League’s labor lawyer says union wants lockout

Last year, whispers persisted that the NFLPA was talking so much about a lockout because the union actually wants a lockout.  (Executive director De Smith scoffed at that claim during an appearance last July on The Dan Patrick Show.)   Now, the NFL’s chief outside labor lawyer has publicly made that accusation.

“This is not a union eager to avoid a lockout,” Bob Batterman told Mark Maske of the Washington Post.  “This is a union waiting for a lockout to occur.”

The theory that has been making the rounds not just in NFL circles but within the halls of the NFLPA’s Washington, D.C. offices is that Smith and outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler believe that, after a lockout is imposed, the union will be able to exert the greatest possible leverage against the league, via political pressure or the court system.

“If you want to litigate, if you want to get Congress involved, you want a lockout to occur and you want the clock to run out [on negotiations] so your decertification and litigation strategy can come into play,” Batterman said.

(Yep, we’re already taking steps to get Batterman on PFT Live next week.)

The notion that the union wants a lockout arguably is bolstered by the union’s presumption a lockout will be implemented automatically by the NFL at the moment the current labor deal expires, as of midnight on March 4.  But that’s not the case.  Just as the players can work without a contract and opt to walk out at a moment of heightened leverage, the league can do the same.

“Our options are to lock out or not lock out,” Batterman said.  “A lockout does not have to begin on the first day after expiration.”

Batterman declined to say what the league will do if March 4 comes and goes without a new deal.  The union is bracing for a lockout.  And, per Batterman, welcoming it.

Within that context, can a new deal be done by March 3?

‘There is time if there were two things — a serious partner who wanted to get a deal done by March 3, and I have serious doubts about that, and if we spent serious time getting it done,” Batterman said.  “It’s do-able if there were a desire to reach a serious compromise.  Without that, it doesn’t matter if there’s 50 days or 500 days.”

This gets back to one of the points made in our recent item on the 10 things to know right now about the labor situation.  Smith possibly believes he can’t do a deal by March 4 because it will appear that he didn’t engage in a sufficient fight against the league.  If, of course, the parties spent more time meeting and less time bickering, Smith could sell to the rank-and-file that enough blood, sweat, and tears had been shed in advance of the expiration of the current deal to justify a new one.

22 responses to “League’s labor lawyer says union wants lockout

  1. I can only believe if Troy Vincent was elected to lead the NFLPA that there would already have been major progress towards a new deal.

    DeSmith is a moron of epic proportions who should not be in charge of a bathroom much less a union.

  2. Push the button – nuke the whole thing and let’s start all over again. No Al Davis, no Jerrah Jones, no Dan Snyder. And no Haynesworth, Cromartie or Pacman.

  3. If I were the NFL I’d be careful. I’d say 60% of NFL fans are fringe fans, and if there is no football they will simply find another hobby. Football is “cool” right now, and if there is a lockout the “cool” factor certainly will wear off. The NFL will never be able to regain the popularity that it has right now if there is a lockout.

  4. I think Troy Vincent would do anything the owners wanted. He was giving the owners privy info about the players. He’s a scumbag for that. And of course, when he didn’t get the NFLPA exec job… where did he land? That’s right, in the league office.

    DeSmith is actually fighting for the players, which is what you want your union leader to do.

  5. These guys are tools with their own agenda, they just don’t give a hoot about the players…

  6. DeMaurice Smith is serving his own interests right now. He will get around to serving the interests of the union once it is politically advantageous for him to do so. He is getting publicity and trying to make himself look like a visionary and tough advocate while he has been steering the situation to fit his desires. Hiring Smith was the dumbest thing the union has done in decades.

  7. i agree with kline bring in the replacements, its fun to see which ones may stick in the nfl……

  8. I’m not sure why Smith thinks stonewalling to bring a work stoppage to the most popular sport in the country would help him politically. But then again most politicans work for their own best interest anyway. He’ll fit right in.

    This guy’s been screaming “Lock-Out” since day one. Never once has he sounded like a guy that wanted to prevent it from happening.

  9. r8ersfan says:
    Push the button – nuke the whole thing and let’s start all over again. No Al Davis, no Jerrah Jones, no Dan Snyder. And no Haynesworth, Cromartie or Pacman.

    please don’t do that. I’m a Chiefs fan, and will be awfully upset when Al Davis can no longer imprison the Raiders to mediocrity!!

  10. Take a look at the guys playing this game – seriously, were you to put in a salary restriction that allowed a maximum of $1M per season per player would any of these guys really have any better options? How stupid is it to pay a guy $18M per season who’s only other alternative is rounding up shopping carts at Walmart for $9 per hour. Hello – reality calling. Imagine going to an NFL game and paying $10 for a ticket, $1 for a hotdog and $1 for a beer. It’s MLK day next week, I can have a vision too.

  11. It’s a good strategy by the union. It would be one thing if the union were negotiating with an entity (the league) that had a consistent position. It’s another thing entirely when that 1 entity is more like 32 different entities each with their own agenda, and with leadership that is incapable of deciding on their behalf. In that situation you let them come to you.

    Consider a military analogy. You’re facing several quasi independent opponents with the collective goal of taking you down. You don’t have the resources or time to take each of these opponents on directly, one at a time. Perhaps the opponents are too distributed and your forces too limited. Who knows. Anyway, even if you were to hit each opponent independently it would make no difference to the outcome of the battle, as you wouldn’t have resources to defend against the others. In this situation you need the opponents to present a common front in a way in which you have the resources to face them. In other words you have to draw them in.

    The union can’t negotiate with a side that doesn’t know its own mind. The league’s schizophrenia is advantageous to itself. Analogous to the many different opponents in the example above, the union can’t negotiate with each owner, nor would it matter if they could. And the union is at a disadvantage facing the league head on as the owners have deeper pockets. So that leaves the union with the problem of a) getting the league to act as one cohesive unit that can be attacked and b)moving the battle to a better setting. And they move the fight to the courts where the league will be treated as one, and where they are additionally burdened with proving they are good stewards of their antitrust exclusion. Pretty smart really.

  12. Both sides sure have their idiots. Some owners and some powerful players in the union seem to think that a lockout would be a good thing.

    This, of course, is lunacy. Both sides also act like the fans are on their side. In truth the fans pretty much hate both sides right now, and they agree with anyone who is actively trying to avoid a lockout and get something done. They will never be able to sympathize with the ultra rich arguing between themselves over a pile of coin, especially when the fan has to pay what is to them huge sums to see a game.

    I wish that the fans actually had representation in this matter. Maybe a fan “mediator, who can get the sides together and come up with something binding.

    Right now each side seems to take up a position simply because they think it is what the other side doesn’t want. In fact they should be arguing for what is good for them and what is good for football.

    Right now you have a product that has worked well, and while imperfect, has made people on both sides very wealthy. Now everyone wants to rock that boat, rather than doing maintenance to make sure it stays healthy and afloat.

    Kill the 18 game schedule. Instill the rookie salary scale for round one. Cut the revenue pretty much where it was, with some small tinkering. That way the fans get happy. If we get mad, we may take our money and go home. Not a lot individually, but if large numbers of us walk, you will ALL suffer.

  13. I’m not trying to minimize the situation here, but I really think that DeSmith cannot wait until the lockout happens so he can become a household name. This is self promotion at its finest.

  14. @ r8rsfan:

    “Take a look at the guys playing this game – seriously, were you to put in a salary restriction that allowed a maximum of $1M per season per player would any of these guys really have any better options? How stupid is it to pay a guy $18M per season who’s only other alternative is rounding up shopping carts at Walmart for $9 per hour. Hello – reality calling. Imagine going to an NFL game and paying $10 for a ticket, $1 for a hotdog and $1 for a beer. It’s MLK day next week, I can have a vision too.”

    Yes, let’s cap their salaries, even though the market dictates they can make much more. While we’re at it, let’s cap the salaries of everyone. I mean, if the convenient store clerk made only $8/hr instead of $10/hr, I could buy a candy bar for a much more reasonable price of $0.75 instead of $1.00.

    If you think that limiting the players’ salaries would reduce prices, you’re delusional. The prices would remain the same, because there are enough people like you and me who will pay or watch on TV – where the real money comes from – and the extra revenue would go in the owners’ pockets. That what businessmen do – maximize profits.

  15. kline1972 says:
    Jan 13, 2011 10:11 AM
    bring back the scab players


    Godell needs to assure the fans that in the event of a lockout; scabs and line-crossers will continue the season. Many of the owners are old, outdated and still conduct business as if still in the 1960s and 1970s. They are all greedy and self-serving.
    Replacement players will bring a fresh look back in to the game and send out a statement to all involved that with or without you, the season continues.

  16. Puh-lease. This is Bob Batterman talking.
    Don’t any of you wonder why the NFL hired the man most responsible for shutting down the NHL?
    Jerry Jones is the one pushing lockout, he’s on the record. De Smith is not.

  17. @R8rsfan:

    Ok, so, you institute an individual salary cap of $1M. First thing that happens, just about every player anybody’s heard of retires. Playing in the NFL isn’t something you do “just ’cause.” It requires an unbelievable amount of work, most of it grueling. NFL players are in pain from August to February, and then half of them spend the other half of the year rehabbing from off-season surgery. Playing in the NFL is also dangerous, and the players are more aware of that than ever. You think they don’t see every new article coming out about our growing understanding of the devastating effects of cumulative brain trauma? If you’ve already gotten a payday, there’s no reason to stick around.

    The second thing that happens is that all of the serious 2 or 3 sport athletes in high school and college quit football. It’s by far the most time-consuming of their potential sports, and if the potential pay-off is diminished like that, than they’re much better off dedicating that time to a less dangerous sport that will make them more money. At the salary level you’re talking about, if you can play basketball overseas or get a decent track & field sponsorship and endorsement contract, you’re much better off going that route than the crap shoot of the NFL.

    So now, you’re left with a league that just lost all of its name players, and hamstrung it’s ability to recruit new ones. Good luck negotiating your next contract with the TV networks. Good luck paying off your new stadium with your $10 ticket prices. Say bye-bye to all of the corporate sponsors. Congratulations: you’ve turned the NFL into the bush leagues, and bankrupted yourselves in the process.

  18. The unfortunate passing of Gene Upshaw has led the NFLPA to hire someone who appears to be narcissistic by nature. DeMaurice Smith seems to have a profound fascination with himself and I hate to think what road these “negotiations” are heading down.

    I have yet to see De Smith crack one smile or to comport himself in a way that would suggest that he is interested in reaching an agreement in a fair and timely fashion. Actually I think his favorite and most often used word is lockout. How unfortunate for everyone.

    On the other hand there seems to be quite a battle going on among the owners. Among these owners are ones who have no better attitude or outlook than De Smith. Their greed and “hardball’ ways are going to have to subside in order to get a new CBA.

    What is needed is for the players union to be smart enough to not allow De Smith lead them down the wrong path and for the more fair- minded owners to do the same with the greedy and irrational owners. These groups of sane and responsible people on both sides must push for a “lock-in”. This is when principles on both sides of the issue convene at a hotel and can’t leave with out an agreement. I feel that this is the only way to avoid a disaster and that it should be pushed for as soon as possible.

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