In the Great Labor Showdown of 2011, I have been accused of being decidedly pro-Ownership. I am fine with this - mostly because it is flat-out untrue.
However, I understand peoples need to label things and other people. It's just our nature and by putting things, like people's opinions, in little boxes and checking them off we feel comfortable when we need to deal with them later. "Oh, right, he was the guy who is totally on the side of the owners. No need to pay attention to his thoughts on this particular subject..." etc.
Now that we've painted me into a nice little box, allow me to obliterate it.
Our old friend Mike Florio dropped a small bomb on the labor landscape with a post in which he floated a rumor that the league is considering shutting down entirely if the 8th Circuit Court doesn't go its way.
We’re hearing initial rumblings pointing to the possibility that a loss by the league at the appellate level will prompt the owners to completely shut down all business operations until the players agree to a new labor deal. The thinking is that, if the owners cease all operations, the NFL would not be violating the court order because there would be no lockout. Instead, the league essentially would be going out of business — something for which the NFL repeatedly chided the union in the weeks and months preceding decertification of the NFLPA.
This was followed by this brief rejoinder in this morning's Monday Morning Quarterback from Peter King:
I reached out to a couple of ownership sources Sunday night; both said this was the first they'd heard of such a plan. We'll see if it grows legs as the month goes on. We're still weeks away from the June 3 St. Louis appeals court hearing that could end or extend the lockout.
My hunch is that Florio has indeed been told this, on purpose, by someone on the owners' side in order to continue the great Nixonian fear-mongering tradition that the owners have embraced in their public campaign against the players. This is a lovely follow up to Roger Goodell's Wall Street Journal editorial where the NFL's Commissioner tried convincing fans that not only were the players and their lawyers challenging the legality of the NFL Draft and free agency, but that Demaurice Smith himself was coming 28 Days Later style for their children. (Ok, I may have made that last one up...)
The players have said, via George Atallah, that the specter raised in Goodell's letter is just that - a ghost. A bogeyman to scare fans silly that, if the players were to prevail in court, they would proceed to challenge the very foundations that built professional football into the juggernaut it is.
What's interesting is that Smith, when pressed to say unequivocally that the players were not planning on challenging the legality of the draft and free agency by Florio on PFT Live, punted. And why not? If the owners want to repeatedly raise this point, why would Smith take it completely off the table? He has effectively created a bargaining chip where none existed.
(For the league's reaction to these types of claims, read here.)
Which brings me to the owners' perception of Smith in general. I have been harsh on Smith myself at times, but I am not the one attempting to do business with him. One of the gentlemen attempting to, an unnamed NFL owner, took it upon himself to make the following characterization to Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports last week:
Roger is trying to do business, and De is like a psycho girlfriend who doesn’t know what he wants, doesn’t understand what he’s involved in and [who] you can’t reason with. With psycho girlfriends, at least you can move on eventually. But Roger is stuck with him right now.
The league is indeed stuck with having to deal with Smith - so obviously its a great idea for an owner to talk junk to a national columnist. Up until that point I had been pleasantly surprised by the level of discourse coming from the league's side of the public table. Now - they have joined the likes of Chester Pitts and Derrick Mason in lobbing idiotic rhetoric that doesn't move things further along and makes the speaker and their side look petulant and foolish.
When Roger Goodell appeared on Packer Transplants, I asked him about the perception that while he made his name as Commissioner partly on his enactment of the Personal Conduct Policy (which I am a big fan of), his ability to get tough with the owners has been seemingly non-existent. To me, this is the whole problem. (Goodell was a very good sport, saying he disagreed with my assertion - then went on to completely ignore the point in his answer. He's really, really good at that.)
When talks broke down nearly two months ago and the Union decertified, the NFL went on a PR offensive, one they have remained on ever since, trying to paint the picture that the players walked away from an excellent working proposal. In fact, the players walked away from a group that was dead set on dragging negotiations out as far as possible.
This is nothing new. It's straight from the union busting playbooks from every labor dispute ever played out over the last 200 years. Following the breakdown in talks came Goodell's letter directly to the players, followed by the convenient "news" that a group of rogue "mid-level" players were approaching an outside law firm to get their voices "heard at the table." Then came the Goodell op-ed and now this ridiculous "we'll just shut-down" scenario.
The NFL's mantra has been "The quickest way to a resolution is through mediation, not litigation." While I believe this to absolutely be the case, the league's insistence on peddling scare-mongering bullshit makes any possibility of an outcome from anything other than litigation close to impossible.