Eagles' Johnson takes case to NLRB over NFL suspension

Philadelphia Daily News (TNS)
  • Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman was suspended for 10 games by the NFL.
  • The suspension was for a second violation of the league's ban on using performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Johnson has filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit with the NLRB over his suspension.

The NFL suspended Lane Johnson 10 games under a "hollowed-out process devoid of any protections," according to a statement by Johnson's attorney, Steve Zashin, related to a National Labor Relations Board complaint of unfair labor practices Johnson has filed against the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

The statement said the league and the players' union "violate federal law."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson.

Johnson was critical of the league and the union in August, when word surfaced that he would face the 10-game ban for a second violation of league rules against performance-enhancing drugs. He said then that he thought "players have no rights," and that he was getting "no backing" from the union, which "does not stand up for players."

However, Johnson ultimately softened much of the criticism of his union, which supported his appeal at an Oct. 4 hearing before an arbitrator. The appeal was denied, and Johnson, the Eagles' starting right tackle, began serving his suspension the week of the Oct. 16 Washington game. He is eligible to rejoin the team Dec. 19, three days before the Eagles' Thursday night game against the Giants.

When the appeal was denied, Zashin and agent Ken Sarnoff issued a statement that said Johnson was considering legal remedies, though the union was not mentioned as a possible target.

Johnson has served six games' worth of the suspension; filing a complaint at this point will hardly get him back in the lineup before Dec. 22. It presumably is aimed at saving the $4 million or so Johnson forfeited for being suspended in the first year of his new 5-year, $56-million-plus deal. Future guaranteed money also became unguaranteed when Johnson was suspended for the second time. He served four games in 2014, after testing positive for what he said was Adderall, without having sought a therapeutic exemption.

This time, a June 30 test was positive for banned peptides, which Johnson said were in an amino acid supplement, though they were not listed on the label. The NFL decrees that players are responsible for whatever they put in their bodies, knowingly or not.

Johnson said he'd scanned the supplement label with the union's Aegis app - but the union cautions players that supplements can contain substances not listed on labels.

The statement issued Tuesday affirms the filing with the NLRB and continues as follows:

"Lane also filed a complaint against the NFLPA with the Department of Labor ('DOL') under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

"During Lane's appeal, it became apparent that the written words in the collectively bargained Performance-Enhancing Substances (PES) Policy, under which Lane was disciplined, are meaningless.

"The PES Policy, as written, guarantees rights, protections and due process to players in recognition of the enormous consequences of discipline.

"The NFL and the NFLPA have undermined these protections leaving the players - including Lane - with a hollowed-out process devoid of any protections. The actions of the NFL and NFLPA violate federal law.

"Lane trusts that he can get a fair hearing with the NLRB and the DOL."