SBD/March 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 3: If Injunction Blocks Lockout, It Will Be Business As Usual

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Doty ruling could force owners to impose rules for another league year
Should Federal Judge David Doty grant the players an injunction to block a lockout, the NFL offseason "will suddenly look routine," according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Owners will be "required to impose rules for the league year, and games will be played." The owners are "expected to use rules from 2010, when no maximum or minimum salary levels existed for teams." They could "tweak the rule on free agency, which last year went to six years for eligibility, from four." The idea is "to not be too restrictive, lest it provoke another antitrust charge from players." Free agency would open, "trades would be allowed and players could go back to working out at team facilities." However, the owners "would appeal the decision" from Doty (N.Y. TIMES, 3/13). In DC, Mark Maske notes the '11 NFL season "almost certainly would be played without a salary cap if NFL players succeed in their attempt to lift the lockout put in place by team owners." If Doty grants the injunction, the NFL "would reopen for business and the league would have to put work rules in place." Sources indicated that the "system the league would enact at that point would be very likely to be the same system that was in effect last season, when there was no salary cap in the final year of the just-expired labor agreement" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14).

CALLING AN AUDIBLE: In N.Y., Adam Himmelsbach notes with no CBA, the league has "lost its authority to enforce its drug and personal-conduct policies," and when the NFLPA decertified, it "ceded its ability to regulate agents." So begins a "kind of test of morals, as players and agents who once played by the carefully scripted rules of the image-conscious NFL and its union now exist in a world where anything goes." NFL radio analyst Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys exec, said, "There are a lot of loopholes now." Himmelsbach notes the league "could not punish players retroactively for off-the-field issues during this stoppage," but an offseason incident by a player still "could affect a team’s desire to have him on its roster." CBS NFL analyst Charley Casserly said, "Any player that is doing something that would cause a violation of the collective bargaining agreement or league policy is going to have to remember there eventually is going to be a season. There are going to be games, so I can’t see players just flaunting it because we’re three days into a decertification." Meanwhile, Himmelsbach notes without a "system of regulation, there are concerns that agents will poach clients from other agents." Brandt said that he "would not be surprised to see a bit of a feeding frenzy among agents" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/14). After the players decertified on Friday, the group "informed certified player agents that it is now a professional association and agents are no longer regulated by what was the players' union" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/12). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "All the NFL can do right now is hope that players act as well as possible. ... Also, agents can do what they want right now" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/14).

LOGGING PHONE CALLS WITH AGENTS: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez cited sources as saying that the NFL is "requiring general managers to keep a log of every conversation held with an agent." GMs and agents are "allowed to discuss college prospects in this year's draft," and they can also talk about "personal business if a player agent also represents a general manager or head coach." However, the NFL has "warned coaches and team officials that discussions of current players or pending free agents during a lockout is prohibited." The mandate "probably won't discourage all prohibited conduct," but it "may make some GMs think twice before being willing to risk NFL punishment" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/13).
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