SBD/March 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Goodell, Smith Working Together To Bridge Gap

Goodell and Smith both convinced their constituents to extend CBA
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "are hardly chummy," yet as they "push toward a peaceful compromise that is likely to avert the work stoppage most of us have seen coming for well over a year, they have displayed many common qualities, most notably a deep-seated respect for professional football and the fans who have made it far and away America’s most popular sport," according to Michael Silver of YAHOO SPORTS. Confronted with "significant challenges from the start, each man stood tall against more extreme elements in his own ranks and helped avert the NFL’s equivalent of nuclear war: a union decertification and antitrust lawsuit countered by league-initiated legal challenges and a lockout." Statements on Friday by both Goodell and Smith, "as well as conversations with several of their confidants, suggest that the two leaders are absolutely committed to bridging" the gap and avoiding a work stoppage. Last week, Goodell "made it clear to his constituents that a short-term extension in the hope of a settlement was the smart play." Sources indicated that it was Smith "who faced some resistance from his executive committee after presenting them with the specifics of what he and Goodell had discussed Thursday afternoon." But Smith, too, "sold his charges on the advantages of a compromise, as opposed to a nasty labor war that could have lasted several years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/4). SI.com's Don Banks cited sources as saying that both Goodell and Smith "seemed to recognize the full weight of the moment that came with the most important two days of their now high-profile careers, and both rose to the occasion in trying to find ways to bridge the differences that can be bridged, and put off until later the issues that still divide" (SI.com, 3/4).

UPPING THE ANTE: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez wrote Smith, meeting with the press after the NFL and union agreed to the seven-day extension on Friday, "gave the kind of lawyeresque speech that his straight-to-the-point predecessor would never deliver." An attorney before joining the NFLPA in '09, Smith "sounded more like he was trying to sway a jury to side with the union in his four-minute 'news conference' than provide meaningful perspective on the labor talks." Smith "branched into propaganda with seven references" to the fans, and also made reference to the late Dave Duerson as "being part of the initial lawsuit that helped bring the CBA into existence in 1993." But Marvez noted "skeptics will wonder whether Smith was being exploitative by invoking Duerson's name in a labor negotiation when answering a simple, unrelated question" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/5). In Pittsburgh, John Harris wrote, "The players aren't backing down. Instead, they've ramped up the pressure. It starts with leadership. Union chief DeMaurice Smith is doing what people believed couldn't be done." Smith's ability to convince QBs Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees to "be plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the league if the union decides to decertify was a stroke [of] genius." Harris: "It delivered a forceful message to owners that the union won't buckle" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/5).
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