Last month, agent Peter Schaffer joined PFT Live to discuss various issues relating to the labor dispute. Among other things, he addressed the possibility of players filing individual lawsuits for breach of contract, an intriguing possibility given that, apart from the broader labor deal, each player has an individual contract for employment.
Schaffer recently reiterated the possibility to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports. “It’s one of the arrows in our quiver, and it’s a large one,” Schaffer said. “We hope that it doesn’t come to that point. We hope that cooler heads prevail, that the two sides find a resolution, and that at the end of the day people negotiating the deal will put the interests of the game ahead of their own. But yes, it’s a possibility.”
Though the NFLPA* has yet to decide to pursue what would amount to hundreds if not more than 1,000 lawsuits being filed through the United States, it could be the next stop on the litigation express, if the Eighth Circuit allows the lockout to stand. And, as anyone who watched today’s PFT Live knows, our primary concern is that, once the effort to lift the lockout fizzles, NFLPA* leadership will look for leverage via alternative litigation leverage in lieu of negotiating a new labor deal.
The good news is that Silver, a good friend of ours who is among the group of writers perceived as being pro-player in this fight (others have been far more obvious in their anti-owner, pro-player bias), genuinely believes that the players realize the value of negotiation. “Rest assured that neither the rank and file nor the leaders on the players’ side, including NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, are panicking in the wake of Monday’s opinion,” Silver writes. “The smart move would be to stay calm, counter the owners’ most recent offer and attempt to negotiate a compromise that results in a new, multiyear CBA and leaves both sides feeling reasonably good about the outcome. . . . Based on my conversations with key figures on both sides of the conflict, I believe that’s ultimately what will happen, despite the posturing from each camp.”
We hope he’s right. For now, it’s hard not to conclude that the NFLPA* will continue to resist meaningful negotiations until they acquire leverage. If they can’t acquire leverage via the effort to lift the lockout, the next step — whether it’s individual lawsuits or something else — could take enough time to jeopardize part, or all, of the 2011 season.