Well, it happened.
Despite my eternal optimism that the two-year negotiation between the NFL and the NFLPA would result in a negotiated agreement, that did not happen. Negotiations have turned into litigation, with the dramatic move by the NFLPA to dissolve as a union and take their chances as a trade association consisting of individual players who will become litigants against their employers in trying to seek gains they could not in bargaining.
The result is a disappointing and unfortunate one. It speaks to the hallmark of this negotiation and relationship: one that has been defined by a lack of trust and a suspect feeling about the other side which never changed despite weeks of negotiations. When we look back at this negotiation, the legacy of it will be a deep mistrust between the two sides and their intent all along.
The NFL is convinced the NFLPA never wanted to negotiate, only to litigate. They were distrustful of the strategy of touring the country in the fall obtaining decertification votes from the teams. They were distrustful of the strategy of walking the halls of Congress to curry favor on Capitol Hill. They were distrustful of the strategy of putting out ads that said “Let us play.” They are thinking right now that the past few weeks was a charade, and that the NFLPA never wanted to negotiate a deal. And they believe that the union is being run by its outside counsel, Jeffrey Kessler.
The NFLPA is convinced the NFL never wanted to negotiate, only to lock out. They were distrustful of the hiring of Bob Batterman, the lawyer that guided the NHL through its lockout, as far back as 2007. They were distrustful of the negotiation with the television networks that proved to be lockout-insured. And they have continued to not trust the NFL and its refusal to release financial documents of team financials.
Negotiations are about trust and relationships. Those two things were never part of this negotiation. I thought that a relationship would develop between the principals of this negotiation, but it never did. It turns out what I was doing was simply wishful thinking.
We will deal with the next steps: lockout, lawsuits, NLRB filings, etc. in the coming days and weeks. Right now there is a feeling of sadness and an opportunity lost. The NFL-NFLPA negotiations for a new CBA ended on March 11, 2011 before the union dissolved.
Next steps are coming, but for now, remember this sad day, the day the union died.
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