As we near 80 days of the NFL lockout, I am struck by the lack of leadership on the part of the players. I have heard nothing from either their legal team, DeMaurice Smith, who at this point is merely an observer, or the supposed veteran leadership of players.
The Players Union was decertified in order to pave the way for the Brady et al v. NFL anti-trust case. This of course put everything in the hands of the legal system, which limits how the two sides can negotiate. The players attorneys want the lockout lifted and the Owners to participate in settlement conferences. The Owners want nothing to do with settling the Brady lawsuit, they want to get the players back to a bargaining table and make a deal. Next week the Judges in St. Louis will reaffirm their findings and leave the lockout in place. It will be the Players who then need to make the next move. It would be great if they said “Let’s Talk” and convened again with owners to try and strike a deal. What I fear will happen is nothing. The reason I feel this way is the absolute lack of leadership on the part of the Players. Brady and Peyton Manning, the two biggest stars of the league, have never uttered a word. Jeff Saturday, who was very vocal and involved in the original discussions has disappeared from the landscape. Even the extremely vocal Drew Brees has gone missing. On the other hand, every day this week was greeted with a statement by the NFL. They continue to ask and hope for someone to call that wants to talk. They continue their business of rule changes, and making the game safer for the players. The NFL seems to be looking long term, where the players look short term. In essence the Owners are playing chess, while the players play checkers.
The outcome, if left to the courts, will be bad for both parties. The ruling keeping the lockout in place re-levels the playing field and would be a perfect time for negotiations to begin anew. The Players and Owners at this point have seen both victory and defeat in the court system, and have certainly both been bloodied in the court of public opinion. The Owners of course hold the ultimate upper hand. They and they alone can cancel games or a season. They and they alone can withhold paychecks. The Commissioner spoke this week about time getting close to canceling games, I suspect the Hall of Fame game has already been scratched in their minds, if not officially.
Their is a lot of work to be done, but it can only get done by talking to each other. The DeCertification has left the players leaderless and rudderless. So, I call on the Stars of the league to represent ALL players and demand negotiations toward a new CBA. One that will last for decades.
For more of my thoughts on the labor dispute please see: http://nygblogjt.blogspot.com