Buried at the very bottom of a mailbag from ESPN’s John Clayton is a nugget that should have gotten much more prominent treatment from the boys and girls in Bristol.
In response to a question regarding whether the lawyers handling the antitrust lawsuit between the players and the NFL could try to work out the labor situation, Clayton says that the players “planned to meet with the owners March 28 and spend the week settling this mess,” but that the owners refused.
So how in the hell is that at the bottom of a Q&A column in the dot-com alphabet junkyard and not on the bottom of the ESPN ticker?
Clayton goes on to explain that the only thing needed was the preparation of a “short document” for Judge Susan Nelson explaining that the NFLPA* Executive Committee would participate in the talks as “advisors.” But the league said, “No.”
The fact that the players planned to spend last week “settling this mess” implies that the two sides had been talking about possibly getting together. And it could have happened without any document going to Judge Nelson. Instead, and as we’ve said several times, the parties need only to agree that nothing regarding the format or structure of the settlement talks will be used by the NFL against the players in as to the question of whether the decertification of the union was legitimate. Then, the talks could occur with the lawyers handling the antitrust case in the background and the parties taking charge of their destinies.
And if the players wanted to have the NFLPA* Executive Committee involved in the settlement talks without any “short document” going to the judge, the members of the Executive Committee should have been the named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit. Some, like Drew Brees and Mike Vrabel, are. But instead of using more of them, the players opted for P.R., reeling in big names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Either way, it’s unfortunate that the two sides couldn’t find a way back to the table. We suspect that the league ultimately bears the blame for dragging their feet, based on an educated hunch that superlawyer David Boies mesmerized the owners last month at the league meetings in New Orleans, causing most if not all of them to conclude that they’ll win the first, and perhaps most critical, round of the antitrust lawsuit when the players try to force an end to the lockout while the litigation proceeds.