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NFLPA has legitimate reason to go to bat for Brees in contract talks

Let me get this straight: Some of the unsigned free agents who were franchised by their teams are upset with the Players Association because they believe the union is giving preferential treatment to quarterback Drew Brees in his attempt to secure a multiyear deal from the Saints?

The union sent a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell last week asking for an investigation into the stalled negotiations between Brees and the team he led to the franchise's first Super Bowl win three seasons ago. That move didn't go over well with some of the seven other unsigned franchise players, who also want longterm deals.

Some of the players or their agents privately told Sports Xchange they believe Brees is receiving "favored nation" treatment because he strongly supported the union during last season's lockout. Sounds plausible except for one thing:

One has nothing to do with the other.

The union has stepped forward on Brees' behalf because of concerns that Brees is being discriminated against for supporting the Players Association and suing the league during last season's lockout. If true the behavior would be a violation of the collective bargaining agreement that was signed by the league and the union last summer. Article 49, Section 1 states: "There shall be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA."

The other unsigned franchise players were neither an executive committee member, like Brees, nor heavily involved in the labor fight, so the union has no grounds to seek an investigation into why they've been unable to secure longterm deals. Is Brees a favorite son of the Players Association? No question. The union needed the support of its marquee players to effectively battle the owners, and it got it when Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning agreed to be the lead plaintiffs in a suit against the league.

Still, the union's request for an investigation into Brees' contract negotiations is more about a possible violation of the collective bargaining agreement and less about repaying Brees for his labor support. When a player tells Sports Xchange, "Nothing against Drew, but he's kind of become (the union's) fair-haired boy," or an agent says the PA is making Brees "some kind of a Messiah or something," they're correct. But they're also wrong to say that it's the primary reason for the investigation request.

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