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.