, I believe, is $50,000 -- regardless of the circumstances.

“People forget that when a player gets suspended, for anything, they lose four game checks. And four game checks is more than $50,000 any day of the week, no matter what. I think that needs to change. Guaranteed contracts, obviously, need to change. There needs to be more guarantees for players, because you go out there and break your neck and do permanent damage to your body, it’s nice to know at least you will make some money. In the end, there are players that injure themselves pretty badly, and walk away from this game with not a lot of money and not a lot to show for it. And that’s the unfortunate part.”

In 2014 the league fined Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay $500,000 and suspended him six games after Irsay pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor account of driving while impaired.

I asked Sherman if he was concerned of the perception he is biting the hand that literally feeds him by criticizing the league; Sherman is in the second year of a four-year, $56 million contract extension from the Seahawks and is getting $12,569,000 in base salary this year.

“Not at all,” he said. “I could care less. I am just pointing out the issues. If there wasn’t any issues to deal with, there would be nothing to talk about, right?”

Sherman said the way for players to get money and ground back is to make issues such as fines, the commissioner’s authority to impose and enforce them and guaranteed pay issues to be collectively bargained.

“That’s the only way you get any ground back with our league is the bargaining table,” Sherman said.

“They are very stringent and stingy with that kind of stuff. As you can see with the concussion settlement, they are going to fight tooth and nail regardless of the platform or who they are dealing with. So we expect that.”

Does that mean Sherman sees a potential lockout or strike or any sort of impasse after the 2020 season when the CBA is due for renewal?

“Who knows? I’m not an owner. There may be some things that they aren’t willing to budge on. And there will be things that we aren’t willing to budge on. Usually, depending on how stubborn both sides are, anything can happen.”

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