SBJ/August 1-7, 2011/NFL Special Report

Other leagues watched and learned as the NFL's labor situation unfolded

The impact of the NFL’s new labor deal is reverberating across other sports, as experts look for lessons to be learned from the four-month lockout.

In the NBA, where the league’s work stoppage rolls into its second month, it’s football’s new revenue-sharing structure that is drawing close scrutiny.

“The one thing in the NFL’s deal that is interesting for the NBA is the splitting of revenue into different pods of national television revenue, stadium revenues and local revenues,” said Mark Bartelstein, founder of Priority Sports and Entertainment, which represents both NBA and NFL players. “It is an interesting concept in getting a direct way to come up with how much [money] the players get.”

Bartelstein also was impressed by the sense of urgency in the NFL talks.

“There was a real effort by the NFL to get a deal done, and that’s not happening in the NBA right now,” Bartelstein said.

Former NHL Players’ Association attorney Ian Pulver, who now represents NHL players, said that having key NFL stars taking an early public role in the union’s antitrust litigation against the league and being involved in labor negotiations was a pivotal tactic.

“Having [quarterbacks] Tom Brady and Peyton Manning involved is a lesson to the NBA players that the Kobe Bryants should be front and center,” Pulver said. “It is essential that NBA owners know that they are prepared.”

The chief negotiators in MLB’s ongoing labor talks, MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfred and MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner, were both away last week and unavailable for comment. At last month’s All-Star Game in Arizona, both executives said the other sports’ labor situations did not necessarily have a direct impact upon their negotiations. Weiner, however, acknowledged that “the broader context is unavoidable,” adding, “The opportunity [to maintain labor peace] is something both sides recognize.”

MLB and the union are negotiating a new deal to build upon their current five-year pact, which expires in December. Unlike football or basketball, neither side in baseball is seeking major givebacks or dramatic alterations to the current economic structure.

Clark Griffith, a Minneapolis attorney and formerly a Minnesota Twins executive and member of the MLB labor negotiating committee, said the NFL Players Association’s legal defeat in seeking to use antitrust laws to end the lockout likely killed that option for other sports unions. Rather, current and future negotiations will almost certainly stay within the confines of established labor law, he said.

“The NFL players basically did the heavy lifting in all four [major U.S.] sports on that one,” Griffith said. “What this means coming out of the NFL deal is that the players in the other sports very, very likely will not look to go that antitrust route.”

Outside observers said the historic 10-year term of the NFL deal also could have an impact on the other labor negotiations.

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