NFL Owners Slap Players Around In First Round Of P.R. Battle

Perception is reality. For the vast majority of the population, this is a sad truth. You can blame it on New Media, shrinking short attention spans, or whatever you like. It's the way of the world.

The NFL and NFLPA's public spitting in wake of the breakdown of Friday's mediation has spawned round one of what is sure to be a long and intolerably repetitive public relations fight, aimed at getting sympathy and support from the fans whom they both claim to work for (groan). 

We've already heard this ad nauseam, in one form or another: "We're so sorry this is happening, NFL fans. The other guys really screwed this up for you, but we're confident that an agreement will be reached."

Let's examine and translate the first round of statements released by the NFL and the NFLPA:

Excerpts from NFL Statement:

The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

Whether this is true or not, it is expertly-written by the NFL to give the impression that they were very generous with their offer. It of course leaves out the fact that the "player compensation gap" was completely created by the owner side in the first place. The key part in this passage, though, is the information about retired players. That bit is designed specifically to drive a wedge between the current and retired players, and accuse the current players of some level of hypocrisy since they have talked for so long about getting better benefits for their predecessors (and for themselves once they retire).

The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.

In other words "we care about the players health and safety! I mean, well we better at least do this since we're going to force the 18-game schedule down everyone's throat in 2013 at the latest!"

At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham 'decertification' and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.

Right, and what caused this "delay" in the first place? The owners wanting to take another billion off the top. The players weren't asking for more money, they were just asking to continue to get the same share of the pie they've been getting, regardless of the increasing size of the pie. That may sound like a pro-player statement, but it's not. It's just a fact of the case, from everything I've read.

The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.

"We get to claim that we don't want this to go to litigation because we know we'll likely get our heads kicked in in court. Players, please come back to the negotiating table so the NFL can get a better deal than we will get in court."

We have great respect for the fans. We have great respect for our players. We have great respect for the game and the tradition of the NFL. We will do everything that we reasonably can to ensure that everyone's attention returns to the football field as soon as possible.

"We respect everyone. See how respectful we are? We are the good guys!"

Now, the entire NFLPA statement:

The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.

The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.

That's it? Okay. Here are statements made to the press by DeMaurice Smith

The player side's early reactions to Friday's breakdown have been terse. The NFL side is launching a full PR campaign, and round one CLEARLY went to the NFL (despite the level of truth in their statement). The NFL is pushing the notion that they wanted to keep talking, but the players angrily walked away when they were "closer" to making a deal. 

Closer than what? If I go outside and walk five miles west from my Houston home, I'm closer to Los Angeles. Perception. The NFL knows the game.

The players, feeling like they will win in court, really had no reason to avoid litigation. They push the phrase "Let Us Play," but how sincere is it? Of course they have every right to demand every last dollar coming their way (especially when the NFL is asking them to take pay cuts), but the player PR machine is still stuck in the blocks, while the NFL is off to the races. 

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