Update on the NFL Labor Front

In a normal year all the NFL buzz would revolve around the Combine, Draft and free agency at this time, unfortunately this is not a normal year.  Right now the buzzwords are lockout, labor negotiations and CBA.  For those following the day to day issues surrounding the labor talks, the news has been decidedly pessimistic thus far.

Yesterday, the first optimistic sign came when the NFL Owners and NFLPA agreed to negotiate in front of a federal negotiator.  The optimism kept rolling out when news broke that both sides agreed to hold seven straight days of meetings in an effort to reach an agreement before the expiration of the old CBA on March 3rd.

As much as I want to roll around in the optimism of uninterrupted labor peace, the cynic in me reminds me that anytime billions of dollars and who gets a cut of it are at stake anything can go wrong.

All the talk prior to Thursday’s announcements revolved around the owners locking out the players or the owners declaring an impasse and imposing their last best offer as the new CBA.  The unions’ two counter moves were to decertify and sue the league under antitrust laws or strike.

Niether side’s ace in the hole works, if they don’t appear to have tried to legitimately negotiate a deal.  The League would take a huge PR hit if they lock the players out without ever appearing to have seriously negotiated.  In the same vein, the league would have a hard time backing up their declaration of an impasse in court if they didn’t appear to seriously negotiate.

The league has already attempted to block the union’s ability to decertify by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board saying the union is trying to force a lockout so they can decertify to gain leverage.  If the union appears to be interested in negotiating, that complaint will have less merit.  The union also has publicly stated the players won’t strike, but if that becomes their only option, they need to appear to be interested in negotiating so they won’t take a PR hit if they do decide to strike.

This newest round of negotiations could be a good faith effort on both sides to get a deal done, or it could be a carefully orchestrated sham to curry public favor and to bolster more powerful leverage moves if and when the deadline expires.

For more labor updates I recommend following www.profootballtalk.com, www.nfllabor.com, www.nflpa.com and www.nationalfootballpost.com.


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