Since this mega-mess began, I've always sided with the NFL Owners in this stupid labor dispute. My reasons are well stated.
But my primary objective to the players demand to see the owners' books rests solely on the indisputable fact that those financials are unequivocally none of the players business. When the players want to take on the financial risks like the owners do every day to operate their respective franchises, then I'd open it all up to them including showing the tax returns of every single NFL owner. Thus if a player like Albert Haynesworth doesn't live up to his $100 plus million contract, he should gladly return some of that money after he fails to deliver on the field. Now that would make this a true partnership.
We know that won't happen. So I ask again why should the owners have all the risks?
The players are not employees. Instead they are in the simplest of terms working as contract labor. On that basis that ties every member of this decertified union to a series of one-year non-guaranteed contracts to their respective NFL clubs. That's the way it's always been and the owners are never going to budge from that stance. Unless, like I said, the players are willing to give back chunks of their salaries when they lose games or if a franchise struggles to maintain financial viability.
Right now the players want more than they deserve. They want more money, better benefits, better working conditions, less practice time, expanded rosters and stricter guidelines for off-season workouts. The Owners simply want to re-direct some of the money going to unproven rookies to veteran players and former NFL players who are retired. All they want is a deal that will factor in the rising costs to operate each franchise responsibly. In addition, the owners are adamant that by adding a pair of regular season games and eliminating two preseason games; they are confident that they could push their annual Television revenues from $9 billion a year to $12 or $13 billion with an 18-game schedule.
But all that's a moot point because it's clear that the Union Director has zero interest in getting a deal done. The Players have been very foolish for following Smith into the courtroom. The fact that Smith was in Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday serving as legal counsel to his decertified union in the mandated mediation set forth by Judge Susan Nelson, tells me that no deal will get done as long as he's in the state of Minnesota.
Smith, who wrestled his NFLPA gig away from Troy Vincent two years ago, has misplayed every one of his steps thus far. His intent from day one was to flex his political muscles through the courts rather than at the bargaining table.
And right now he's destroying this once proud union to the point that eventually all NFL fans will firmly side with the owners Smith has no business running this ship and the owners simply have to fight the poll of public opinion by throwing massive amounts of PR spin to the media before the rank and file within the players association finally push Smith to the curb once and for all.
To be fair, I understand Smith has a job to do but all he's trying to do is save his own skin. There is absolutely nobody in and out of NFL circles that believes the players are worthy of garnering anywhere near the 60% revenue plateau that they've enjoyed the last several years. And players I've spoken with don't want this to linger much longer. And further if Smith doesn't start backpedaling and fast, at some point the players will cross over to the owners way of thinking. And we've heard that process might have already begun during the hiatus between Friday's talks and those scheduled for Tuesday.
That aside. Looking ahead into the crystal ball once players realize that Smith has sold them a loot of worthless fools gold, the players will cave and start fending for themselves. Because when their wives, girlfriends, children, aunts, uncles, cousins and the personal entourage that follows NFL players year round with their hand out; begin to feel the financial pinch of no weekly game checks, the pressure on the players will force them back to the bargaining table to strike a deal. When that happens, the deal they'll get from the owners won't nearly be as good as the one they turned down in mid March.
The Owners thanks to billions in reserves could let this stalemate with the players last one or even two full NFL seasons. And I think they're prepared to do just that in order to bring fiscal responsibility to the sport. The players might be able to hold out for three of four regular season games before the pressure to strike a deal will reach a fever pitch.
And when that happens, Smith will be back in his Washington D.C. home updating his resume. The only way Smith can get out the mess he created by taking the players through the legal system is if he backs away and stays clear of the upcoming negotiations this week.
Further Judge Susan Nelson should take control of the labor talks and sit it on Tuesday's negotiation session with her appointed Magistrate, Judge Arthur Boylan, to see for her self what kind of lame leadership rests atop the players association. That way she can act accordingly and see what the rest of us already know - that Smith has no intention of getting a deal done with the Owners. Thus she should remove him from all further talks. Granted on Tuesday Smith won't be at the bargaining session for personal reasons.
That aside, Judge Nelson can't stop there. She needs to immediately throw out all legal challenges presented to her by the Owners and Players. That will remove the leverage that both sides feel could be gained in this maddening situation - should she rule for one versus the other.
Once those lawsuits are thrown out Judge Nelson should harshly scold both parties and force them into serious labor talks. And if they don't bargain in good faith later today, she should place both parties in contempt of court, lock them in a jail sell, give them three squares a day, a pen, paper and instructions that they'll be housed in her jail until there is a new labor deal.
And that my friends is likely the only way a deal gets done before next weeks NFL draft. Because for me that is the absolute DROP DEAD date that can salvage a 16-game regular season.
Should a deal not get done before the start of the draft next Thursday, I'm afraid this lockout is going to last well into the 2011 NFL season. And that means the fans aren't likely to warm to either side, when eventually they get this deal done in October or November.
In other words, the sport that many thought could survive Armageddon is going to take a hit that might take it years to bring the fans back.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
If a deal can't get done before the NFL Draft, should the players ouster Smith?
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