As we move well into the eighth week of the lockout, the parties are still squabbling from time to time about the events that gave rise to the current mess in which the NFL finds itself.
Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, in an interview on WEEI in Boston, dusts off the league’s position that the blame for the present situation rests with the players.
“We were negotiating in the first part of March under the guidance of the federal mediator and from the NFL’s perspective we thought we had put fair things on the table and we’re having rational dialogue,” Kraft said, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “The players, I know there is a lot of rhetoric that flies around about this, the players were the one’s who got up from that table, walked out of the room, decertified, and filed an anti-trust lawsuit. That’s the timeline and those are the facts. We were sitting there negotiating with them when they got up, if they were still negotiating why would we have locked them out. We had extended [the expiration of the labor deal] already, all you have to do if you’re having good dialogue you extend the deadline, but we were at a table and instead of negotiating they chose to get up and out of the room, decertify as a union, and file an antitrust lawsuit. That’s when we executed on the lockout, but the Commissioner has been very clear and I think the league has said all along, ‘Lets sit down and let’s negotiate.’ Because at the end of the deal it’s not going to get worked out through litigation and through a court system. It’s going to get worked out when two business parties sit across the table from each other. We didn’t start the legal proceedings. The players did and hopefully we can convince them that litigation isn’t the right path and that negotiation is. Unfortunately so far we haven’t been able to do that.”
Kraft repeated that the league is ready to talk, any time. “I think the Commissioner has said ‘We’re ready. Tell us when and where. We’ll go sit back down and negotiate,’” Kraft said.
But those words don’t fully mesh with the league’s actions. The league wanted last month to negotiate only on the league’s terms, in D.C. before federal mediator George Cohen. Then, after a few days of mediation before a magistrate judge in Minnesota, it became clear that the parties really weren’t serious about making progress until some of the rulings emerged from the court system.
If the parties really wanted to talk right now, they’d be talking, right now. And if one side really wanted to talk and the other didn’t, the side that wanted to talk would be saying so — loudly — at each and every opportunity.
As to Kraft’s initial point, we’ll agree with the superficial notion that the players pulled the plug on the talks and sued. But the league pushed the players into a corner, meticulously planning for a lockout and making it clear to the players that, if the owners’ terms weren’t accepted, a lockout is coming. So the players used the primary weapon in their arsenal in an effort to block the lockout.
Though the league dropped an offer that falls generally in the ballpark of a final deal on the final day of the extended period for talking, prior events that week apparently predisposed the players to sue. The players simply didn’t trust that the owners were serious about trying to get a deal done, and to the extent that the owners are more experienced and versed in the nuances of business dealings, the owners should have been more sensitive to the messages being intentionally sent and/or inadvertently received by the players.
And so at this point it’s not the players’ fault or the owners’ fault. They both are to blame, and they should focus their efforts not on blaming each other but on trying to find a way to legitimately and genuinely come together as partners, for the good of the game.