SBD/January 13, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Attorney Batterman Contends NFLPA Brass Wants A Lockout

Bob Batterman contends NFLPA focused too much on litigation strategies

NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman yesterday said that he believes NFLPA leaders "want team owners to lock out players when the sport's labor contract expires in March," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Batterman contends that NFLPA officials are "focused on litigation strategies and lobbying on Capitol Hill rather than attempting to negotiate a labor settlement with franchise owners." He said, "If you want to litigate, if you want to get Congress involved, you want a lockout to occur and you want the clock to run out (on negotiations) so your decertification and litigation strategy can come into play. This is not a union eager to avoid a lockout. This is a union waiting for a lockout to occur." Batterman was an outside labor attorney for the NHL during the '04-05 lockout season, and NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah yesterday said Batterman's comments "come from the person that effectuated a year-long lockout for the NHL." Atallah said, "These comments are irrelevant to the process." He also "renewed the union's call for more financial information from the owners." Batterman declined to say "whether owners will initiate a lockout in March, barring significant progress in bargaining by then." Batterman added that a "settlement by early March remains possible," but only if "both sides are intent upon reaching a deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/13). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio writes the "presumption a lockout will be implemented automatically by the NFL at the moment the current labor deal expires, as of midnight on March 4. But that’s not the case. Just as the players can work without a contract and opt to walk out at a moment of heightened leverage, the league can do the same" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/13).

GROWING PAINS: The AP's Tim Dahlberg noted the NFLPA has said that it is "worried about injuries" should the NFL expand to an 18-game regular season, and "on this, the most vital issue of all for a professional athlete, the union is right." More games "mean more wear and tear in a sport that already is bruising," and that "means the average NFL career of less than four years could be cut even shorter." Penn State Univ. Dir of Athletic Medicine Wayne Sebastianelli said, "Any time there's more exposure there's more risk for injury. I worry about it even for the non-paid athlete in the sense of what they're exposed to." Dahlberg noted both the NFLPA and the league are "vying for the sympathies of fans who can't bear even the suggestion that their favorite league might not open for business on time next season." But there is "not nearly as much talking going on behind closed doors, with no formal talks between the league and the union in weeks" (AP, 1/12). ESPN.com's Bomani Jones said there is "no way that anyone is going to convince me that 18 football games are a good idea because 16 doesn't look like such a great idea either. The owners want to make more money, they want to stretch this out, but my concern is really going to be those last two games when we get there. ... Physically, how healthy are teams going to be if they just keep playing?" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/12).

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