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Keeping the lawyers out will be the key to progress

NFL Contract Talks Continue As Deadline Approaches Getty Images

Somehow, the NFL and the NFLPA* found a way to meet for the last two days without any lawyers present.  It’s something for which key figures on each side of the dispute have been clamoring for months, dating back to influential and respected Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in the days preceding the Super Bowl.

“In my opinion, we could get a deal done in the next week,” Kraft said in early February.   “If business people sat down on both sides, and we tried to get the lawyers in the background. . . .  Get lawyers away from table.  Lawyers are deal breakers, not deal makers.”

Moving forward, the challenge will be to continue to talk without the lawyers potentially screwing things up with their overthinking and/or hidden agendas.  It’s a door that swings both ways, with the importance of keeping lead players’ counsel Jeffrey Kessler away from the process equal to the importance of keeping NFL general counsel Jeff Pash away from the process.  Ditto for Jim Quinn on the players’ side and Bob Batterman on the league’s side.

That’s not intended to be a slap at any of those four men.  It’s just a reflection of the reality that the folks charged with making important decisions and then living with them have developed strong feelings regarding the lawyers working for the other side.  The smart move, then, is to get the lawyers out of the room, regardless of whether the perceptions regarding the motivations of the lawyers are or aren’t accurate.

As to the perceptions applicable to the key lawyers in this controversy, there’s a strong sense that the players simply don’t trust Pash or Batterman.  Even if both men are completely trustworthy in all matters great and small, rebuilding trust between the NFL and the players is far more important at this point that tiptoeing around Pash’s or Batterman’s feelings.  It’s time to get a deal done, and thus it’s time for anyone who may be an impediment to the process to happily stand down.

Ditto for Kessler, who widely is perceived in management circles as hoping to shove down the players’ throats an agenda of litigation without negotiation, in the hopes of eventually securing a mammoth, landmark antitrust award that can then be leveraged into the most player-friendly deal in the history of sports, securing his legacy as the next Marvin Miller — and simultaneously squandering one or two years of the football careers of the men whom Kessler is supposed to be representing.

It’s an easy solution, then.  The league benches Pash and Batterman, the NFLPA* benches Kessler, and the business people focus on the business of doing a business deal, sooner rather than later.

Congrats to the two sides for apparently figuring this one out.  Let’s see if it sticks.

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33 Responses to “Keeping the lawyers out will be the key to progress”
  1. willycents says: Jun 2, 2011 9:21 PM

    I would suppose that all the lawyers who were not invited by Judge Broylan spent two days popping nitro pills for their heart palpitations and paxil for their anxiety attacks at the thought of the litigant parties meeting without their supervision. Seems like the mediator, as appointed by the judge, probably has the authority to dictate who may and may not be at the sessions, but, weilds the power wisely and carefully.

  2. gregski79 says: Jun 2, 2011 9:38 PM

    Or how about this food for thought. Here we have players and former players complaining about retirees not receiving enough in the form of pensions and medical benefits yet these current players, who one day will be in the same situation, are spending gigantic sums of money on lawyers and courts fees to fight a battle that could’ve been settled long time ago. Add up all the money they’ve spent so far and wouldn’t it have made sense to invest that money into a pension plan? I guess that makes too much sense.

  3. edjy71 says: Jun 2, 2011 9:47 PM

    So how do you get DeMaurice Smith out of the room? That would help more than anything else.

  4. trbowman says: Jun 2, 2011 9:56 PM

    I think you could apply the title of this article to most situations…..

  5. purpleman527 says: Jun 2, 2011 9:57 PM

    Keeping the lawyers out of the room is a good thing and it does provide a slim hope that business people can agree on a deal.

    The players need to make an offer. Until that happens, nothing will happen.

    One question that I do have is, with no union and thus no player reps to negotiate with the owners, how does a deal get done with the players?
    Don’t the players have to agree to be a union again before a deal can be reached for all players?
    Just wondering.

  6. realfann says: Jun 2, 2011 10:00 PM

    No mystery.

    They met that way because Boylan requested it.

    And Robert Kraft should not be in the least bit respected for his role in this labor dispute.

    He is one of the hardliners and architects of the lockout. He is totally against teams sharing revenue. He wants to keep all the huge Patriots profits for himself. He wants the players to take a haircut so that small market teams can make bigger profits.

    The owners that should be respected are the ones that think this whole mess was a bad idea to begin with and who just want to play football.

    Owners like Al Davis.

  7. drmonkeyarmy says: Jun 2, 2011 10:01 PM

    Do you guys always cherry pick comments? I mean, I didn’t use profane language or make wild accusations yet my comment doesn’t show up because it is critical of the blogger? Once again, take a lesson from the bloggers on your cousin sites.

  8. ernestbynershands says: Jun 2, 2011 10:14 PM

    Can we expand the lawyer benching to include all lawyers in all states for all reasons?
    What a cancer that profession has become. The only profession that negotiates or litigates their services into every facet of our lives.
    They are really only good at wasting the oxygen and resources that honest, hard working people need.

  9. ernestbynershands says: Jun 2, 2011 10:20 PM

    @drmonkeyarmy
    The posters of this blog DO cherry pick comments. Frequently. If you criticize the posters, lawyers, or other issues dear to their hearts, they will not post your comment.
    Too bad they can’t have more of a sense of humor when it comes to that. But if your job is to cut and paste other people’s work, I guess you would be a little tight when people point out how insignificant your occupation is.

  10. willycents says: Jun 2, 2011 10:27 PM

    purpleman527 says:Jun 2, 2011 9:57 PM

    One question that I do have is, with no union and thus no player reps to negotiate with the owners, how does a deal get done with the players?
    Don’t the players have to agree to be a union again before a deal can be reached for all players?
    Just wondering.
    ——————————————————as it was explained to me by a number of players posting here when I have asked a similar question. here is how it was explained:

    The attorneys representing the players in litigation, with DeSmith’s approval, will arrive at a settlement of the lawsuit. The NFLPA* will then re-certify to vote on approval of the settlement to become the new cba. If the settlement fails to attain a majority vote of approval, the re-constituted union will then re-de-certify to continue to pursue additonal litigation.

  11. Deb says: Jun 2, 2011 10:36 PM

    @drmonkeyarmy …

    Thank you. I’m glad to know it’s not just me. I had one pulled yesterday just for saying “Blogger Name, answered your question in the post above.” Seriously. And today they killed a bit of innocent clowning because some guys were teasing me but my harmless teasing back was pulled. No profanity, no obscenity. The worst thing I said was that I was wickedly fickle. Sad, isn’t it?

    The difference between this site and its college cousin is the difference between trying to perch precariously on a pair of four-inch stillettos and being able to run barefoot in the dewy grass.

  12. willycents says: Jun 2, 2011 10:43 PM

    @ drmonkeyarmy

    ouside links are not permitted, except, I think, to other blogs on the wordpress network(I have seen a couple) and result in the removal of the post.
    Also, depending upon the type, verbiage and vitriol of the criticism of the blogger himself, the post may be removed.
    Any post directing an attack at anyone posting on this site that is particularly vile or extremely demeaning to that person as a specific individual will probably be removed.

    At least, that seems to be the rules from what I have seen pulled from the boards (yes, I mess up occasionally) Somewhere is a terms of service that covers poster conduct that explains the “rules”, I remember it, just don’t remember where it is.

    Maybe drop an email to the feedback tab and they can point you to it. They, in my experience, are extremely quick to respond to feedback requests for information.

  13. bravin4evr says: Jun 2, 2011 10:44 PM

    It’s truly amazing how there are so many informed posters on this site; yet none of them are at the negotiating table or even in the rooms……I’m just saying….

  14. willycents says: Jun 2, 2011 10:44 PM

    @ drmonkeyarmy

    always remember, to keep your posts from being removed, try to attack the message, not the messenger.

  15. tashkalucy says: Jun 2, 2011 10:51 PM

    Over 40 years ago I learned that if a person stays away from lawyers and finance companies, they can radically increase the quality of their life.

    It’s sure worked for me.

    And it’s no small wonder that the bankrupt federal government is chock full of attorneys.

  16. kilrb says: Jun 2, 2011 10:51 PM

    lawyers are scum! The trouble is also that so is Robert Kraft!

  17. section731 says: Jun 2, 2011 10:54 PM

    It is really stupid to involve lawyers in these negotiations. It seems obvious that people who get paid by the hour to negotiate would delay settlement as long as possible. They posture and pose and BS to get paid – a settlement costs the lawyers money – why would they work towards it?

  18. vahawker says: Jun 2, 2011 10:59 PM

    dr..happened to me and then the next day one of the phrases I used showed up in a blog post. Hmmmm

  19. j0esixpack says: Jun 2, 2011 11:01 PM

    The former lawyer admitting that the lawyers are the problem.

    The NFL owners are admitting that the lawyers are the problem

    Assuming DeMaurice Smith has the guts and smarts to go it without an army of lawyers behind him, maybe this can be worked out.

  20. rayjayjohnsonjr says: Jun 2, 2011 11:05 PM

    Keeping lawyers out of ANYTHING can be considered a ‘key to progress’.

  21. oldbrowndawg says: Jun 2, 2011 11:10 PM

    I’ve said for a couple of months in response to various PFT columns that the lawyers have been the problem since the get-go here and the ONLY way to get this resolved is to get them OUT of the process. As one poster implied, this applies to a host of situations in our society. Lawyers — the bane of our society and the stumbling block to any rational resolution of the owners-players dispute.

  22. realitypolice says: Jun 2, 2011 11:14 PM

    purpleman527 says:
    Jun 2, 2011 9:57 PM

    One question that I do have is, with no union and thus no player reps to negotiate with the owners, how does a deal get done with the players?
    Don’t the players have to agree to be a union again before a deal can be reached for all players?
    Just wondering.
    ===================

    There is precedent for this. The last time the union decertified, Reggie White (and other players, I believe) filed basically the same anti-trust suit that has been filed this time around.

    The two sides eventually negotiated a new CBA that became law as the settlement of the lawsuit.

    So that’s what would happen here. Once the 8th circuit rules, whichever sides loses will adjust their position and an agreement will be reached. This agreement will be entered into law as the settlement of the lawsuit.

  23. pftequalsgreatjournalism says: Jun 2, 2011 11:28 PM

    No need to state the blatantly obvious here Mike when the merely obvious will do…

    @ realfan

    Al Davis is actually dead; the person that you think that you see is his figure from Madame Tussaud’s…

  24. drmonkeyarmy says: Jun 2, 2011 11:45 PM

    It is just the cousin blogs allow direct questions to the blogger and criticisms that are frequently answered by the blogger. There are actual discussions going on. I like that.

  25. fooath says: Jun 3, 2011 12:07 AM

    Well, they’re not going to get rid of De Smith so so much for that idea…

  26. msclemons67 says: Jun 3, 2011 1:46 AM

    “Keeping the lawyers out will be the key to progress”

    US History 101

  27. discosucs2005 says: Jun 3, 2011 4:22 AM

    I’m guessing the owners would be more in favor of a “no lawyers” policy in negotiating. I think we can all understand why.

  28. macbull says: Jun 3, 2011 6:58 AM

    The players need to realize that while they were busting their butts on the football field every Sunday, the owners were sitting in their luxury boxes watching the game with their favorite lawyers.

    The owners have been schooled by lawyers for years…the players have not.

    No way in hell I would make a deal with the owners, knowing they owners have that advantage.

    If the players want to work out a “tentative deal”, pending review by their lawyers…fine.

    But this idea that a deal could get done without lawyers, is nothing but another ploy by the owners when the players realize, the owners are as well versed on the issues as lawyers.

  29. grpatriot says: Jun 3, 2011 7:53 AM

    Litagation is an academic exercise played out in public. Rarely favors the “little guy,” average NFL player. He who has the deepest pockets typically wins!
    Why would the Owners do anything to assist the NFLPA* from committing commakazi type strategy?
    I believe the Fans are the driving force here and the Owners are working with the Devil they know.
    De Smith better think twice before he’s out of work. The average players far out number the elite bigtime money makers. Settle this mess now!
    No Football benefits No One…….well except the lawyers?

  30. moochzilla says: Jun 3, 2011 8:17 AM

    “So that’s what would happen here. Once the 8th circuit rules, whichever sides loses will adjust their position and an agreement will be reached. This agreement will be entered into law as the settlement of the lawsuit.”

    Can it not be said, then, that the system worked?

    That as annoying and as inefficient as it seems, an acceptable outcome for both sides will be the result?

    And we’ve been driven crazy…why exactly?

  31. chapnastier says: Jun 3, 2011 9:06 AM

    If you want your comments posted then keep it respectful. Bash the writers but do it in a tasteful way. You can be critical of someone without being a jack-hole (edited). What kills me is that no matter what though they always let that token comment go through claiming racism or some sort of political bias where neither ever apply to what is going on here.

    @ deb

    For the record, I am giving you thumbs up on all of your comments regardless of if I think it deserves it. You are getting too much hate!

  32. Deb says: Jun 3, 2011 11:43 AM

    @chapnastier …

    Thank you, love. I know how the lil boys work. Fellas who are insecure about their manhood can’t handle having a smart woman in the mix and they are of the sadly mistaken impression that giving me thumbs down will make me go cry in a corner.

    Nobody puts Baby in a corner ;)

  33. Deb says: Jun 3, 2011 12:02 PM

    @drmonkeyarm and willycents …

    I have tremendous respect for what Mike has built here. And I respect how tough it is to moderate a site that gets this flow of traffic–much of it from people who are not playing with a full deck. When I first began commenting on PFT more than two years ago, I never had any problem figuring out why one of my posts was held, rewriting it, and reposting. Everything worked fine. Then a new crop of people came in who would censor me simply for writing in Southern dialect. If someone posted provocative comments to me–which happens frequently–I was censored for replying.

    Now, willycents, you read my posts. My replies to smack are usually pretty measured and not profane. So it’s a bit galling when someone is allowed–actual example–to call me a wh*re and I am barred from giving a measured response.

    On many occasions, unbelievably obscene comments have been posted to me, and recently, I had to go above your friendly help line to get one removed. But the other day, this comment of mine was censored repeatedly for two hours until, again, someone above the front line intervened:

    Gregg posted the statement from the McCowns on the cancellation of their camp above. Obviously my comment was in reference to camps involving coaches and players.

    You tell me what rational person could have found anything out of line in that post. I always try to treat people respectfully, but I’m working like everyone else, and if I take time to make a thoughtful comment or one using innocuous humor, it does frustrate me to have it pulled for no discernible reason. Because I write and edit for a living, it makes me a little crazier than the average commenter.

    drmonkeyarmy, the writers on the other site have a different operating philosophy. They think of their audience as a community, read the comments, and engage with their readers. That’s why it’s a more homey atmosphere. But it’s also a smaller site that allows for more interaction.

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