SBD/March 9, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Doty's Influence Over CBA Continues To Grow

Some feel Doty's media rights fee ruling broke NFL-NFLPA stalemate
The "most influential man in professional football, at least in recent days," is not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell but District Judge David Doty, according to a sports-section cover story by Shipley & Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Some believe Doty "broke the bargaining stalemate between players and owners" with his ruling in favor of the NFLPA in the closely watched media fees case. That ruling and "other high-profile decisions by Doty have so angered owners that they have made the judge himself one of the key issues in the current contract talks." A source on the ownership side said that he "didn't think the league would agree to any labor settlement that includes ongoing oversight by Doty." However, Shipley & Maske note while Doty’s associates “agree that Doty has held a position of unusual power over the players and owners,” they “dispute the suggestion that his decisions have reflected any favoritism” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/9). Meanwhile, SI.com's Peter King wrote, "In some ways, I wouldn't be surprised if Goodell, deep down, wasn't unhappy with Doty's ruling. Because it would be a message to the hard-line owners that they were going to have open their books at some point anyway. Why not do it in negotiation instead of litigation?" (SI.com, 3/8).

WILL IT COME TO THIS? In Baltimore, Ken Murray writes the option of decertification "hangs over NFL labor negotiations like an anvil." Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts said that decertification "is not necessarily the negotiating hammer some believe it to be." Roberts: "My own instinct is that it's not as big a threat as some players and people on that side think it is. Only because I don't think anybody thinks the two sides would litigate for two or three years, which is what it would take. To shut down the NFL for three years while they litigate is inconceivable." But former National Labor Relations Board Chair William Gould argues decertification is "the ultimate weapon." Even he admitted that "decertifying was no guarantee of success in the courts" (Baltimore SUN, 3/9). ESPN's Mark Schwarz said, "Everyone is hoping on the owners' side that a deal is done so that they avoid that dirty word, decertification. They do not want this to go to the courts" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 3/8).

A LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: Jets Owner Woody Johnson yesterday said he is "eternally optimistic" the league and union can come to terms on a new CBA. He added, "Whether we get it done this week, it’s possible. As long as we’re talking, as long as we’re being mediated. I think (federal mediator George) Cohen’s pretty good. He’s gotten them together all these days, that’s a sign of progress" (NJ.com, 3/8). Eagles TE Brent Celek: "I know it's going to get done in time. There's too much at stake for both sides. They'll probably just keep extending" the deadline, currently set for Friday. We'll see. I don't see there being a lockout. If there is, I'll be really surprised" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/9). Patriots OT and player rep Matt Light is "beginning to feel cautiously optimistic." In an interview with WAAF-FM, he said, "I’m hopeful we can get a deal done." But Light also said that he "couldn't guess whether there will be a deal" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/9).

ONE SHINING MOMENT? ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote Goodell should "resign immediately if this owners-created labor dispute becomes a living, breathing lockout by the end of Friday's federally mediated negotiating deadline." When it "comes down to it, Goodell has a single job as commissioner of the world's most profitable sports league: Make the NFL trains run on time." If he "can't do that, then it's time to find another conductor." Wojciechowski: "This is when we learn whether Goodell is worth his nearly $10 million in annual salary. The last thing these negotiations need is an owners' lap dog who yaps at all the wrong times and for all the wrong reasons" (ESPN.com, 3/8).
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