Back To Our Regular Scheduled Lockout

UDPATE: The NFLPA is expecting the 8th Circuit to rule in favor of the owners and allow a “stay” until the June 3rd hearing.  The player cited his own communication with reps from the decertified union reps.  The news was technically broke, according to Rotoworld, by Chad Ochocinco…so take it for what it’s worth.

Ah, the lockout. Seems like just yesterday we were talking about the lack of NFL action.  Oh wait, it was yesterday…or at least the day before.  I know, I know, it’s a broken record that keeps playing Culture Clubs line “Do you really want to hurt me” over and over and over and over and over…you get the point.  Every day there is supposed to be nothing going on with the NFL and yet every day there is something going on with the NFL and the labor issue.

If it’s not a player upset that they may not be a free agent or a league official pointing their finger at the other side or the other side pointing a finger at the league, then it’s a player calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “turd”, or something else.

In the real world we simply wait for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on the “stay” which will either lift the lockout or allow the lockout.  You would think that a court order to lift the lockout would be in everyone’s best interest, players, owners, fans…me.  But that’s not really the case.   In fact, I struggle daily with the reality of the situation and find myself asking what’s more important.  Football for the sake of football or football for the sake of the game of football?  Make sense?

I’ll explain, in my long-winded style that creeps up on me from time to time.

The first thing I suppose you need to ask yourself is this.  Do you support union work forces and if so do you support the idea that the NFL and for that matter all major league sports are single entities operating as single businesses and thus subject to anti-trust laws?  If you answered yes to that, you likely side with the players in this matter.  If you answered no, you likely side with the owners…or at the very least slant that way.  Of course it’s not that simple, you want football.  You love football, I love football.  But what cost are you willing to pay to have football back now as opposed to later?

Here is where I come to odds within myself on the subject.  Yes, I support the owners in this mess.  For one, players salaries are ridiculous and the off-field behavior is increasingly counterproductive to teams.  Owners invest money in a player who ends up suspended and they owner/team gets no relief from that players transgression.  That’s fine.  Works that way in most jobs I suppose although many companies can and will try to re-coop signing bonuses or hiring bonuses if that employee is fired for say, a felony.  The NFL can’t sue the player when they do the same.

I want football.  I need it.  Having something to post daily on this site that doesn’t start and end with the word “lockout” would be heaven.  Talking about free agency would be a lot more fun than talking about litigation or trying to explain to you why it is I don’t really want the lockout to end.  But that comes with a cost that I am not sure I really want to pay.  In the end.

If the players win this round of appeal and the stay is lifted, the players will NOT go back to the negotiating tables any time soon.  It will be their 2nd consecutive victory in this matter and they will have the upper hand.  That upper hand belongs to DeMaurice Smith and Jeffery Kessler who are hellbent on letting the courts decide the structure and future of the NFLPA and make no mistake, any settlement of this litigation will come with the NFL demanding a “CBA” which would then make the NFLPA exist again as it once did.  The union will be back again…eventually.

The players have no reason to negotiate a new deal and if they win the appeals process they will have the legal system on their side, players will be back to work and getting paid and the litigation will continue while we all watch football.  O.k. sounds great.  But the problem here is that any rules implemented by the NFL in terms of the draft, free agency, drug testing, and so on, will be contested as anti-trust violations in the courts by the players.  Which means that all of that at some point may go away by court order.  It’s a real possibility.

As of now however, that doesn’t matter as much as getting a final resolution to this entire affair and to do that, both sides must sit down and negotiate.  Mediation is to begin again on May 16th and if the players lose this appeal process, there is a far better chance that they will actually take the negotiations more serious.  The league for their part has really not done much to get the two sides back to the table either but there is little doubt that the league wants a negotiated CBA as opposed to a negotiated litigation settlement or a court settlement.  Which is why if a lockout remains in place, the fans, the owners, and yes, even the players will win.

A ruling in favor of a “stay” will allow the league to put pressure on the players to negotiate while the players appeal and the “Brady case” moves forward.  The players will feel the financial drain and thus more pressure on the Smith and Kessler will be made to get something done.  This would expedite that process and move things closer to ending the litigation and returning players to football.

The benefits for the players is simple.  A likely salary cap with a low end ceiling that will keep the players on tiers 3 and 4 paid at a league minimum instead of no low ceiling that could result in a large percentage of players not making close to what they were making before.  Free agency at 4 years instead of 6.  A rookie wage scale that would put more money in the pockets of veterans instead of unproven incoming draftees, a better retirement package system, and more benefits driven to retired players.  It’s also likely that the NFL players would see an increased roster size and thus more players in the NFL and an increase of salary cap funds over the life of the CBA.  This is what a negotiation of a CBA will do.  It will put more money into the players of the league while giving something back to the owners as well who, according to the players, got the short end of the stick the last time around.

Litigation will not lead to any of those concessions because frankly, the courts can’t force the league to have a salary cap or a low ceiling or anything else.  They can however deem that the draft is illegal, that free agency is illegal, and that any rules in place by the NFL are anti-trust violations meaning that teams must incorporate their own rules of how to govern their employees and pay their employees.

I know, this is all nothing new and it’s rather long winded, I suppose in my own way, I wrote this more as a reminder to myself why I am not sold on having the lockout lifted for the sake of simply have a free agency period with only 6 year veterans on the market or a league that once again will find every move, every rule, and every decision tossed into the courts for scrutinizing.  So maybe this was simply for me more than you.

Eventually we will have football again.  Whether it be VIA a league and player negotiated labor deal or court ordered finding in favor of the players or the league.  It may be in September, it may not be until 2012.  What we do know is this, the litigation process is going to take a lot of time and the only way a new CBA gets done, which is best for all involved, is if the two sides actually negotiate a deal.  It’s my opinion that the only way the players will sit down and do that, is if they have their backs against the wall and the prospect of no money in their pockets for a long time.  When the wives start complaining, the men will start making phone calls.

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