With the decertification of the NFL PA (now known only as a trade association) made official in a federal Minnesota court room this afternoon, the casual fan likely wonders what this means for their favorite team. For the New England Patriots, things take a different turn than for any other team as two of their premier players are prepared to put their names as the heads on a class action lawsuit that will be filed against the NFL and NFL owners should the owners lock the players out at midnight tonight as most expect.
Tom Brady and Logan Mankins are two of 9 players (8 current and 1 rookie draft prospect) who will head the class action lawsuit that will be filed to block the owner's almost certain lockout. The other 7 players who will reportedly put their names on the suit are: Von Miller (rookie prospect), Drew Brees (Saints), Peyton Manning (Colts), Brian Robison (Browns), Mike Vrabel (Chiefs), Vincent Jackson (Chargers), and Ben Leber (Vikings).
Now convincing a disgruntled Mankings to sue Robert Kraft probably wasn't hard, but Tom Brady-a guy Kraft made the highest paid NFL player in history just a few short months ago? This is interesting to say the least. I understand the need to stand up for your union, but I certainly hope Kraft and Brady are both able to compartmentalize this whole situation when things get figured out and the season begins. In the past, owners have been known to hold lockout and strike problems against their players-particularly those that sue them-with some of them being cut from teams immediately once the lockout/strike is ended. That's obviously not going to happen with Brady and Kraft, but it could put some strain on the relationship and it's never really good to rock the ship like that between boss and employee.
Now just to be clear, my stance on this whole NFL situation is that it's ridiculous. The league and players have had a great deal in place for 5 years now, a deal under which players made more than ever before and the league grew in leaps and bounds. There are many owners worth many billions of dollars (Kraft himself is worth about 1.1 billion, while Seahawks owner Paul Allen is reported to be worth in excess of $13 billion) and things certainly weren't looking down-at least as it looks from the outside.
From what I understand through various sources, the owners are not claiming to have already lost money, but only that they believe under this current CBA they will begin to lose money in the coming years. It's widely believed that the owners are saying they've already begun losing money, and while that may be true for some clubs, it's certainly not true across the league. Based upon these projections, the league is now asking the players for an additional billion dollars based completely on their say so. The players' association asked for financial statements to support this, and the owners have refused. The owners have then moved back their demands to as low-depending on how you interpret statements being made by multiple players-as $325 million dollars. To me, this shows you really didn't need that extra billion and the NFLPA was right in suspecting that you just wanted that extra money to pocket.
All of that being said, the owners were willing to give in to many player demands when they presented their offer to the NFLPA this morning. The offer reportedly included the following:
-Narrowing the player compensation gap-this likely means a higher minimum salary.
-Redirect compensation from the first round draft picks to veterans and retired players. (Right now picks 1-16 in the draft make more than the rest of the draft combined. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.)
-Ensure no compensation reduction for veterans. (I'm thinking the players really wouldn't want this as it means owners are less likely to sign older players who in the past have made a ton but now aren't worth that. Just speculating.)
-Implement new year round safety and health protocols (Probably mostly just window dressing, higher fines for big hits, blah blah blah)
-Retain current 16 game/4 preseason game season for at least two years, and if they want to increase to 18 games then the NFLPA has the right to refuse
-Owners will establish an $82 million fund for retired players over the next two years
-Additional financial disclosure of league and club profitability.
-Reduce offseason programs by 5 weeks and organized training activities by 4 days. (Personally I don't think this is good. Less practice means a lower quality product-right?)
-Third party arbitration for steroid and drug tests (this is probably the biggest under-the-radar issue for the players. There has been much made of Roger Goodell's god-like power to institute punishment. My guess? This is opening the door to limiting that power, and that is probably something that would be enough to get the players to give the owners that whole billion!)
-Tuesdays off from practice. I heard this on the NFL network, but it was not listed anywhere else. This would essentially give the players a full weekend after their hardest day of work (Sunday)
The owners have clearly given a lot, but I think it's downright ridiculous they won't open their books up. It seems to me that if you ask for a billion dollars from someone you should be ready to do pretty much anything they ask. As for the rest of the issues, it seems like the owners are ready to give on pretty much everything but the money. It's clear that the NFLPA had no intent to really negotiate, but why should they? They had an agreement that was working for EVERYONE, the owners included. The owners are the ones who opted out, do the players really have a reason to negotiate and give money back?
In the end, something will get done. The owners must have some sort of legal strategy they're pretty confident about, as all of them seem to have the same message-this will get done through negotiating, not the court rooms. They must believe they can void the decertification of the NFLPA somehow-which I doubt they can do, after all, a labor union can decertify no matter what the reason can't they? You can't force them to continue on can you? I also don't think Judge David Doty (no matter how much he might want to) can force the NFL owners to continue operating and not lock the players out. As with the NFLPA it's well within a business owner's rights to shut his doors. Given how much the owners were willing to bend however, I would guess that the end decision is much closer to the players' desires than those of the owners.
Oh, just a side note. I'm sick of hearing how the owners have offered "unprecedented financial information" to the NFLPA. Anything they offer is unprecedented access, since they've never given the NFLPA anything before. I'm a full time accountant with a degree in the field and can tell you first hand that many financial statements are absolutely useless. A business can provide "unprecedented financial access" to another entity who it has never provided anything to before without disclosing anything of use. At the end of the day it's really ridiculous, because if this thing goes to court the owners will certainly have to give up those financial statements.