One of the most interesting nuggets contained in Michael Silver’s comprehensive breakdown of Thursday’s breakthrough day at the bargaining table arises from Robert Kraft’s Shakespearean take on lawyers.
Kraft, who previously said that a deal would be accomplished in a week if the attorneys-at-law were told to hit-the-road, reportedly (per Silver) chewed out the league’s chief outside counsel in the presence of union representatives.
Specifically, Silver reported that “on Wednesday, according to several people familiar with the meetings, . . . Kraft snapp[ed] at Bob Batterman, the labor attorney retained by the league for these negotiations, because he felt Batterman was speaking in legalese platitudes.”
A source with knowledge of the situation claims that Kraft’s comments were directed not at Batterman, but at union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, whom the NFL owners almost uniformly despise for his sue-first-and-ask-questions-later reputation.
Per the source, Kraft made generalized comments regarding the importance of getting the lawyers out of the process. Kraft, we’re told, was talking about Kessler. The union reps, we’re told, concluded that Kraft was talking about Batterman. (Which would make Silver’s report accurate, if he got his information from union sources.)
Either way, Kraft has a point, to a point. Lawyers can bog down the process, obsessing over details that can be worked out later, after the important decisions are made. But that doesn’t mean the lawyers should leave the room; sometimes, sound legal advice is the only thing protecting a hard-charging businessman from making a huge mistake. (Indeed, if the NFL had gotten better legal advice when renegotiating the network television deals, the league possibly wouldn’t have ignored its obligation to maximize revenue shared by the owners and the players in order to finagle more leverage against a lockout. Then again, it’s entirely possible that the league was getting good legal advice, but chose to ignore it.)
So the lawyers should still be in the room. But they should be told to speak only when their input is needed to avert not a pothole but a canyon.
UPDATE: Reached for comment, Silver was resolute in his reporting. “I have multiple sources on this, from both camps, and I stand by my report,” Silver told PFT via e-mail.