On Friday, after the hearing in St. Louis on the question of whether the lockout will be lifted, we pointed out the importance of the players and owners ignoring things said by the lawyers.
It could be easier said than done.
NFL lawyer Paul Clement, who angered players during the oral argument by pointing out comments that some are enjoying the lockout as proof that they aren’t suffering irreparable harm, said something after the hearing that could cause the NFLPA* turtle to put its head back in the shell.
“I think there’s no question that to the extent with what’s going on is continuing negotiations,” Clement told reporters. “I think what that underscores is that the union has not disappeared forever.”
So if the NFL’s top appellate lawyer will use against the NFLPA* the fact that negotiations are occurring, why should the NFLPA* negotiate? An union-turned-trade-association spokesman raised that very point with Peter King of SI.com: “How does that build any kind of trust? Their lawyers risks crippling the process with remarks like that.”
He’s right. And Clement’s comment constitutes further confirmation that, in this specific case, the lawyers need to stay benched. All of them. They’ve already done enough to throw this process off the rails; if they truly care about their clients’ best interests, they’ll gladly step aside until the time comes to reduce the labor deal to writing. Even if they won’t, their clients need to politely tell them to get the hell out, and to stay the hell out.
If, in the end, the principals can effectively maintain their independence from the lawyers during negotiations, a deal could be done in principle by Independence Day. Then the lawyers can return to hammer out the details — and hopefully not screw everything up.