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NFL-CBA: Devil’s in the Details

Posted By Steven Keys On Jul 23 2011 @ 11:48 pm In NFL | No Comments

When it’s contract time, the devil is in the details.

Maybe that expression is what was on James Harrison’s mind when he called Roger Goodell a “devil” in his interview that appeared in Men’s Journal last week (Aug)?

Okay, maybe not.

But just by dumb luck James may’ve hit on something.  The devil in NFL owners recent CBA proposal might be buried in the massive volume of detailed information it contains where any word or figure could be key.

Roger and the Fraternity of Owners are no devils though.  Far from it.  Putting aside their differences for one day, Friday’s gathering of management and NFLPA members at the funeral of Myra Kraft was reminder that combatants on both sides are very much human.

Not devils, owners are no saints, either.  First and foremost they’re businessmen.  Difficult sometimes to differentiate from the Prince of Darkness, money mavens can create beautiful things.

In hoping to gain the PR upper hand by putting the onus on players to quickly vote & re-certify, even before membership had time to digest the 600 page proposal, the NFL was using a tactic common in contract negotiation.  Pushing the limits of good faith but acceptable practice nonetheless.

Apparently feeling his oats after February’s Super Bowl win, Packers’ President Mark Murphy isn’t just pushing the process, he’s thrown down the gauntlet to players.

On Friday, Murphy brashly stated that owners have “put down their pens (and are done negotiating)” (AP / ESPN).  Somebody’s championship ring has gone to his head.

A cynic would write that owners don’t want the athletes to delve into details of their 10-year CBA proposal – simply to ratify.  Boiler-plate, shmoiler-plate, just get ‘er done!  Think of the fans!

But I’m a glass-half-full type a’ guy.  NFL owners’ pushy play (Tuesday deadline) is just sign of how much confidence they have in their proposition (Murphy) and their sincere desire to see football equilibrium restored.

Sure…that’s what it is.

A good negotiator understands the balancing act between advocacy and concession when walking that tightrope towards the deal.  The owners’ leverage is derived from the preconception that the League ($9 billion NFL shield and everything it stands for) is their property.  They can take or leave fan opinion and have stores of wealth on which to live happily-ever-after.

The players (who the owners deem a required business expenditure) have celebrity and public opinion on their side but can ill-afford an extended work stoppage and the corrosive effect it has on fan support.

If Mr. Smith & Co (NFLPA) haven’t been captured by their NFL counterparts in these many weeks of closed discussions, they should be able to negotiate their clients the time needed to become fully informed.  Once that happens, consent for a new CBA will come soon enough.

If not, there will be hell to pay.

Street Fare

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