On Friday, news broke that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell signed a contract extension that would keep him in his current position until March 2015. His prior deal was scheduled to expire this coming September. I don't think this is exactly a shocking decision, but it's an important show of solidarity for the owners. An essential component of a labor battle is maintaining solidarity within your membership. Solidarity is a word thrown around with unions, but it can be equally applied to management. If the owners are going to have a chance at winning this battle, they have to show themselves to be a single, cohesive unit.
This might very well be turning into a problem for the NFLPA. According to PFT's Mike Florio:
[W]e've heard that multiple agents are concerned that the NFLPA is not providing the agents, and in turn the players, with enough information regarding the status of the talks, or the rules of the first year without a salary cap since the salary cap was first adopted in the early 1990s.
Multiple agents are getting their information from third parties (like PFT), and they believe that they should be getting their information directly from the union.
DeMaurice Smith has been in charge at the NFLPA for less than a year, so who knows what to believe in all of this. Even if this is inaccurate, the spin on this is not something the NFLPA wants out there.
Aside from solidarity, the biggest issue facing any party to a big-time labor dispute is the battle for public sympathy. Whether you're talking about teachers, nurses, prison guards or professional sports, both sides want to get their side of the story out to the public. Although the decisions come down to the parties involved, the power of public opinion can have a huge impact on the issues.
Which brings me to a new website. The NFL has introduced NFLLabor.com. The site first went live on January 24, although I only heard about it on Friday through Peter King's Twitter feed. The site is run by the NFL and gives them an additional outlet to inform the viewing public of the details as the NFL sees them. The site includes a host of links to articles touting, in some form or another, why the owners are right and the players are wrong, although not in quite so many words. In addition, it provides the general league view of the issues:
The current labor agreement does not adequately recognize the costs of generating the revenues, the majority of which go to the players; nor does the agreement recognize that those costs have increased substantially — and at an ever increasing rate — in recent years. As a result, under the terms of the current CBA, the clubs’ incentive to invest in the game has been diminished.
Whether you buy into their arguments or not, it is one more source for information about a dispute that is nowhere near settled, and could very well only get uglier. The 2010 season is not in danger, but a lockout in 2011 remains a very real threat. This is a topic that will be at the forefront of any league discussions for at least the next year, and potentially beyond that.