NFL owners and players faced off last Friday at Appeals Court Stadium in St. Louis in an event that sports writers treat as a game with a final score at the end. I have the players ahead 14-10 in their labor dispute with the owners, but at the opening of the third quarter, the owners are driving to score by obliterating the players' anti-trust defense.
[Please end this lockout soon!]
The owner's appeal of District Court Judge Susan Nelson injunction ending the league's player lockout is the judicial version of a review by the replay officials to be sure the on-field official [Judge Nelson] got the ruling right. Nelson ruled last May that a player's union no longer exists, thus labor law no longer applies, rendering a lockout illegal.
The lull between the Appeals Court hearing and the decision is perfect timing to make this point:
Players are why the NFL is good. Owners are why the NFL is BIG.
Neither side works without the other. Neither side works well when the two sides area out of balance.
We are in this mess today because the owners rushed to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2006 without considering all the implications of overweighting revenue to the players. The players are making the same mistake in the rush to end the lockout without considering that parts of the contract might really be hurting the league.
The owners say that the contract structure is not sustainable. The owners have not provided clear, compelling evidence of that. I believe the owners blundered in executing the lockout. The players blundered by decertifying the Players' Union, their greatest lever to deal with the owners.
The Appeals Court may have seen through that charade. The appelate judges hinted that both side could be unhappy with their ruling. Both sides took that to be the threat it was meant to be and reopened negotiations last week in Chicago—without lawyers present.
Never time to do it right, but plenty of time to do it over
This labor conflict is the do-over of the negotiation that should have taken place in 2006. Owners must approach the process without guile and without trust-busting tactics like lockouts. The players helped themselves and fans in prior negotiations by weighing to the health of the league and their role to bring it about. That was a singular approach for a labor union. More unions, including the post-Gene Upshaw Players' Association, should emulate it.
Players panned Upshaw for being a toady to the owners. His critics were not around before the modern free agency period and the complex rules that made the NFL good and big. Upshaw, a Hall of Fame player (Raiders, 1967-1981) was keenly aware of those times, also known as the bad old days for players.
I liked those days. You had the sense that your team's players were your players. Now, you have the sense that players see themselves as employees of the NFL more than of their current team. How many players know the words to Hail To The Redskins, or Fly Eagles Fly, or Bear Down Chicago Bears?
After Upshaw's death, the Players' Association lessened their concern for the welfare of the league (owners made this easy to do) in favor of preserving uninterrupted income. Their approach to defeat the lockout is as shortsighted as the owner's approach to lock them out.
The owners and players are approaching this period as a do-over. They should take the time to do it right, by doing right for everyone, so that we do not go through this again, ever. If it takes until Halloween, then take the time needed. But, get it right.
We will live, in deep withdrawal, yes. But we will live.
Tomorrow: Why the players should not go the anti-trust route
Great article, Anthony... I will link Eagles fans to it.... I'm starting to think you are absolutely correct in your thinking---take the time to get it right!
@Tom Jackson Gosh. Thanks, Tom. I'll have to check that out on Eagles Eye on the Bloguin Network.
Next up in this series is what the players cannot be serious about charging the owners with anti-trust violations. The **LAST** thing the players want is to force teams to deal with players as individuals. That would be catastrophic for the last 30 players on every team because they would have to negotiate individual contracts. The bottom half of the roster are the most easily replaced players on every roster, so those guys would have all the bargaining power as me negotiating a job with Wal-Mart.
No, the players **want** teams to collude, which can only happen withing the law if the players bargain collectively through a labor union. Then the most vulnerable players can get better contracts.
The fact that DeMaurice Smith is so deeply involved in negotiations now is evidence supporting the owners' claim that decertification was a sham to blow-up the lockout that was a term in the CBA the players say they are fighting to preserve.
Maybe only interesting to me.