OBR Daily Blog 2/26-27

NFL Network. Check. Combine on. Check. Honey-Do list? That can wait another week.

10:07 PM

Quarterbacks on Display Sunday in Indy: With the quarterbacks working out Sunday at the Scouting Combine, who pu… http://bit.ly/dJ3q3b

The Week That Was In NFL Labor
Dave Kolonich on February 27th, 2011 AT 11:15 AM

In news from the NFL's doppelganger mother ship, that being the National Federation of Lawyers, here's the latest on the league's labor dispute.  Of course while reading these notes, one should remember that I failed Quantitative Methods three different times.  Or maybe it was Ethics.  I can't remember.

Anyway, here's a quick recap of the week that was….

But first, a nice little primer on the overall situation….

NJ.com – A Look At the NFL's Labor Dispute and the Possibility of a Lockout


Washington Post – Mediator Says ‘Very Strong Differences Remain' In NFL Labor Dispute

"At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties," Cohen said in a written statement. "Nonetheless, I recommended and the parties have agreed to resume the mediation process in my office commencing next Tuesday…. During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues."


Don't you just love Lawyer-speak?  If not, here's a quick translation:

"Some progress made" = "Both sides showed up."

"Very strong differences remain" = "Neither side gave in."

"The parties have agreed to resume the mediation process" = "Both sides will again show up."

"The parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions" = "Figure it out yourselves."

Of course, the ugly truth regarding the past few days is that no mediator – federal or otherwise – is going to make a decision that will unlock a potential lockout.  And in a situation where neither side wants to blink first, the confines of "holding talks" in such a place are very friendly. 

And of course, this means that after the owners and NFLPA eventually leave the mediator's office, they will head to a more familiar setting….

Sporting News.com – Judge Could Favor NFLPA in TV Money Dispute

The two sides are fighting over $4 billion in broadcast rights fees that the league would be allowed to keep in case of a lockout. The union wants the money put in an escrow account so the league can't use it as leverage during negotiations. The NFL says it has negotiated such money as lockout protection for years.


Yahoo.com – Doug Farrar – Documents Show Owners Planned For Lockout in TV Contracts

Burbank’s ruling splits letter and spirit — he talks about the NFL’s responsibility to use best efforts and good faith in the negotiations of TV contracts to be "terms of art" under law. He then states that there is no specific provision in the CBA that nails down what those terms mean in the negotiation of any contract. In other words, guys, the owners may have sacrificed some of the revenue you’re supposed to receive in the interests of filling their own coffers after locking you out. But because the agreement you signed doesn’t spell out what best efforts and good faith mean, there’s no real boundary.


Right now, this is about the closest thing to leverage that the NFLPA has.  Knowing that the last labor deal wouldn't work out long-term, the owners protected themselves in the event of a future lockout.  And on a related note, there's a great reason why most NFL owners are billionaires:  they're smarter and better connected than the rest of us. 

Knowing that the NFL's mega-TV contract would continue to pay them in the event of a lockout is the main reason that the NFLPA will never see any "open books" on the part of the owners.  Or in other words, it's obvious who is in the driver's seat.

For better or worse….

Minneapolis Star-Tribune – They'll Play Games Until It's Time to Play

Roberts said neither NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell nor NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith "can afford politically to blink first." Goodell and Smith are leading CBA negotiations for the first time since replacing Paul Tagliabue and the late Gene Upshaw, respectively.

"Both Goodell and Smith got their jobs because they appeal to the hard-line elements among them," Roberts said. "They can’t afford even the perception that they’re soft or making the big concessions."

Roberts said pressure is on Goodell because the owners feel Tagliabue "gave away the store" when the current CBA was reached in 2006. That’s why the owners exercised their early opt-out clause in 2008, setting in motion Thursday’s deadline to create a new CBA.


On this note, it's becoming clear just why Goodell was selected as the league's commissioner a few years ago.  Beyond his hard-line enforcement on player conduct and head injuries, it doesn't appear to be in Goodell's character to ever lose a fight – especially one that will benefit the people who placed him in his current job.

As for Smith, can you imagine being in a worse spot right now?  The owners essentially don't have to give any concessions to the players or the NFLPA – which is largely comprised of a group of independent contractors, many of which will soon be broke.  And the numbers don't exactly favor the players – at least when it comes to unity.  32 owners versus some 1600 players?  Which group will be easier to unify?

But then again, maybe the NFLPA has found some help elsewhere….

AP – Key Senator Urges NFL To Open Its Financial Books

"Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that the only way to sort out this stalemate is for the owners and the league to answer the biggest sticking point: money," Sen. Jay Rockefeller wrote in a Washington Post opinion column on Friday. "What I’d like to see from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners is a simple display of good faith: Show the union your books. Don’t keep secrets. If there are financial pressures that keep you from agreeing to the revenue-sharing plan proposed by the players, let’s see the proof."

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., suggested that a neutral third party review the financial data, remove anything sensitive and prepare an assessment of the league’s finances.


How ironic that a career politician is urging a group of billionaire owners to suddenly become transparent.  I'm sure that this type of gesture will be greeted with the enthusiasm that most lawmakers have shown towards their own independent government panels.  Thanks for playing, Senator.  I'm positive that the people of West Virginia are delighted that their elected official has time for such diversions.

And finally, how about a little common sense?  Not that common sense ever leads to anything positive….

Atlanta Post – NFL Contract Dispute Offers Classic Workers' Compensation Issues

It's clear that this is a classic union/management struggle, where workers are fighting for their share of the pie. It just so happens that the NFL is a pretty big pie. But much like the fight in Wisconsin, where thousands of unionized workers have protested and virtually camped out in the state capital demanding that their CBA be honored, many of the NFL players believe that their collective bargaining agreements is under attack by owners, who are trying to squeeze out more money, while sacrificing players' safety and viability.  And if the workers at the top of pay scale can't get a fair shake what hope is there for us at the bottom?


And to extend that last line – what hope is there for the fans?

Good night and good luck.

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Latest Links from the OBR Newswire
OBR Newswire on February 26th, 2011 AT 10:00 AM

These are links from the OBR Newswire for February 26th from 08:18 to 08:20:

Latest Links from the OBR Newswire
OBR Newswire on February 26th, 2011 AT 9:00 AM

These are links from the OBR Newswire for February 26th from 08:18 to 08:20:

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