We’ve previously pointed out that some within the NFL Players Association believe that Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and chief outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler hope to force a lockout, since that would give the union an opening to use the political process to squeeze the league, which some believe will be the best way for the union to get a favorable deal for the players.
And while Smith has plenty of connections in Congress, thanks to his years as a litigator with a high-profile D.C. law firm and as a federal prosecutor working under current Attorney General Eric Holder, the union has a full-time Congressional liaison who’s laying the foundation for what may soon come.
Technically, Joe Briggs is the public policy counsel and manager of government relations for the NFL
Players Association. In a new profile, Politico describes Briggs as a “kind of fixer for football stars looking to navigate Washington.”
But, frankly, that’s just cover for what we believe his deeper mission to be: softening up the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate for an assault on, for example, the NFL’s antitrust exemption that applies to television contracts.
“Our main goal is to educate members and staff about the business of
football and let them know how the business of football may effect their
constituents,” Briggs said. “We talk to members and their staff about the
potential for job losses and the economic impact should there be a
lockout. Our hope is to be another resource to them should they have
Briggs already is reeling off the primary talking points that will be used if/when the time comes to sic Congress on the NFL.
“Even if no games are played [because of a labor dispute between the NFL
and the NFLPA] in 2011, the NFL would still receive revenue of $4.5
billion [from television contracts],” Briggs tells lawmakers. “To us that looks like you’re setting up a piggy bank to continue
funding your operation even if your biggest expense is not present.”
Briggs also breaks out the favorite talking point of his boss.
“No one knows the financials of the NFL — including other team owners,” Briggs said. “As partners in the game of football we don’t understand this hard
line from the NFL — it’s much different from the position taken by
The union’s argument in support of full disclosure of financial information remains their best overall argument, from a political and P.R. standpoint. The problem is that, if the union digs in its heels on the issue, no progress of any kind can be made toward a new deal.
Working in the league’s benefit are issues like the rookie wage scale and the “enhanced” season, which will tend to pull the constituents toward the league’s way of thinking, and which will in turn make lawmakers less likely to get behind what could end up being an unpopular cause.