NFL talks were a Kabuki dance

NFL talks were a Kabuki dance
March 12, 2011, 3:42 pm
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Saturday, March 12, 2011 10:45 a. m.

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger
The quick take: The NFLPA and the league owners put on sham negotiations over the past two weeks.The two sides demonstrated their lack of desire to get to an agreement by asking for something that they knew the other side would never agree to.It now goes to the courts, where all we can do is hope that both sides lose.
On Thursday evening when the Kabuki dance that we called the NFL labor negotiations were getting ugly, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah sent out the following message via Twitter: I would like to request an expense credit from the owners on the last 3 hours of my life. Hey Georgeand Roger, and DeMaurice, and Jeff Pash, and Drew Brees and the rest of the gangthe rest of us want an expense credit for the last two weeks of our lives. The last two weeks have been a show. The negotiations were nothing more than an orchestrated production on the part of both the players and the owners to make us think that they actually were working on an agreement. Silly us. We actually believed them for a while. The NFL owners have taken legal action to get a ruling that the unions decertification is a sham. The rest of us should take legal action against the league and the NFLPA because the whole supposed negotiations have been a sham. We should have been tipped off that they were putting on a show last Friday when the two sides agreed to a second, weeklong extension to the deadline. That was about midday on Friday. But instead of working through the night, instead of continuing to talk through the weekend, the first order of business was to adjourn. They knocked off early on Friday, took off Saturday, took off Sunday and didnt reconvene until 3 p. m. on Monday. So, with 168 hours left until the new deadline, both sides take off for 72 hours, over 40 percent of the time remaining. Many of us were puzzled, but it all makes sense now. If all youre doing is putting on a show to try to make people think that you are working towards a deal, why work the weekend? Since both sides were just pretending that they wanted an agreement anyway, why not head home, putter around the mansion for a while and resume the show after the three-day intermission. Another sure sign that neither side truly was serious about getting a deal done was that they both were demanding something that they knew they were not going to get. The owners wanted to reduce the amount of money available for player salaries by a billion dollars a year. There are about 2,000 players so that is a reduction of 500,000 per player per year. They knew that the players never would agree to that, or even half of that amount, or even a fourth of it. The players wanted 10 years of detailed, audited financial data to justify the reduction in the salary pool. They knew that the owners never would accept such a fishing expedition. Still, the media assembled every day and many barrels of ink and many terabytes of cyberspace were consumed with reporting the news of the day and commenting on the events. That is not a knock at the media, by the way. They assemble to cover staged events all the time, from presidential press conferences to Apple product announcements. Its part of the job because the consumers expect it. After all of that, both sides are in court. The players believe that they will prevail in court with the visions treble damages in an antitrust lawsuit dancing in in their heads. The owners believe that they can break the will of the union and get the players back on their terms. But unlike what we witnessed for the last two weeks, going through the legal system isnt a game. The two sides wont be able to go through the motions that theyre trying to do something and then put on grim faces to try to convince us that their side is just and right and that the guys on the other side are liars and incarnations of the devil on Earth. In court, there will be a winner and a loser. The stakes are high. The willing participants in the legal action will voluntarily put their businesses in the case of the owners, or their professional careers in the case of the players, into the hands of the maze of the U. S. legal system. Its too bad that one side or the other is likely to prevail in court. At this point, after fake negotiations over the past two weeks, the optimal outcome would be for both sides to lose. Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at You can reach him by email at