Posted on: May 26, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:44 pm

2011 NFL Lockout Issues

Posted by Will Brinson

Because you need reminding, there's a lockout going on. Just kidding -- we did think it'd be helpful to break down all the lockout-related issues for you.

Revenue Sharing: Surprise, surprise, but money is the biggest issue between the NFL and the NFLPA. Imagine you and your business partner have a really large pie that’s worth $9 billion. Would you have trouble figuring out who got how much pie? Probably.

Size of the ‘Pie’: The owners have proposed taking $2 billion off the top of revenue -- as opposed to their current $1 billion -- thus shrinking the pie. The smaller the pie, the more contentious the debate to divide it, unless the players are satisfied with a chunk being taken out before anyone starts slicing it.

Financial Information from Owners: The players want to know what the owners are spending all their money on, since they say that the NFL’s profits are declining. The owners don’t want to offer them. This isn’t a dealbreaker ... if the owners are willing to take less pie.

Rookie Wage Scale: Remember when JaMarcus Russell got $60 million in guaranteed contract money? Well, no one on the owners' side wants that to happen again. Repeat: NO ONE. The problem is, the players don’t want to hamstring themselves too much in terms of earning potential and don’t want this to affect veterans either.

18-Game Schedule: Well, it’s an “issue” in that the NFL wants it. But the NFLPA says it won’t even consider the addition of games without boosts to player safety, and maybe not even then. The NFL appears willing to concede 18 games for the immediate future. Players do NOT like the idea unless it means increased paychecks.

Salary Cap: The NFL proposed an 18-percent rollback of the cap during pre-lockout negotiations. You won’t believe this, but the players didn’t really like that idea. Naturally, this is a pretty big point of contention, because the less teams are allowed to spend on players, the less the players can actually get paid.

Player Safety: A sticking point for DeMaurice Smith, player safety is naturally pretty important. The NFLPA doesn’t want players’ careers shortened any more than they already are, and while the NFL does often talk about keeping players safe, there’s a certain hypocrisy with trying to tack on two more games at the same time.

State of the Union: This is actually the lynchpin for both sides in terms of their legal argument. If the courts believe the NFLPA has truly dissolved as a union, they have to lift the lockout. If they don’t, they will not be very likely to lift the lockout. 

Semantics: You will hear NFL/owner-folk use the phrases “negotiate” and “collectively bargain” a lot as we continue down this path. You will not hear NFLPA people saying stuff like that. This goes back to whether or not the union actually exists (it does not, technically). The players will take special care not to say anything that could make them appear to really be a union that is collectively bargining. 

Longevity: This isn’t mentioned as much, but it might be the most important point, because no one wants a “band-aid deal” that gets the NFL, the NFLPA and the fans back into this position in another five years. A fair deal that spans a decade would be stupendous.

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Posted on: May 24, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 6:30 am

League approves three rule changes at meetings

Posted by Will Brinson

All the NFL news today isn't necessarily bad. The league addressed, as expected at the owners meetings in Indianapolis, several rule changes. Three rules aimed at protecting defenseless players were approved 32-0.
NFL Labor

The biggest change appears to be the definition of a defenseless player. Now included in that definition, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, are players who are "not clearly a runner yet" (wide receivers), kickers and punters during a return and quarterbacks following a change of possession.

There was a change made to the "launching" rule too. A player will be considered to have launched himself if he leaves his feet prior to contact in order to spring forward into another player and using "any part" of the helmet.

Finally, there's a change with respect to the "blow to the head" rule on quarterbacks. It's now a judgment call when a defender grazes the quarterback's head, as opposed to an automatic penalty with any touching.

Rich McKay, head of the NFL Competition Committee, is expected to speak at more length about the new rules later in the day. And yes, it is refreshing to deal with real football news even if the lockout is still looming large enough to make any rule changes irrelevant.

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Posted on: May 21, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2011 3:50 pm

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA filed their brief in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case just before midnight Friday, and led with a strong statement: "The NFL is a cartel."

But for as many zingers and strong language that exists in the brief, the argument that the panel of judges in St. Louis are really considering is this: "Are the players still a union?"

In their brief, the players argue that the NFL has not actually proven that the nonunionized players are arguing their case in the wrong place.

"The NFL does not cite any case that has ever held that disputes between employers and individualized nonunionized employees fall under the [Norris LaGuardia Act]," the players' attorneys wrote.

See, the Norris LaGuardia Act (NLGA) basically says that if there's a dispute between a employer and a group of employees in a union, that such a dispute needs to be resolved by the NLRB, and not by the court system.

So this -- "Are the players still a union?" -- is the dispute, legally speaking, that will decide whether or not we continue to have a lockout. If the Appeals Court believes/rules that the NFLPA truly disbanded, they'll lift the lockout. If they don't believe that, they'll leave the lockout in place, because, in their eyes, no court has jurisdiction over such a labor-related matter.

Here's the biggest problem, for those hoping the lockout will end: if the Appeals Court rules that the NFLPA broke up in good faith and is truly no longer a union (versus simply disbanding for legal leverage), they will establish a nightmarish precedent for themselves.
NFL Labor

Here's an example that may or may not simply be for the purpose of referencing The Wire, which is all the rage these days: If the Baltimore Union of the International Brotherhood of Stevedores decides it's being treated unfairly and wants to pursue litigation against its employer, Hypothetical Widget Shipping, Inc., it cannot dissolve the union, file a lawsuit and re-unionize later. At least not right now.

But it could -- potentially anyway -- do such a thing should the Appeals Court rule in favor of the players. (Edit: There is a difference between the status of sports leagues and other places of employ re: anti-trust status. But the point remains that the court would open itself up to a different interpretation of the law. Also, a better example could be: the NBA.)

This is problematic for the courts because it completely flips the jurisdiction of all labor disputes, if a union is willing to disband.

Remember, the Court of Appeals is pro-business; they're not "pro Roger Goodell." They don't care about this case in the sense of "How can we keep the players from winning?" They care about this case in the sense of "How does this effect future legal proceedings?"

Which is why it seems quite unlikely that the 8th Circuit will favor the players, regardless of how strong their arguments are.

Are there more issues? Yes. Are some of them stupidly complex? Absolutely.

But if you're going to boil the legal battle of the lockout down to one singular thing, it's whether or not a group of judges want to believe that the NFLPA has deunionized. Because of what they'd be setting themselves up for in the future, it's highly unlikely they'll rule that way.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:11 pm

NFL statement on players decertifying

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL issued a statement following the players' decision to decertify as a union . It's really long and kind of awkward, because it calls the players out and puts what the NFL says is its last offer out to the public.

"The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process," the league's said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had 'decertified' and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years."

"The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

"The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
NFL Labor

"The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.

"At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham 'decertification' and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement. 

"The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls 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."

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 4:50 pm

NFLPA wants 10 years of financials for extension

Posted by Will Brinson

At 4:45 PM EST Friday, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith addressed the media and informed them of what the union was requiring from the owners in order to agree to an extension of the CBA: 10 years of audited financial documents.

"We met with the owners until about 4:00 today. We discussed a proposal that they had presented," Smith said. "At this time, significant differences continue to remain. We informed the owners that significant differences remain.

If there was going to be a request for an extension, we asked for 10 years of audited financial documents to accompany any extension and we told them to please let us know by 5:00 PM today."

With that, Smith might as well have slammed the mic and walked off, because the gauntlet was firmly thrown down and the ball placed in the owners' court.

But once again, it all comes down to whether the owners are willing to provide financial documents now or risk the possibility that such documents would be produced in legal discovery anyway. And they have about 10 minutes to make that call before the NFL as we know it disappears for a while.

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