"You don't own me" is the background lyric accompanying those NFL women's apparel commercials that have been running a lot lately. Maybe they were intended to sell NFL jerseys before the lockout, but it's the theme NFL players delivered to the owners Friday evening.
You don't own me, I'm not just one of your many toys
You don't own me, don't say I can't go with other boys
In preordained moves, the former labor union for the owners "renounced its status as the collective bargaining agent for NFL players." The Player's Union went so far as to vaporize its web site. NFLPlayers.com draws a code 404 "not found" error this morning.
NFLLockout.com is up and running with a simple 10-point list of their version why bargaining broke down. The site has links to the player's anti-trust lawsuit filed Friday and to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith's memo to team owners informing that the union no longer represents any player. And yes, Smith really did close the memo with "I wish you and your club good luck for the upcoming season."
And don't tell me what to do
And don't tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don't put me on display,
Meanwhile, NFL.com is business as usual running stories about players and draft prospects. No 404 error there. Harder to find is the link to the owner's offer that the union rejected. The league offered higher salary caps escalating to $161 million by 2014, a guaranteed salary to a player in the year after he suffers a debilitating injury, medical plan for life, and 60 percent boost to the retirement plan for former players.
Oh, NOW the owners present their offer as an increase in salary cap rather than a take back of the split of TV revenue they agreed to in 2006. Why didn't they position it that way from the beginning? And where are the retired football heroes to speak up for the owners after being denied higher pensions because the union walked out? Is that really too hard to think of, owners?
The players out-maneuvered the owners at every turn on the p.r. front. Even their position on NFLLockout.com is easier to digest than the owner's statement. That's very odd given the league's vaunted marketing prowess.
But this time, the union players overplayed their hand. By decertifying, they've placed matters in the hands of a judge. Judges base their findings on contracts and on the law. It is presumptuous--and risky-- of players to expect Judge David Doty to find in their favor because that has been the pattern since 1993.
Opt-out and lockout are provisions of the CBA. It's not clear to me that Judge Doty will prevent the owners from going that route.
In case he doesn't, the players pursue a parallel strategy of filing anti-trust charges, using its brightest stars as plaintiffs. But the owner's haven't engaged in anti-competitive behavior yet. First they have to collude in contracts offered to free agents and rookies. Who says they will do that?
The only thing keeping individual teams from writing their own deals with individual players is habit. Absent a labor agreement, there is nothing to prevent Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton from making their best deal with any team they choose, rather than solely with the team that chose them.
This is Dan Snyder's dream, to buy any player he wants. If that's how things turn out, everything Snyder's done wrong to build a team will be right and my criticism of him will cease.
Points after: Player plaintiffs in the anti-trust suit against the NFL - "Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson, Ben Leber, Logan Mankins, Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Brian Robison, Osi Umenyiosa, and Mike Vrabel...."
"You Don't Own Me" songwriters John Madara and David White, popularized by Lesley Gore in 1964, produced by Quincy Jones. NFL operations cease with the lockout, including sale of licensed apparel, so you won't be seeing that NFL commercial for awhile.