New England Patriots Links 3/07/11 - NFL Labor Wrangling Continues

Jim Trotter (SI) reports on what happened at the labor negotiations in Washington late in the week:

With only five minutes to go before the union's deadline to decertify last Thursday -- a move that might have obliterated the NFL as we know it today -- a player walked into the negotiating room that included commissioner Roger Goodell, league attorney Jeff Pash, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president Kevin Mawae and declared: "We're done! We're decertifying."

It had been three years since the league announced its intentions to void the current labor pact, yet 66 formal negotiating sessions had failed to bring the sides significantly closer. And as the decertification deadline ticked closer, members of the union's executive committee began to feel the owners were stringing them along in hopes that the players would miss the deadline. The players believed their only real leverage was to decertify because it would allow the players to sue the league for alleged antitrust violations if the owners locked them out, as expected. With the window to file closing fast, union officials and executive committee members sat in a room one floor beneath where the power brokers were meeting and weighed their options one last time. Then they decided it was time to act.

At that point the aforementioned player -- whose name is being withheld because of the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations -- walked into the room upstairs, tapped Mawae on the shoulder and made a quick hand-across-the-throat gesture while making his decertification declaration.

Jim Donaldson writes about former Patriots GM Patrick Sullivan and the lessons of 1987.

"The 1987 strike was a lose, lose, lose, lose proposition."

"The owners lost. The players lost. The fans lost. Everybody lost." "There was no victor," said Sullivan, who has become highly successful as the president of Game Creek Video, which provides mobile production units to networks televising events all across the country.

"The owners didn’t get the financial stability they were seeking. The players lost two, three, or four paychecks, which, in the scope of their careers, was significant. Also, some players came back (before the strike ended), others didn’t. A lot of resentment was created in locker rooms, some of which still exists between those players to this day. "And the fans, understandably, were disgusted."

Sullivan doesn’t think adding two games to the schedule should pose much of a problem, as long as players are compensated accordingly.

"For the players to say that playing 18 games is a safety issue is absurd," he said. "In the third preseason game, the starters usually play at least a half, anyway. By lengthening the regular season, they’re not going to be exposed any more to injury than they already are." Sullivan went on to add that he thought the players could gain more support from the public if "they were working on getting hundreds of millions in health-care benefits for retired players. But they’re not doing that."

"One of the reasons other owners are reluctant to open their books," Sullivan added with a chuckle, "is partly to hide information from their so-called partners. I don’t think Jerry Jones, or Robert Kraft, would want to let Ralph Wilson or Mike Brown know how much revenue they received from things like concessions and parking."

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