Though reports have indicated that the NFL and the Players are gaining steam with the hopes of reaching a new labor deal before July 4th, one has to question if that's truly the case.
As I look at the landscape of the Billionaire Boys Club, I just can't see the owners deviating from their primary objective when they opted out of their current labor deal two years ago. And that was to break the players union.
That's why the NFL hired Bob Batterman to act as a consultant in this situation. If you don't know that name, you're about to find out more about him if he can convince the owners to stay the course as he instructed the NHL to do in their labor fight. And that course is wait for the players union to crack to get the precise deal you want.
In 2004 and 2005, Mr. Batterman successfully did just that. He was the driving force in advising the owners that no Hockey was the only way to remove the power the players were gaining as their salaries began to skyrocket. Sound familiar?
And though the NHL isn't in the same class as the NFL, the lockout was the only way to get league revenues under control. And now some six years later, the NHL has become more financially stable. Granted it still lacks some national wow in regard to the fan base that has eroded because the sport hasn't been able to crossover to television. Though the NHL did just negotiate a 10-year, $2 billion dollar TV deal with NBC/Versus this past April.
But without that hard line stance against their players in the first decade of the new millennium, NHL cities are succeeding in cities where baseball and football co-exist. And now with their new Television deal in hand, the NHL has a chance to gain more market share over the next ten years. But in order for those riches to exist today, the NHL had to shut down a year to get the players to fall in line with their ideas before the sport became extinct.
For the last three years, Batterman has been on the NFL's payroll and that's caused enough concern within the Players Association to wonder what is truly the NFL's motive. In fact, when Batterman signed on, that might have been the primary reason NFLPA Director DeMaurice Smith was adamant about letting this labor strife unfold in the courts. In other words, he knew what was coming and he wasn't interested in negotiating in good faith.
Still until three weeks ago, Smith has zero interest in getting a deal done. But with increased pressure by the union rank and file (the NON-Superstars), Smith stepped up his game in recent weeks. However, is it too late? We might learn more on Wednesday when talks between both sides continue in Boston.
But if the Owners are still intent in sabotaging the gains made by leaking aspects of their negotiations (and none more were in abundance than on Tuesday), they could always claim that after Tuesday's meetings the Owners could not get enough support to strike a deal on the parameters of the terms to consummate a deal with the players.
Roger Goodell must stay on course to get a deal done and not take Bob Batterman's stance on continuing the lockout until the NFLPA cracks.
And that fact can't be disputed as the NFL continues to define the sports world year round.
The other fact we can't ignore is this. No matter how intent the players are about trying to negotiate a deal with the Owners, there is no way they can win this fight – they are going to (at least in the first few years of the deal) earn less overall revenues than they've enjoyed in the past decade.
And if this drags out into July, August or worst case into September, there is no way the players union can keep the financial pace or the cohesiveness to fight such a battle against their billionaire bosses. And that plays into the game in which Batterman designed for the NFL Owners when he was hired in 2008.
At the moment, there are significant cracks within the union. The owners understand that as a fraternity of successful businessmen it's clear by Smith's urgency to strike a deal, that there initial plan to crack the union is working.
And thus Tuesday's meetings in Chicago likely yielded three scenarios going forward s for the owners, either they wait for the court rulings to force them to real bargaining sessions in late July or early August once the appeals process has concluded or they can stay on their initial course to get everything they want. Or they can negotiate in good faith as talks continue this week to forge a deal for labor peace.
Like their NHL brethren, the NFL owners realize that financial stability on their terms is the only deal that's on the table. They didn't get rich by overpaying for their employees. What they did with most of their profitable business enterprises was to run these companies with a daftly tight wound budge that maximized profits. The NFL is big business and owners invest hundreds of millions of dollars into their respective teams and they should determine what is fair to pay their employees. It's NOT the other way around.
Don't get me wrong the players deserve their money but the players don't deserve half of the pie - as they've been steadfast to earn in recent decades.
So time will tell what we really learned from Tuesday's meeting. If more rumors begin to surface about the details of the deal, I say that's a bad thing. If no more lakes occur until the players and owners meet again in Boston on Thursday and Friday, then there is a chance a deal can get done and the suggestions offered by Batterman will have been nothing more than a scare tactic by the NFL to gain leverage.
Either way the owners are rolling the dice. And apparently that's just fine with them and with the man that has advised them to this point in this labor mess.
After all, Batterman is getting paid no matter how long this takes. And all we can do as bystanders today as talks continue is hope that the NFL Owners take the advice of Batterman with a grain of salt.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Let's hope the NFL stays the course but will they?
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