As the players vote on a new CBA — and as plenty of players urge others to vote no — some owners are indeed hoping that the measure fails.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports that “a number of NFL owners are hoping the current CBA proposal doesn’t pass next week because they believe they can negotiate a better deal next year, potentially with a push for an 18-game season in the future.”
It’s not really news but a new characterization of facts that have lingered for several weeks. The NFL’s vote on the CBA, as previously reported elsewhere, was not unanimous. At a time when many owners are willing to treat players as partners, some owners (fully aware of the failed strike of 1987 and the way the 2011 lockout ended) want to squeeze the players as hard as possible, knowing that the players won’t endure a lengthy work stoppage. And some owners, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, want to expand the regular season to 18 games right now.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith explained during his recent visit to #PFTPM how things potentially would unfold if the CBA fails. The owners already have voted to table any talks until next year, as the CBA expires. At that point, the owners can either lock out the players or impose the last, best offer as the new work rules pending the finalization of a new labor deal. This would essentially dare the players to strike.
If the players strike, the owners would hire replacements, like they did in 1987. And then the owners would wait for players to start crossing the picket line. Once that starts — and with so many football players who want to play football it inevitably will — it won’t stop until the strike collapses and the players play under the work rules imposed after the CBA expires. Next, the players likely would decertify the union and file a lawsuit, challenging those work rules as a violation of the antitrust laws. Eventually, after multiple years of playing under those unilaterally imposed work rules as the litigation moves through a federal court system that is in the process of taking a hard turn to the right (which is good for the owners), the case would be resolved with (drum roll, please) a new CBA.
So when Richard Sherman bristles at doing a new deal now for “fear of what may happen,” that is exactly what may (and likely will) happen. CBA expires, rules less favorable than the current deal are imposed (possibly with 18 games), players strike, strike fails, players play under the rules imposed by the owners while litigation proceeds, and several years later the process ends with a new CBA. And maybe, just maybe, that CBA will be as good as the CBA on which the players currently are voting.
That’s exactly what happened in 1987, with work rules imposed by the league and a strike that failed and a lawsuit that was filed and a CBA that became effective six years later.
Most players weren’t born then. All owners were. All owners know what happened then and, yes, some of them indeed want to do it all over again, since they believe that they’d make more money over the next seven or eight years through chaos than they would through partnership.
While the new ESPN report may indeed be couched by its source as a not-so-subtle threat aimed at getting players to vote yes, the core of the story contains the vague but real promise of history repeating itself, more than 30 years later.