With the NFL and the NFLPA* resuming face-to-face meetings on Wednesday and no news trickling out from the talks, it’s easy to be even more encouraged that the discussions are moving toward a favorable conclusion. After all, all signs were pointing to a deal getting done last week, before Adam Schefter of ESPN threw ice water on the media frenzy by reporting that some owners were opposed to the path on which the talks were heading.
With no one mounting a serious challenge (or, as far as anyone can tell, any challenge) to the league’s strategy when the owners met Tuesday in Chicago for what essentially amounted to a poop-or-get-off-the-pot/speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace-or-is-it-piece-I’m-not-sure-anyone-really-knows session, we should be right back where we were last week, before Schefter decided to play the role of Dr. Killjoy, right?
Here’s another potentially troubling detail that was lost in the reporting from Tuesday that, to the folks following this situation closely (all six of us), weren’t really news. Asked by reporters about the possibility that the federal court in St. Louis could issue a ruling on whether the lockout will be lifted while the parties continue to negotiate, Commissioner Roger Goodell answered an entirely different question: “We don’t anticipate there will be a federal court oversight.”
In other words, the NFL continues, by all appearances, to insist that the next CBA will include no language giving the federal court in Minnesota jurisdiction over any disputes that may arise. As we’ve previously argued, it’s an unrealistic and unreasonable position, possibly arising from the general disdain that businessmen have with the court system. We previously articulated four reasons for the league to give in on this point: (1) one way or the other, a third party will resolve disputes as to the language of the CBA; (2) the lawyers have the power to draft a CBA that requires no interpretation later; (3) the conservative Eighth Circuit provides an acceptable safety net in light of the liberal/progressive/whatever word Democrats come up with next before Republicans can demonize it federal court in Minnesota; and (4) in the grand scheme of the labor relationship, the fights arising under the CBA are few and far between.
So let it go, NFL. Use it to score some other concession and move on. Otherwise, that last pothole on the road to labor peace could be the one that snaps an axle.