Saturday’s report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter regarding the union’s plan to decertify by March 4 should be regarded in the same light as his report from Friday’s agent meeting that the league and the NFLPA aren’t close to reaching agreement on a single issue, and that the labor dispute “WILL go into September.”
And that light is leverage.
With five days until the current labor deal expires, the league’s leverage remains the launching of a lockout if a deal isn’t done by March 4. And the union’s only leverage — for now — arises from decertification, a strategy that if successful would block a lockout and guarantee the continuation of football while the two sides settle their differences in court. The union can’t waver now on its plan to decertify, just as the league can’t waver now on its plan to lock the players out.
Put simply, the concept of nuclear deterrence doesn’t work unless the two sides have big-ass missiles pointed at each other.
So as the parties prepare to reconvene Tuesday, they both realize that their ability to negotiate the best possible deal disappears if the opponent doesn’t believe that the worst-case scenario is ready to be deployed. The union knows the league will impose a lockout, and the league knows the union will try to block a lockout with decertification.
One side or both sides could be bluffing. But that doesn’t matter at this point. Each side has pulled back its jacket to reveal the gun tucked into their respective waistbands. Reading anything more than that into the situation at this point would be premature at best, inaccurate at worst.
It doesn’t mean there won’t be a lockout or that there won’t be decertification. The question for now is whether enough progress can be made Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to prompt the two sides to agree to push back the moment at which the labor agreement expires. Though it would be virtually impossible to hammer out a new deal by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, it’s possible (even if not probable) that they’ll decide to give the process more time.
Even as they continue to show each other that they have guns, and that they’re ready to use them if they have to.