In response to the players’ de-certifying their union, the NFL owners have imposed a lockout officially starting the league’s first work stoppage in 24 years. The players have filed for an injunction to block the lockout and have brought a class action anti trust lawsuit against the NFL for what they call unfair business practices.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in an open letter to fans, said that he felt litigation was not the ideal way to get a deal done.
We remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached, and call on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.
However, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith implied that negotiation was pointless if the owners would not budge on two key issues for the players.
As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that’s a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.
As much as we all want to say that the bargaining table is the best place for these issues to be worked out, these two sides have been back and forth on this for two years. For the past 17 days they’ve been in constant discussions and haven’t even come close to a deal. Even the federal mediator George Cohen admitted that there was nothing constructive to be gained by further mediation or negotiation because the sides were simply too entrenched in positions that are too far apart. Despite the optimistic from Goodell and the NFL owners, I’d have to disagree that further negotiation would lead to anything. We just have seen any evidence in two years which shows it to be the case.
So, while the lockout seems like the worst case scenario for fans… we can at least take solace in the fact that by heading to court this dispute is at least on a track to resolution. How long it takes or whether it will cost all or part of next season still remains to be seen.