He scrambled, ducked, dived and tried every single stutter step in the book. But, in the end, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ultimately found himself laid out on the field by Judge Susan Nelson’s long anticipated court ruling in favor of the injunction filed by NFL players.
In one fell swoop, Judge Nelson dashed the owners’ last gambit to win the labor battle they had planned for the last 3 years. Essentially the lockout is over, and the courts – the one place that owners thought they could win out – turned around and gave them a safety.
In fact, when you look at the scoreboard for this whole labor fight, owners have lost at every turn. Here’s a chronology of events:
March 2nd, 2011: Judge David Doty rules that the NFL owners can’t hoard money from T.V. rights during a lockout since they negotiated the deal with the intent to cheat the players. CALL: Sack for a Loss, 4 billion in T.V. profits.
April 11th, 2011: Judge Susan Nelson tells NFL owners they can’t have it both ways. The owners argue in court that the union decertification was a ‘sham’ to avoid a legal lockout. At the same time they refuse to meet with lawyers representing the players because they don’t represent ‘a union’. She insists owners go back to the negotiating table in good faith or else. CALL: Delay of game penalty on the owners.
Finally: This week, the judge accepts the player’s injunction against the owner’s lockout forcing the 32 NFL franchises to let players get back to work for the first time in months. And while the NFL has already appealed this ruling they have until 6 p.m. in the evening to come up with a reason to overturn the ruling, otherwise the lockout is essentially over before the draft even starts. TOUCHDOWN for Labor and NFL fans everywhere!
The owners, likely realizing they’ve been outsmarted by the union, have given up any pretense of being about the fans or caring for a real deal with the players. So they go back to their base: rich white guys.
Roger Goodell pens a whiny page long editorial in the Wall Street Journal lamenting the judge’s ruling and laying out a doomsday scenario where players will run amok, the game will be ruined, dogs and cats will live together, mass hysteria will ensue. Of course when you’re writing in the Wall Street Journal you’re not speaking to the average Cheesehead, Hoggette or Dawg Pound Member. You’re speaking to their rich, heartless, no fun bosses.
Goodell makes matters worse, spinning the entire labor conflict as the fault of NFL players:
“For six weeks, there has been a work stoppage in the National Football League as the league has sought to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement with the players.
But Judge Nelson ordered the end of the stoppage and recognized the players’ right to dissolve their union. By blessing this negotiating tactic, the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.”
Hold on there, Rodge. Calling the NFL labor fight a “Work Stoppage” is like saying it’s a “Cease-Fire” when the invaders are just re-loading their weapons. This is a “Lockout:” players were perfectly happy with the old agreement – but, ownership wanted it changed and locked out all of the players in an attempt to starve them into renegotiating on more management friendly terms.
Goodell: “Is this the NFL that players want? A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?”
Of course the scenario Goodell paints is utterly unrealistic. The players wanted a collective bargaining agreement. The wild free-for-all that Goodell lays out only exists so long as owners continue fighting in court instead of re-creating the previous deal that helped turn the NFL into a billion dollar industry. Further, his veiled attempt to paint this as a battle of little guy NFL franchises against “Big City” franchises just doesn’t hold water. New Orleans and Green Bay just won the last two Superbowls – and they played the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.
Just doesn’t sound like the small city market teams are having any trouble competing.
The best part about his letter, however, is that this battle is almost over. The fat legal lady has sung and it’s only a matter of time before Goodell, realizing that he’s exhausted every conceivable trick play, will have to sit down and create an agreement that is actually fair to everyone instead of just the 32 billionaires that run the league.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “INTERCEPTION! NFL Commissioner and Owners Lose Lockout In Court, Not On the Field.”