Despite recent public sniping between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, talks between the two sides are “heating up,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said by phone on Saturday afternoon.
Atallah’s comments come at the end of a day that started with the disclosure of a letter from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith explaining to players that the union’s “internal deadline” for working out a deal had passed, and that continued with NFL spokesman Greg Aiello releasing the following statement to the Associated Press: “It is disappointing and inexplicable, especially for fans. What deadline is he talking about? We hope this does not mean the union has abandoned negotiating in favor of decertifying and litigating. We are ready to meet and negotiate anytime and anywhere. But it takes sustained effort and shared commitment to reach an agreement. One side can’t do it alone.”
Atallah said, both on Twitter and via phone, that the “internal deadline” relates to planning only, and that it signifies no decision to abandon negotiating. He reiterated something he said eight days ago on The Dan Patrick Show — although the union has the ability to decertify and block a lockout, the players prefer to work out a new deal. Decertification would be followed by an antitrust lawsuit, after the league imposes across-the-board rules regarding salaries, free agency, and the draft. As Atallah acknowledged, the matter ultimately would be resolved by an outsider; the union (and presumably the league) prefer that the parties work together to strike a deal.
That said, decertification would mean that there would be no work stoppage.
Though the negotiations are progressing, the question remains whether a strong push will be made to get a deal done before the end of the year. We’ve heard mixed accounts regarding whether the league or the union — or both — are dragging their feet.
As we see it, there’s one way to remove any ambiguity. Since the parties repeatedly have shown that they aren’t bashful about taking their cases to the people, we call upon each side to answer the following question on their respective labor propaganda websites, NFLLabor.com for the league and NFLLockout.com for the union.
Are you willing to devote at least three work days per week over the balance of the year to at least nine hours per day of negotiation?
When the rhetoric is stripped away, it really is that simple. The parties either are willing to commit the time to face-to-face meetings, or they aren’t.
And if one side is willing to make that commitment and the other side isn’t, it will speak volumes.
Now we play the waiting game.