Published November 11, 2021

Anytime a star player speaks honestly, openly and publicly about our union, it generates significant attention -- and this is especially true when Tom Brady does it.

Along with being one of the greatest players in our game’s history, he is also our longest serving union member, was a named plaintiff in 2011 against the NFL owners' lockout and he knows better than anyone that maximizing our leverage is the only way to get the best deals possible.

Tom wants players to win, understanding that the only way we can do this is by acting as a unified group. His comments on his show this week give me an opportunity to reiterate the goals I have set since becoming President and honestly address the challenges we face as a membership.

As I have said many times before, the players are the union.

WE are the NFLPA.

Nobody “dictates” what happens to our players because we are tasked with making the decisions.

This line from Tom spoke the most to me about our challenge: “We have union leadership, which absolutely does the best they can based on the circumstances that they have, but it is very challenging to get 1500 players to agree.”

He’s right. And there’s no doubt that it is harder for our membership to act in a united way, given our diverse makeup that sometimes results in competing interests within our own “team.” We have young players, minimum salary players, star QBs, special teams veterans, practice squad hopefuls and more within a membership that has a turnover rate of nearly 25% every year. The NFL owners have 31 billionaires who are in this game for life.

Tom is challenging us to move in a way similar to the owners – which is to act as a unified group, even if we disagree, and fight in a coordinated way for what we deserve. The formula is not complicated, but getting everyone to commit to this formula is much more difficult for us than it is for them.

I have been at the bargaining table where NFL owners make simple calculations about what players will do if they say "no." I have been there when we are trying to manage our goals and what our membership will do to achieve those goals, if opposed.

Despite this challenge, we know it is possible. We came together just last year, when we were negotiating for the best possible COVID-19 protocols to protect our safety and our checks, when more than 400 players got behind a #WeWantToPlay message vocalizing in a unified way what we demanded out of those negotiations. Our unity at the bargaining table as a leadership group was a factor, but seeing our players come together as one publicly is what helped our negotiating team achieve nearly all of our bargaining goals.

I respect and appreciate that Tom is so outspoken about the need for players to be willing to fight in a unified way, but it must be more than just him or a small group. Every single one of our members should be committed to pushing in the same direction on our union’s issues. Tom made the most compelling case for players sitting out our offseason, as he led the charge against us risking our health over essentially free labor. Players who were on board with this, together, negotiated better offseason programs than those who did not.

We need to be willing to fight in an organized and coordinated way whenever a battle presents itself, and Tom is right in saying that we cannot simply wait until the next CBA. We, the players, must commit ourselves to more than just lip service and come together to establish a culture of unity.

We are the leverage. We are the power. We are the “product” that people pay to see.

We need every one of our members to not only understand this truth, but be willing to act on it, together.