For a while, the NFL lockout was a match between two equally stubborn groups fighting to win the PR battle. The NFL said they want to negotiate with the NFLPA and that the NFLPA was not actually negotiating in good faith. The players fired back asking for the owners to make their financial papers public knowledge. Back and forth it went with cattiness on both sides... until today.
Judge Nelson ruled in favor of the players, temporarily ending the lock-out. Technically, that means that as of the moment of Nelson's ruling, the NFL was fully open for business. The NFLPA is pushing this advantage by telling players to show up at team practice facilities and telling agents to engage in contract discussions as soon as possible. Many players were allowed into the practice facilities, one or two even got a workout, but many more were turned away at the gate. What does this mean?
It means the PR battle is over and the political battle has begun.The players are in a very fortunate position now: they have been given the moral high ground by the court. At this point, players can show up to practice and say, "all I want is to do my job." Keeping the players out is clearly a bad PR move for the NFL, so why would they do it? My theorey is that it's not a PR move at all. It's a political move, and in politics if you give an inch, you lose.
The Owners are trying to make a point with the lock-out: they are not satisfied with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and until there is an agreement in place, the owners do not feel that they are required to do anything for the players. Most players do have contracts, but at the moment there is very little that is still holding the league together. The players union has de-certified. The owners are being charged with collusion and violation of anti-trust law, but keep in mind that the CBA is, in essence, a legally decided "collusion." That's how the NFL works, through "league-think." Now that the players have started legal proceedings, the fight is less about looking good, and more about getting what they want, and the owners want a bigger slice of the pie which they are funding with private money.
For the record, I question the legality of forcing a business to open it's doors. In my opinion, a private business owner should be within his rights to choose his own hours. If Joe's Deli corporation contracted butchers and chefs, then decided that they are not satisfied with their business, the owner of an independently run Joe's Deli should be allowed to close it's doors. That's only reasonable, right? I'm willing to assume now, for the sake of continuing, that the ruling passed down by Judge Nelson is permissible, though I have my doubts.
The lock-out was a power-play by the NFL, and the courts ruled against it. There will, however, be an appeal made of the case, and the NFL is well on its way to requesting a stay on the decision. To them, the legal battle is not over. If that is the case, then why in the world would the owners let the players back in? If they do, they are essentially giving up on the legal proceedings and acquiescing to Judge Nelson's decision. In order to keep their case intact, the owners have to act as though nothing has been decided. Keeping players away seriously hurts their publicity, but if they let the players in, it can and would be used against them in court. Basically, if they let the players back in, it is as though the lock-out never even happened.
The owners locked the players out for a reason: to put pressure on the players to get a new deal done. Maybe it's a mean way of doing it, but the ultimate goal on both sides should be to get a system in place that works for everyone. I agree with Goodell when he says that this battle will not be solved in litigation, but in forming a new CBA, and Goodell himself points out that if there is no CBA, the overall product would suffer. There would be no draft, no restricted free agency, no salary cap, no nothing. The stars would make even more bloated amounts of money, and the role players would make even less.
With the ruling from Judge Nelson in place, the situation has suddenly become very dire. The system will now pit haves against have-nots, and parity will go right out the window. The NFL lock-out situation is no longer about the owners and players garnering positive PR. Now, it's about maintaining the NFL in the form that it has thrived in during the previous CBA, and that's all about politics.