At the top of the hour on ESPN, Sal Paolantonio reiterated what we’ve been saying for weeks: “We keep hearing from a lot of owners here that . . . Jeffrey Kessler is holding up this deal.”
Kessler apparently is holding up the deal in one way by ignoring all modern means of communication to insist on sending out union cards in the mail for players to sign and return.
There’s another Kessler tactic that continues to find willing soil. As Chris Mortensen of ESPN mentioned moments after Paolantonio’s report from Atlanta, some of the players meeting in Washington are reluctant to reformulate the union.
To borrow a quote from Stanley Hudson, “Have you lost your damn mind? Because I’ll help you find it.”
This deal won’t work — it can’t work — without the union being reconstituted. Without the protection against antitrust litigation that a multiemployer bargaining unit provides, the NFL will be immune to antitrust attack from future players.
With the rookie wage scale sucking away roughly half of what Cam Newton made in comparison to Sam Bradford’s rookie contract, Andrew Luck would be able to sue the league, claiming that the draft is an antitrust violation. And the league would have to defend the case on the merits, because there would be no antitrust exemption in the absence of a union.
In 1993, the lawyers (cough . . . Kessler . . . cough) failed to insert clear language into the Reggie White settlement agreement that would have allowed the union to decertify and file an antitrust suit the day that the deal expires. As a result, it gave the league an opening to argue that the decertification was a sham.
So the fix is simple. This time around, include language that better preserves the union’s ability to shut down and file suit if/when the owners back the players into a corner 10 years from now, or later.
To make it work, the league needs to be willing to include such language in the settlement. And if the league isn’t, then that’s the kind of information Kessler should be leaking to the likes of Ron Borges.