NFLPA* Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says he’s relieved that Judge Susan Nelson lifted the lockout, but he’s dismayed that the owners’ side in the labor battle isn’t starting the league year right now.
“I’m certainly happy for that,” Smith said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. “I know our fans love football. To be in a state where the National Football League is allowing this kind of chaos to occur, I’m not sure this is a good day for football.”
Smith said that it’s incumbent on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to get the league moving again.
“I’m not the commissioner of the National Football League,” Smith said. “He’s the commissioner of the league. And we’re in a world where the owners of the National Football League opted out of a contract that was fine. They went to the Supreme Court to try to stick it to the players and they lost. They tried to keep revenue sharing from happening in 2010 and they lost. A judge ruled that they gamed the TV contracts to lock the players out and they lost. And then they lock the players out and took football from our fans, and yesterday they lost.”
Smith said that the court ruled that the lockout is illegal, and therefore the NFL needs to comply, specifically regarding players who are due offseason bonuses, including workout bonuses. At the moment, players are still not being permitted to work out at team facilities.
“To be in a world where guys are showing up because they want to play football, and they’re being told to go home? Or magically, today is the day that the strength coach has off? It’s petty and small at best,” Smith said. “For a world that loves this game and for fans who have done nothing over the last 50 years but be loyal to our teams, I’m not sure it’s the right way to treat our fans.”
Immediately after Smith’s comments, the NFL’s lawyer, Jeff Pash, came on ESPN Radio to offer his side, saying he expects to win on appeal.
“I think it’s quite a stretch to say that the judge ruled yesterday that we broke the law or violated any law,” Pash said. “We’re quite confident that our position will be sustained when we’re in front of the Eighth Circuit.”
Pash said it’s too soon to say exactly what yesterday’s ruling means regarding when players could return to team facilities.
“We’re trying to determine what’s the scope of the order,” Pash said. “We’ve asked for a stay. If that stay is given, either by the trial judge or by the court of appeals, that would affect what happens in the facilities. We’re going to take it one step at a time in an orderly way, in a way that’s fair and evenhanded for the players and all 32 clubs. But our commitment is to comply with the orders.”