Earlier today, Seahawks guard and NFLPA* player rep Chester Pitts posted messages on Twitter indicating the mistaken belief that no negotiations may occur between the NFL and the players now that the union has decertified and suit has been filed.
“How is it all of sudden [Roger Goodell] now wants to negotiate when he knows that window has closed. A trade association can not collectively bargain! The courts must now decide,” Pitts said.
He was wrong, as evidenced by Thursday’s comments from NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith. And Pitts has since adjusted his position.
“The PA can not bargain like I said,” Pitts tweeted. “The only thing that can transpire is the class lawyers can settle the case as they did in ’93 with White settlement.”
The White settlement coincidentally became the CBA.
Though we’ve got no problem with Pitts trying to make it look like his current position meshes with his prior position, we’re still trying to figure out why he believed what he previously believed — that no negotiations may occur of any kind, in any context, and that “[t]he courts must now decide.”
And then we received an e-mail from an agent who seems to be genuinely interested in getting this all worked out, and who apparently shares our suspicion that a handful of people may be cramming a litigation-or-bust agenda down the players’ throats, blowing what seems to be a prime opportunity to continue talks.
The agent tipped us off to the fact that Pitts’ agent is Andrew Kessler. And Andrew Kessler is the son of top NFLPA* outside lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who also by all appearances will be the lead lawyer in the antitrust case filed last week in Minnesota.
Given that league officials and owners almost uniformly believe that Jeffrey Kessler has been pushing the decertify-and-sue strategy, it’s not a stretch to wonder whether Kessler is pushing buttons and pulling strings on the players to get them to go along with a commitment to litigation without negotiation, even if it’s not in the best interests of the players to risk losing the April 6 hearing on their motion to force the NFL to end the lockout. Of all players, the men who have hired Kessler’s son to represent their interests will be more likely to buy whatever Kessler is selling.
The players may win on April 6, and the players may lose. If they want to control their destiny, they should take advantage of the uncertainty to try to do a fair deal for everyone between now and April 6. If a deal that the players believe is fair can’t be done, fine. Don’t do the deal. But they should at least be trying.
And if they fail in their effort to lift the lockout while the litigation proceeds, they’ll surely wish they had.