2011 NFL Lockout: The Plot Thickens

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith (R) and Pittsburgh Steelers player Charlie Batch (L) arrive for negotiations at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and NFLPA continue to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Just a quick update from me about the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations going on this week between league owners and the NFLPA.  The players union has brought on an 'international investment bank' to help them in the bargaining process. Apparently, the bank has been on retainer for several months, but not until this week has it been deployed to help the players union work towards a final decision. To be clear, the undisclosed IB is not opining on things like rookie wage scales or 18-game schedules. At least not to my knowledge.  Instead, the unnamed institution is just helping the players union assess its position on how to equitably divide up the estimated $9+ billion in annual revenues, and how their position is inextricably linked to the amount of financial and accounting information disclosed by owners.

At the end of last week, I felt fairly confident that a lockout might be avoided for the first time in seeming forever. Then again, just a few days earlier, I wrote that it was important for both sides to take their time and get things right, and that the league might ultimately be better off in the long run if the two sides patiently worked their way through critically important issues at stake beyond just money.

I'm still optimistic something might be worked out this week. But even though I know it's a good thing and an intelligent move, a tiny part of me regrets to say that the NFLPA is wise to bring in the best, brightest and most profit hungry minds in finance to remind them what's at stake here.  Now we've got a real fight.  Not until this week would I have ever expected anything but for the owners to eventually come out 'ahead' in this new deal -- at least compared to the provisions of this CBA.  But not until I heard that the players union brought on external IB consulting did I think that they'd negotiate a truly legitimately fair deal for themselves. From afar, it looks like they're doing just that.

So, I both regret and am pleased to say that it looks like some more time may indeed be needed before a deal can be reached. But I shouldn't really speculate at this point. There's just not telling what's in store given all the twists and turns this plot has already taken in the past few business days. 

But from where I stand -- in the dark like the rest of us -- this is a true Catch 22. If you want to see a deal resolved immediately, this news might not be so hot. But if you want the players to stand up to the owners, combat their insatiable demands for profit, and better themselves individually and collectively for the short and long term, well then you might just be pleased to hear that the NFLPA isn't acquiescing in a disorganized fashion this week. Stay tuned.

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