With the NFL labor battle reaching day 92, both sides have engaged in private and highly confidential talks. The owners are starting to feel the pressure of the 2011 season slipping away slowly. While litigation is still a moving part of the equation, mediation comes from motivation which is a great thing. The owners are motivated because they don’t want to lose out on the preseason. The NFL preseason is where the ownership group makes 10-15 percent of their revenue.
While extremely important progress is being made, the agenda of items is being protected like Fort Knox. We can only guess what is on the table and where each side sits, but progress is moving the ball along. I still feel that a CBA agreement in principal won’t come before the three wise men of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Steven Colloton, Duane Benton and Kermit Bye) lay down their ruling either at the end of June or the second week in July. Judge David Doty still has a ruling pending on the owners’ negotiations with the television networks regarding lockout funding. Judge Doty is expected to award the players millions of dollars in damages and that would allow the players to withstand a drought if paychecks are lost due to the lockout.
The men making the decisions on the future of the NFL have been sitting in intense meetings for the last few weeks and plan on continuing to do so until a deal is reached. The NFL Labor Committee and the union seem very focused, keeping the ball moving. Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith are involved, and overseeing the mediation process is Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.
With no lawyers involved in the mediation or negotiation of these meetings until this week, time doesn’t seem to stand still over small log-jamming items that are currently being talked through. While there will be several acrimonious sessions, which is normal in mediation, the important thing is that Boylan keeps everything flowing in the same direction. Things got bogged down over the past few months because both sides were going in the wrong direction like salmon swimming against the current.
Let’s pretend we are a fly on the wall and lay out what issues are being discussed;
1. Revenue: The No.1 reason the two sides jumped into litigation in the first place (the inability to come to an agreement on the percentage of shared revenue before the CBA expired).
2. The 18-game Schedule: Could be a major sticking point in the negotiations with the players.
3. Rookie compensation/cap: This is not a major sticking point. I think both sides want and will agree on this point.
4. OTAs/Minicamps: Offseason mandatory workout sessions are another major sticking point. I feel the owners will have to give in on this and save their fight for other more important battles on other major issues.
5. Third party drug testing: Another major issue that could be a deal-breaker. The owners feel that the testing for HGH should be added and should be mandatory.
The major argument again is still how to go about dividing future billions of dollars that will continue to grow to a projected $20 billion in the very near future. The NFLPA and its players want 50 percent of all incoming revenue. The owners are fighting to take back some of what the players last received, which was 57.5 percent of the revenue minus $1 billion off the top. At the 11th hour of the expiring CBA, the owners laid out a blueprint/offer to the NFLPA offering them 45-47 percent of all revenues to be shared. While they are not far apart, this percentage will need to move towards 48-48.5 percent in order for a deal to move down the path to agreement.
In order for labor peace to become a reality, both sides must have the following understanding when it comes to cooperation, compromise, concession and intervention. They need to listen and respect each other (and the mediator, too) and have open and fair discussions. Working hard to find the middle ground is the key with tact and diplomacy being needed to avoid confrontation.
*My final thought moves us away from the NFL lockout and litigation or even mediation to saving a life and a true feel-good story.
Leonard Pope, tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, went home to visit family and friends. Attending a pool party, he became the hero of the day when he saved the life of 6-year-old Bryson Moore from drowning. The boy’s mother described what happened, telling reporters, “Bryson was in the water with the other kids. All of a sudden, I saw Bryson going down in the water and I started screaming. Leonard was inside, and he came out of nowhere and dove into the water without any hesitation, cell phone in his pocket and all. He saved my son’s life, and I am so thankful that he was there for me and my child.”
The boy is said to be understandably afraid of the water after the incident, but OK otherwise. Apparently, Pope was the only adult at the scene who knew how to swim.
*Elsewhere, the Rams’ players continue to fuel the fire with desire and player-organized workouts. The last sessions were in Arizona from June 8-11, with the next workouts scheduled in Houston, Tex. in mid-July.