The NFL and the NFLPA are moving closer and closer to the expiration of their labor deal, and both sides are far more interested in sniping at each other than in trying to work out a deal.
Less than two weeks after reportedly productive meetings focused on a possible 18-game season, the rhetoric and the red herrings continue, with no progress being made toward giving us what NFLPA spokesman George Atallah described to me a week ago as the ultimate Christmas present for the fans — labor peace on earth, or at least on the frozen tundra.
Instead, we’re all more likely to get coal and/or reindeer road apples.
Both sides are failing. They’re failing the fans, the game, and themselves.
The latest skirmish comes from a conference call conducted Friday by the NFLPA, in which the ongoing parade of lockout horribles was supported by a hired-gun economist who talked about the obvious reality that, if games aren’t played in 2011, money won’t be spent in hotels and bars and other places in the vicinity of football stadiums that see increased business when games are played there.
The league made matters worse by responding with a gratuitous taunt. “The fairy tales continue,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
None of this is going to help get a deal done. Instead, both sides are hoping to conjure support from a public that isn’t taking sides, no matter how hard the parties try to make this into a series of red state/blue state wedge issues.
So when the union tells us all the obvious about the impact of not playing games, the union wastes its time, the media’s time, and the time of anyone with the misfortune of reading about it. When the league offers up a snarky response, the NFL compounds the wasted time by making it even harder for these two partners to ever quit acting like enemies.
Meanwhile, when we tried earlier this week to get Aiello and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah to tell us when the two sides would next be meeting to work on a new deal and whether any progress had been made toward blocking out multiple weeks before the end of the year aimed at conducting intensive talks, and neither side wanted to say anything.
“You told us to quit talking publicly,” Aiello said in reference to our proposed to-do list for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who seems to be willing to take the lead in trying to get a deal done by the end of December. Atallah likewise refrained from comments, but in response to an e-mail sent by PFT this afternoon asking him why they are focusing on broader economic impacts rather than negotiating, Atallah said, “We are willing to ‘lock-in’ and always have been.”
The league has yet to make a similarly clear commitment. We’ll assume that, unless the league unequivocally accepts the union’s offer, there’s no genuine desire to try to salvage their mutual placement on the naughty list.