It's February 16. That means that we're only 16 days away from a potential NFL lockout. The two sides, the NFL and the NFLPA, have been working to try to come to an agreement before the March 4 deadline but it seems as though, from the majority of news, that comes from either side, that an agreement will likely not be reached. There is no doubt that the NFL, actually the NFL fans, are in danger of losing their favorite sport to a lockout.
Now it seems that a new issue has reared its ugly head and threatens to push the NFL into lockout mode. That issue is trust.
Andrew Brandt, of the National Football Post, writes that the NFL is having a hard time trusting the NFLPA leadership and the NFLPA doesn't trust the NFL owners.
The NFL owners do not trust the NFLPA leadership and their actions have shown so; the NFLPA leaders are becoming increasingly wary of the tactics and tone of NFL owners. Without trust and comfort in a relationship, no deal is possible, and right now trust is lacking as much as it has for two years.
The NFL worries that the NFLPA plans to use a strategy of de-certification. Basically, that means that the NFL is worried that the players will dissolve their union, leaving the NFL without one collective body to negotiate with. Without a union, the players could file claims in anti-trust court, which is something they can't do when they're represented by a union. The NFL claims that this is what the players have wanted all along because they have engaged in "sporadic and half-hearted bargaining."
In other words, the NFL doesn’t trust the union wants to make a deal prior to being locked out on March 4th. They feel the union is angling for the strategy employed by the NFLPA in the 1992-93 under the late Gene Upshaw, a strategy that led to many gains for NFL player including, for the first time, free agency. Before it gets to that point, the NFL wants to ensure the NLRB is on notice.
There is also a lack of trust on the other side of the argument as well. The players' union has repeatedly asked the NFL teams to see their financial statements. The NFL owners have said no to these requests several times, partly because they are afraid that some sensitive financial material could get out and cause embarrassment.
Needless to say, the CBA situation, right now, is a mess. Brandt does point out, though, that there is one relationship that, if worked on, could save the NFL from a lockout. That relationship would exist between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA spokesman DeMaurice Smith.
The new captains of this partnership, DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell, have not formed a relationship beyond a surface one. I was most encouraged in this negotiation process when on the Monday before the Super Bowl, Smith and Goodell met privately in New York. Even if they didn’t talk about football, that relationship is key to making a deal. I would suggest a couple of private lunches, dinners or visits to each other’s homes in the next week or two. Only then can a deal be made.
Hopefully, both sides see that even though they stand to lose some money if there's a lockout, the fans, who have allowed the league to thrive in this country, stand to lose the most if there is a lockout.