Another variable: New leadership
Published August 17, 2009
Will new leadership change the tenor of the talks?
The NFLPA’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, is new to sports. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spent his entire career with the league but will be overseeing his first collective-bargaining sessions as its leader.
At the NHLPA, Executive Director Paul Kelly, who was elected in 2007, will be leading CBA negotiations for the first time. In baseball, the executive board of the MLBPA recently voted to name longtime general counsel Michael Weiner to replace Don Fehr as executive director, although the move is not official until the entire union membership votes on it.
Many say that neither Weiner nor Goodell should be viewed as new to the process, since both have been involved in labor negotiations for decades. Veteran baseball agent Tom Reich said of Weiner, “He is about as new in labor negotiations as I am in contract negotiations.”
But others think the new relationships between leaders on opposite sides in every sport but basketball could increase the time it takes to hammer out a deal.
“It is very difficult to make a deal with people who haven’t dealt with each other previously,” said NBA agent David Falk, who added that he thinks the process could be “extremely long” in the NFL, where both leaders are new.
But the NFL’s Jeff Pash said he doesn’t see the changes at the top as a problem if both people share good will and a common goal.
The NHLPA’s Kelly said new leaders could be a good thing, “particularly in our sport, when we went through such a tough time, back in ‘04 with the lockout,” he said. “I think new faces mean fresh ideas, a new start.”
The National Basketball Players Association’s Hunter said there’s much to be said for experience.
“I understand the nuances and the whole dynamic of a lockout, the pressures the players experience, the downside, the damage both sides suffer,” he said. “That is an experience that you now have that you didn’t have before.”
But, he said, “My stomach won’t have the butterflies in it that it had the first time.”
— Liz Mullen