It’s obvious by now that the NFL has launched a massive, team-by-team P.R. effort aimed at trying to persuade fans that the league’s current mess should be blamed on the players.
The message sent by the Miami Dolphins hints at something that was surely part of the process — the dissemination of coordinated talking points by the league.
Consider this excerpt from the letter sent by Dolphins CEO Mike Dee: “We are fully aware that fans don’t care how owners and player manage their business and that this temporary stoppage only distracts and detracts from what is most important to us all: the game.”
Next, consider the following passage from the letter sent to fans by Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch: “We know people frankly don’t care how owners and players manage their business. These negotiations distract and detract from what is most important to all of us: the game.”
It could be a coincidence, but it would be quite a coincidence.
There’s nothing wrong with coordination of message. But the overriding goal of coordination is (or, at a minimum, should be) to ensure that coordination isn’t obvious. The similarity between the two statements suggests that someone at 280 Park Avenue sent at some point in the past couple of days a suggested list of things to say, in order to hammer home the message that: (1) we regret the situation; and (2) you should blame the players, not us.
As each team echoes that same message, fans will be more likely to accept that the message is accurate.
Especially when respected owners like Art Rooney, II, are delivering it.
So, yes, we’re now the guinea pigs in a broader P.R. fight. Actually, calling it a “fight” implies that the battle has been joined.
It hasn’t. The players have done little to get their message to the masses.
Perhaps that’s why so many people are indeed blaming the players for the current situation, even though as Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly capably explains it the owners bear the brunt of the blame for wanting to shift the status quo during a time of unprecedented popularity and prosperity, without proving that a shift is needed.
Few are articulating that thought because we’re currently being bombarded by a one-sided view that the players caused this mess by refusing to bargain and pushing the situation to litigation.
“We reached this impasse because the NFLPA chose to abandon the collective bargaining process late on Friday afternoon and instead pursue their interests in the court room,” Dee writes to Dolphins fans, reiterating the NFL’s official belief that the players “forced” the lockout by shutting down the union and going to court.
The players didn’t force the lockout by going to court. They forced the lockout by refusing to make financial concessions without justification. By using a lockout, the owners hope to compel the players to eventually cry, “Uncle” and take a deal worse than the deal they currently have.
That’s why the owners are upset. The players have, at least for now, prevented the owners from grabbing the players’ arms and twisting them behind the players’ backs.
Unfortunately for the players, they’re now so focused on avoiding that outcome that they’ve failed to make it known to the public that they’re merely exercising rights available to them under the law, just like the owners are trying to do.