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In a way, the players are trying to have it both ways

Clay Redden AP

We remain committed to striking an appropriate balance between the players and the owners in the slowly-unfolding labor dispute, and we’re prepared to raise questions about the tactics employed by either side, when those questions need to be raised.

For example, we think the NFL’s contention that the personal conduct policy applies during a lockout imposed by the owners is one of the most ludicrous things we’ve ever heard.  We also think that the players badly have mishandled the draft issue, and that the players have lost significant P.R. points in that area.  And we think that the league suddenly has launched an obvious back-patting P.R. campaign aimed at telling the world about all the great things done for the current and former players, before locking the current players out.  (This afternoon, for example, we’ve received multiple e-mails from the league and one of its teams pointing out that the owners spent $245 million on player benefits in 2010.)

After reading every word of the transcript of the multi-part interview of Colts center Jeff Saturday by Rich Eisen of NFL Network’s Total Access (the video is available at NFL.com) and after receiving an e-mail from an astute reader, we need to articulate a source of discomfort that we have with the strategy the players have employed.

Basically, the players decided when faced with the strong possibility of a lockout to pull the ripcord on a decertification parachute, which converts the situation from a labor dispute into a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Let’s assume that the owners got a great deal in 2006 and that the players wanted to get more in 2011.  The players could have gone on strike.  And the owners couldn’t have done anything to stop it.

Just as the players have the right to strike if they don’t like the terms that are being offered, the owners have the right to lock the players out.  But the players have launched the decertify-and-sue tactic as a way to prevent the owners from doing precisely what the players would be doing if the shoe were on the other foot — stopping all work until a deal is worked out.

So, basically, the players’ plan disrupts the proverbial yin and yang of strike and lockout.  Setting aside all statutes and precedents and legal arguments, there’s something about this that, at a visceral level, seems unfair.

If Judge Susan Nelson feels the same way, she’ll be able to instruct her law clerks to construct based on all statutes and precedents and legal arguments a path to a ruling that the lockout should not be lifted due to the players’ maneuverings.

Once again, we simply wish the two sides would resume communications and work out a mutually acceptable deal.  But if, as it appears, this fight will land in a courtroom on April 6, the idea that the players are using a device to block a lockout when the owners would have had no similar way to block a strike strikes us as inequitable, regardless of whether it’s ultimately determined to be appropriate.

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28 Responses to “In a way, the players are trying to have it both ways”
  1. smacklayer says: Mar 30, 2011 7:05 PM

    Is it actually true? An article on PFT that is not slamming the league and actually has a sliver of critism towards the players tactics?

    Next thing to work on is your softball interviews with players and their reps. Let’s start by trying to get through one interview where you don’t say “I agree with you . . .” to a player when talking about the labor dispute.

  2. brazy44 says: Mar 30, 2011 7:12 PM

    Yes, the owners can use other players, i.e. scabs if they went on strike, like the players can go play for the ‘scab’ UFL, during a lock out.
    The thing that struck me most about the interview is how Saturday said they decertified so that way, we could play football. Let the courts settle the differences, while they play football. He says, I’ll play under whatever rules they set up, I just want to play. Well, if that was truly the case, why didn’t he accept their offer then?

  3. melikefootball says: Mar 30, 2011 7:15 PM

    It is becoming harder and harder to see the players side. They walk out, get rid of their union. Then old time players are yelling at the players of today, then what keeps getting headlines is the bone head players that have no clue how to stay out of the press with out being ALL negative, Arrests for drugs, assults, not paying bills, and many other stupid actions. They also like to tell fans they don’t have enough money to pay for training,they don’t have the NFL to monitor their off field actions, they want publicity for extra type jobs they are doing. Then they tie it all up with, we feel for the fans. Feel for the fans and get off the toatl greed wanting a time for everthing you do.

  4. endzonezombie says: Mar 30, 2011 7:16 PM

    Mike is wrong on this speculation. There is nothing illegal about a union acting unilaterally to declare a strike on behalf of its 1800 members. However, it may violate anti-trust guidelines for 32 separate businesses to act in concert to lockout all of their individual employees.

  5. veistran says: Mar 30, 2011 7:29 PM

    Why should everything be fair for a group of business operating under an antitrust exemption? Shouldn’t they necessarily be subject to stringent regulation because they are operating under and antitrust exemption because of their otherwise undue power in the marketplace? Look at the patent system, granting exclusive powers to businesses generally leads to the business seeking to maximize the utility of the powers. (Read: generate as much money with it as possible)

  6. 3crowns says: Mar 30, 2011 7:29 PM

    I’m might be missing something but it seems to me the players would be better off actually staying decertified rather than just using it as a negotiating tactic. If they actually stayed decertified, any type of salary cap, draft free agency rules, etc. would be obviously illegal under antitrust law, meaning the owners would be free to bid against each other for players’ services. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this would not be better for the players. Yes, they might lose things like veterans’ minimums, pensions, etc., but these could all be negotiated by each player’s agent for each contract. No more cap, restricted free agency, franchise tag, etc.

  7. ruckinfidiculous says: Mar 30, 2011 7:33 PM

    What gets me is that the players try to make it sound like they’re standing up to some major injustice and abuse, likening themselves to slaves and say that they want to play football, yada, yada, yada, yet we all know exactly what they’re doing this for – more money. Don’t try to insult the intelligence of the fanbase by making this situation out to be anything other than money.

    Has either side once said anything about putting that billion that they are arguing over towards reducing ticket or concession prices?

  8. dgtalmn says: Mar 30, 2011 7:46 PM

    One word SHAM.

  9. FinFan68 says: Mar 30, 2011 7:52 PM

    @3crowns: That scenario would benefit the top few players in the league. With no salary cap, there is also no floor. The back-ups would quickly see huge pay cuts so that the money can be spent on the QB or other “skill players”. A few teams would attempt to buy a Lombardi trophy and essentially outbid teams like Buffalo, Green Bay, etc. The parity is what has made the NFL so successful. Once that is destroyed, some teams will fold, the league will contract and there will be less money to go around. The players are using a dangerous tactic that could ultimately destroy the league loved by all. They should have continued to negotiate instead of doing what they are doing now.

  10. smartbutlazy says: Mar 30, 2011 8:04 PM

    What the players, and apparently some commenters are missing is that the players benefit from the antitrust exemption as much as the owners. Without it we have no draft, no salary cap, no salary floor, and ultimately, no parity. Without parity, which lets fans in all markets, big and small, have the hope of fielding a competitive team every year, there is no $9 billion pie to cry about.

  11. iknowfootballandyoudont says: Mar 30, 2011 8:08 PM

    I am not even going to make a long comment about the greedy hooligan players today. I think everyone knows where I stand.
    However on April 6th, beware, as I will unleash on the clowns of the NFL.

  12. irisht53 says: Mar 30, 2011 8:11 PM

    3Crowns, if the players do not re-certify the union after all this is done, and ultimately it is decided by both sides to play without any CBA or guidlines, that will pretty much turn football into MLB, with 6-8 teams that have a chance to compete for a title in a given year, and 24-26 team trying to stay out of the cellar, both in the standings and their books.

    This will lead to dimished ratings for those games that don’t feature those 6-8 teams.

    This will create opportunities for the saavy (i.e. “greedy”) owners to go negotiate their own TV contracts for their respective teams (meaning teams like the Cowboys and Patriots could grab multi-billion dollar deals, while others like the Bills and Bucs, would be lucky to garner multi-million dollar deals (maybe slight exaggeration there)).

    Which would lead to average spending between the “haves” and “have nots” likely to be larger than the 2009 salary caps (if we’re using that as a baseline, about $130 mil, you may see a couple teams spending near $200 million, while at least half the league spending $50 million or less, a la MLB).

    This would ulitmately lead to a handful of players getting record breaking deal after record breaking deal, while the vast majority of players getting just over what are current minimums (again, like baseball).

    Net-net, if the players “win” or if the owners “win”, they need to get a CBA in place. A player market free-for-all is not in the games interest.

  13. broncobourque says: Mar 30, 2011 8:25 PM

    @3crowns

    Staying decertified would be great for the star players but the players as a whole would lose a lot. Without minimum salaries, the bottom of rosters would be filled by guys making under $100,000 instead of at least $300,000. They likely would see a big dropoff in their benefits and pensions might no longer exist at all.

    While the league couldn’t institute accross the board rules for free agency, contracts, etc. The NFL would essentially become a sanctioning body for football and when it comes to game rules or punishments, they could do as they pleased. The only recourse players would have to fight any team or league rules would be the courts and that can take a lot of time and money.

    Drug testing before every game with a lifetime ban for anyone testing positive for Steroids or HGH? Nothing would really stand in the way of the league doing that among other things.

  14. 44kyle says: Mar 30, 2011 8:28 PM

    One thing that people, especially the players, may forget is that, in the long run, the worst thing that can happen for everybody is if the NFL becomes significantly weakened by all this. The reason players get an average of 2 million each and tons of endorsement money is that the NFL has grown in all ways. In the 50′s and 60′s, players had to have an off-season job. Chuck Bednarik is “Concrete Charlie” because he worked for a concrete company. Sam Huff got the unheard of salary of $7,500 a year. NFL results in most papers were no more than box scores. Everybody benefits when the NFL thrives. The deal needs to be fair. Players shouldn’t be too antagonistic towards the league. That’s self-destruction.

  15. Marv says: Mar 30, 2011 9:15 PM

    My decision becomes more and more clear here: PLAYERS SUCK! The should not be allowed to do anything but PLAY!

  16. ceadderman says: Mar 30, 2011 9:21 PM

    “endzonezombie says:
    Mar 30, 2011 7:16 PM
    Mike is wrong on this speculation. There is nothing illegal about a union acting unilaterally to declare a strike on behalf of its 1800 members. However, it may violate anti-trust guidelines for 32 separate businesses to act in concert to lockout all of their individual employees.”

    Oh you mean that 32 owners acting under the banner of the NFL cannot agree to lockout the Players?

    The owners own Franchise rights. They do not have the final say but they vote on issues and majority carries the vote. Being that there are 32 teams the league gets the deciding vote should a Tie vote result.

    I don’t get where you think the Owners did anything sneaky or underhanded in Locking out the players. Hell the NFLPU geared up for the Destabilization process 2 years ago now. The owners shouldn’t be able to fight them on equal footing?

    I just don’t get the lack of judgment here on the part of the Players. On one hand they all “Just want to play” but on the other hand they destabilize the Union and file separate cases against the NFL and the owners. When has ANY court case been heard and a judgment handed down expeditiously? As many cases that are more than likely to be heard, the NFL should just dissolve an make those fools have to figure out a way of paying their 8 figure mortgages. Of course they could always do like Jamarcus Russel did and sign their homes over to the bank walk away from an albatross of a mortgage. None of these idiots would have the lifestyle they have right now without the NFL. How many of them would’ve gone to College to even learn a trade without the NFL?

    It’s time for them to take a deep breath, squat, reach between their cheeks and flatulate to catch their oversized melons once they’re dislodged from their rectal cavities and get back to work.

  17. thefiesty1 says: Mar 30, 2011 9:37 PM

    Of course they are. They want it all. It’s called intitelment.

  18. commandercornpone says: Mar 30, 2011 9:47 PM

    the union decertified. that the union* heads are still strutting around like they have jobs is ludicrous. they should be on the street.

  19. voyager6 says: Mar 30, 2011 9:51 PM

    I hope the owners just create the ROBOT FOOTBALL LEAGUE!!!! Human looking robots controlled by the coaches running Madden 2111.

    No injuries to worry about; no retirement payments, and fewer coaches and only ‘mechanics’ and spare parts to pay for.

    It would be far more entertaining than the current ‘soft’ players and the owners would have their costs controlled.

    The technology is there, go do it!

  20. realfann says: Mar 30, 2011 11:53 PM

    Funny how all the owner’s plant here are ripping 3crowns for suggesting we don’t need a CBA by saying it’s bad for the players.

    So all of a sudden, all you phonies care about the players!

    Gimme a break.

    The most successful sport in the world by a large margin has no CBA yet generates hugely more revenue than the NFL, has more fans who pay less to watch games and whose players earn more than NFL players.

    The CBA cuddles the owners. They love it. It’s the way they conspire to do things like fixing employees salaries that are illegal for normal American businesses.

  21. Canyonero says: Mar 31, 2011 12:08 AM

    Nice analysis.

    Any way to find out how much the lawyers on both sides are charging?

  22. guppies66 says: Mar 31, 2011 12:42 AM

    AMEN Mike! It seems like the players are trying to destroy the game that we know and love.

  23. biist says: Mar 31, 2011 12:58 AM

    endzonezombie says: Mar 30, 2011 7:16 PM

    Mike is wrong on this speculation. There is nothing illegal about a union acting unilaterally to declare a strike on behalf of its 1800 members. However, it may violate anti-trust guidelines for 32 separate businesses to act in concert to lockout all of their individual employees.
    ———————————————
    The players cannot get benefits and salaries from the 32 separate businesses (franchises) and then claim they are illegal if they do not agree to their terms.
    The players better be careful and get exactly what they wish for…antitrust. They may win their arguments with progressive judges and tie this up all the way to the Supreme Court; win every court case along the way but in the end have no league, bankrupt stadiums and owners. And, more importantly, lost all goodwill with the fans. Forever.

  24. bradjames33160 says: Mar 31, 2011 1:54 AM

    I want to believe Jeff Saturday. Really, I do. With that said, I take too much pride in my job (I have a horses’ south end I work with who doesn’t respect management and I hate him) and nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing a worker who is in propitious circumstances that can’t function, or refuses to, to be more precise. In layman’s terms, Jeff, shut the heck up and get back to the table. Even if the NFLPA* could possibly amass leverage through this litigation nonsense, it’s painfully obvious that they would squander it because by all indications, they’re stupid to make wise decisions.

  25. mangoldbond says: Mar 31, 2011 5:53 AM

    I thought this was going to be a Vikings love boat story. Hiyo!

  26. phillyforlife says: Mar 31, 2011 6:32 AM

    @voyager6
    Stop sitting mommies basement smoking pot watching The Jettson’s and come back to reality. LMAO

  27. marthisdil says: Mar 31, 2011 2:23 PM

    I think the owners should be allowed to form a union…then we can have a union against union…that’d be fair, right?

  28. marthisdil says: Mar 31, 2011 2:26 PM

    “Drug testing before every game with a lifetime ban for anyone testing positive for Steroids or HGH?”

    That should be the case anyways.

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