Doty’s jurisdiction could be a dealbreaker

Last Thursday, only hours before news broke of the surprising agreement between the NFL and the players’ union to submit their labor dispute to mediation, we pointed out that the NFLPA doesn’t agree with the league’s position that expiration of the current labor agreement ends the jurisdiction of Judge David Doty.

Before the top-secret negotiating sessions began, a league source told us that, from the league’s perspective, removing Doty from the position of resolving certain disputes regarding the language of the labor agreement is a dealbreaker.   Though Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this month that there are no dealbreakers, Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that a top league source said the owners would sign under no circumstances a new agreement that continue to be subjected to “federal oversight.”

In other words, it’s a dealbreaker.

Another impediment to an agreement continues to be NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.  The league believes that Kessler has designed the union’s litigation strategy, and that Kessler’s motivation comes not from the best interests of the players but the best interests of his firm, which has racked up plenty of revenue in legal fees — and which stands to earn a lot more if the legal fights continue.

Kessler predictably denies that he’s motivated directly or otherwise by his own financial interests.  “My job is to get a fair deal for the players, and I take my orders from DeMaurice Smith and the player executive committee,” Kessler told Kaplan.  “Anyone who knows me knows that my sole interest is player welfare.  Name calling is not going to help the parties get a deal and avoid a lockout.”

We agree with Kessler, but for reasons with which he likely disagrees.  By putting so much pressure on the union to dump Kessler, the league has made it difficult if not impossible for the union to do so, lest De Smith be perceived as cowering to the NFL.  Based on things we’ve heard in the nearly two years since Smith was elected to lead the union, Smith understands that Kessler is a divisive influence, and Smith is keenly aware of the magnitude of the invoices from Dewey & LeBoeuf.  But Kessler possesses a significant amount of institutional knowledge, making him extremely valuable to the current negotiations.

If/when a new labor deal is reached, Kessler’s involvement could diminish dramatically, if not completely.

But only if the league stops asking for that to happen.

8 responses to “Doty’s jurisdiction could be a dealbreaker

  1. Actually, some people do care. If for example, the steep downward trend in Green Bay’s profitability continues due to increasingly high labor costs, there will come a day, not too far into the future, when the Packers will simply be unable to compete with teams like the Cowboys, Redskins, and the like, you know, the teams with those “billionaire owners” about which the union is always telling us. It would seem that if the union continues to have its way, the only teams that will be able to survive are the “billionaire” owned teams who can afford to have a hobby which loses costs them tens of millions of dollars per year.

  2. Which side’s hubris will get in the way?

    At first I thought the players would end up miscalculating the landscape, thinking that they can utilize the fan’s “working man” sympathies despite making millions of dollars and coming across as greedy. I mean, in the end, the fans just want football and if it can had at a cheaper rate, then we’re on board.

    But after the Jerry’s World SB fiasco, I think the owners, the owners are the ones coming across as bullies and greed mongers. They seem to be tripping over themselves lately.

    One more questions for the owners….if they get the deal they want, what are they going to do with the extra monies? If they don’t get the deal they want, where will the monies come from?

    They always speak of the fan – the fans want this, and the experience for the fan that – but will it be cost friendly to watch live, watch on tv, watch remotely, etc or will the fan, sitting innocently on the sidelines in this high stake game, also have to take a whack and without the perverbial representation?

    Is it possible that the very detailed NFL already has contingency plans in place for the fan’s money for either situation?

    Before they play with our emotions, can they spell out to us what the plans are for the fan’s future in terms of dollars and cents?

  3. I’m sure that the league doesn’t want him because from the moment that he’s been involved, they’ve actually had to deal fairly with the union. Hell, he told them when they first came before him that they needed to come together on a deal or he’d come up with a solution himself and neither side would like it and that’s how we got to free agency and the cap.

    The league may portray it differently but I think that we’re lucky to see Doty involved. He’s kept the owners honest and he’s probably saved both sides millions in fees because I think a judge that was more favorable to the owners would have forced the players to walk away from the table instead of working with the owners. The league doesn’t like it that he’s sided with the players but hell, you’re talking about a favorable judge for the players for less than 20 years vs the decades of judicial favoritism that the owners enjoyed before Doty came along.

  4. Remember that scene from the movie “Young Frankenstein” where one grave-robber said to the other, “It could be worse. It could be raining”? (Then you hear a big thunder clap – and sure enough it starts to pour with rain).

    Well it could be worse for the owners than Judge Doty having oversight: The union could file their new antitrust suit in the Ninth Circuit (in San Francisco), and the case would be heard by a judge that would make David Doty look like Scott Walker by comparison.

  5. mick730 says:


    First off, GB is still more profitable than what their sheet says because the 10k that they file doesn’t show where all their “losses” have come from. GB is the only one to file a 10k so people get a false sense of where the NFL is really heading and let’s not forget that the NFL, even for GB, is a license to print money and they won’t be going under any time soon and for all the money that the “billionaires” have spent, it hasn’t bought them a lot of Super Bowls, has it? The ones that have won lately have been the ones that have spent a lot less than the Joneses and Snyders have and as long as there are organizations that scout well and build a solid core from within, they’ll always out-perform those that try to do it the lazy way: buying a title. Guys like you have been saying that these rich guys are going to buy all the titles for years and yet, it hasn’t. Jerry Jones had his best years BEFORE free agency and so did the Redskins. It was only after they ran off their best personnel people that these guys started trying to do things the “billionaire” way and that they’ve seen very little success. Think about that before you go all Armageddon on the NFL.

  6. The only way I see a deal getting done is if Judge Doty rules that the NFL can’t take the TV money during the lockout. The owners have no reason to bargain in good faith if they get the TV money without football.

  7. “Before the top-secret negotiating sessions began, a league source told us that, from the league’s perspective, removing Doty from the position of resolving certain disputes regarding the language of the labor agreement is a dealbreaker.”

    I’m completely confuse, Big Mike. If the League doesn’t like Doty, how is removing him a dealbreaker? Seems to me that getting rid of Doty might be the dealmaker for the League. Methinks you might be just a wee bit confused, Mike- just as you appear so often on ESPN. It’s no wonder you got out of the law- you must have been a hoot in the courtroom with such a bad track record of presenting misinformation and misstatements.

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