The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a labor deal that will carry the game through at least nine more seasons without a lockout or a strike. But the presence of a labor contract doesn’t guarantee labor peace.
Over the past couple of months, the relationship between the NFL and NFLPA has deteriorated, with more and more points of contention emerging between the parties. It actually started not long after the Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed, given the failure of the parties to proceed with a fairly clear commitment to conduct HGH testing.
It’s gotten worse in recent weeks, fueled by the Saints’ bounty case and exacerbated by the union’s recent collusion claim. Look for further deterioration to come.
“There are always going to be situations where our interests don’t align and we’re going to fight tooth and nail,” NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth tells NFL Network’s Albert Breer. “And we respect each other afterwards in those situations.”
NFLPA executive direct DeMaurice Smith was more blunt during a Thursday press conference: “Cartels do what cartels will do when left unchecked.”
It’s important for the NFLPA to be vigilant, even in times of supposed labor peace. And with a former litigator running the union, it’s to be expected that the union’s interests will from time to time be pursued and defended via litigation.
Still, underlying any arguments or lawsuits or debates is the fact that, now more than ever, the NFL and the NFLPA are business partners. They share every dollar that comes through the cash register, and so they should refrain from taking action against each other that could in any way reduce the total dollars generated.
The collusion claim, for example, could in theory attract the attention of Congress, which could decide to take action against the NFL’s antitrust exemption for broadcast purposes. Which in turn would inflict major damage on the interests of the league and the interests of the players.
Of the tooth-and-nail fighting, Foxworth says that “we respect each other afterwards.” But it’s even more important to respect each other during. And that means making claims and raising defenses to claims not on a knee-jerk or nothing-to-lose basis but only after carefully considering the impact of the proposed activity on the bigger picture.
The claims made in the new collusion case will make it harder for the NFL and the NFLPA to resolve future differences amicably, because the NFL will now fear that the NFLPA will not honor the documents that purport to resolve and release certain legal claims. In turn, the fact that the NFL apparently engaged in collusion during the uncapped year (regardless of whether the claims were waived by the new CBA) will make it harder for the NFLPA to trust the NFL on pretty much anything.
That’s what the two sides should be aspiring to restore: trust. They can agree and they can disagree and they can agree to disagree and they can disagree to disagree, but if they can’t trust each other, the relationship never will be as strong as it could or should be.