Over the past several weeks, we’ve posted multiple items regarding the NFL’s concerns as to the behavior and motivations of the lawyers representing the players during the ongoing labor negotiations. The owners believe that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn want to derail the settlement process, sacrifice a full season, pursue a mammoth antitrust verdict, which when trebled (fancy talk for tripled) could exceed $12 billion, and then leverage that verdict into partial ownership of the league itself.
Few if any other organizations have shared these views, although it’s likely that plenty of others have heard the talk. Last week, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports explained the league’s viewpoint. “[O]wners continue to regard NFLPA attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and James Quinn as divisive forces intent on blowing up any prospective settlement in favor of continuing to pursue legal remedies, including the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit, that could create monumental leverage for the players in the future,” Silver wrote.
Today, Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com writes that, in his opinion and based on the facts he has learned, Kessler and Quinn are indeed trying to prevent the players from working out a deal. “Now, I have to give credit, because the only journalist in the country previously beating the Kessler/Quinn drum has been Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com,” Freeman writes in a column couched as an open letter to NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith. “I used to think Florio was off his lawyer rocker, but he has been right all along based on interviews I’ve done with several NFLPA sources over the past few days. “
Of course, there’s still a chance that I’m off my lawyer rocker, but that I’m also still right.
“[T]hey’ve gone too far,” Freeman says of Kessler and Quinn. “Like owners have previously, the NFLPA lawyers, I’m told, have been recently picking stupid fights over petty technical issues and arguing over who is going to pay for retiree benefits when the league has offered a fair 50-50 split. All of these arguments have delayed the negotiating process.
“Owners believe — and I think they’re correct — the two men want to delay a settlement as long as possible so they can propel the Brady antitrust lawsuit to the brink.”
Freeman later explains, accurately by the way, that the late Gene Upshaw knew how to handle Kessler. Upshaw would let Kessler do his thing until it approached the edge of problematic, and then Upshaw would push Kessler to the side and Upshaw would get a deal done. (For example, whenever Kessler would argue that, absent a union, the draft violates antitrust laws, Upshaw would essentially tell Kessler to put a sock in it.)
That’s precisely what De Smith needs to do now. Based on the positive feedback we’ve heard lately regarding the manner in which Smith has grown into the job and displayed leadership on the fly, there’s a good chance that will happen.
But if there’s any doubt, it makes sense for any players who want to do a deal and who trust De Smith to do the job for which he has been hired to make a call or send an e-mail today to their player representatives, to the NFLPA* Executive Committe, and/or to De Smith himself. And, in fairness, it also would make sense for any players who want to skip a season and pursue a $12 billion antitrust verdict (which then would be appealed to the court that has to date upheld the lockout) to make their views known, too.
Does anyone need two guesses as which position will generate more calls and e-mails from players?
Meanwhile, feel free to express your own opinions below.