In the early days of what will be a long negotiating process, talks between the NFL and NFLPA were expected to be filled with posturing. It’s a simply and common concept that Gagnon outlined Friday afternoon, and one that’s a part of nearly every labour process, whether it’s a squabble on a grand scale as we’re seeing in the NFL, or bickering between your local plumbers and their union.
But even in these early days with all the rhetoric and legalese barbs thrown by the two camps, some vague sense of clarity and direction should prevail. Last week the mood quickly turned from optimism to pessimism after the players’ association proposed a 50-50 split of all revenues, causing talks to break off.
Or at least that’s what we thought was the cause of the abrupt pause in negotiations. Now, it seems a disagreement over language resulted in the fracture between the two sides.
Sunday night ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported that the revenue sharing documents presented by the union were not an official proposal, and were instead characterized an “illustration.”
League spokesman Greg Aiello told Mortensen and Schefter that it was this fundamental difference in language and whether or not an official proposal had actually been pushed forward that caused meeting to end.
“As often happens in collective bargaining, the parties reached a point where there was a fundamental difference on a critical issue that was not going to be reconciled that day. The discussions were adjourned to permit both parties to assess their positions and consider how to move the process forward. Far from abandoning the process, in the first four days after the Super Bowl, we have had two meetings of our labor executive committee and negotiating team, a conference call with all 32 clubs, and a meeting with the union.”
Translation: there was a misunderstanding, and left the table.
Real translation: the NFLPA made an opening offer, and we didn’t respond.
Communication has continued within the league, with Roger Goodell holding a conference call with all 32 owners. Goodell has also kept the line of communication open with the union, talking with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith while dialogue also continues in small working groups. Another official meeting is reportedly scheduled for later this week.
In these early days of the process, with the offseason only a week old, it’s still difficult to envision a world without NFL football next September. A work stoppage appears likely on March 4, but that’s not a groundbreaking revelation. What’s obviously vital is how long that stoppage lasts, and how much it impacts the regular offseason calendar (free agency, OTA’s, training camp, etc.).
If this feeling of pessimism is still lingering when we flip the calendar to March, the fear will grow. However, Schefter and Mortensen warn that even right now we should be afraid, very afraid. Citing examples like Smith’s decision to make the owner’s counter-proposal on rookie wage scales public, the two NFL media oracles write of a “growing discord,” one that’s now made “knowledgeable sources” lose their confidence in the league having a new CBA by the fall.
One source said last week’s flare-up was symbolic and illuminated the schism between the two sides. Now there is a general feeling that some or all of the 2011 season may be at risk, though there is plenty of time for the two sides to continue talking and trying to bridge their vast differences.
Happy Valentine’s Day.