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Volume 23 No. 28
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‘Lockout Bob’ is back on the job for NFL

The NFL has begun preparing for the next round of collective-bargaining agreement negotiations, with the league again retaining noted management labor outside counsel Bob Batterman.

The current collective-bargaining agreement does not end for another five years, but it was at a similar stage of the previous cycle, in 2007, when the league hired Batterman, whom the players union affixed with the moniker “Lockout Bob” for his hard-nosed strategy.

BATTERMAN
Batterman attended last week’s NFL owners annual meeting at the invitation of Jeff Pash, NFL general counsel.
“I was meeting with the owners … and the purpose was, nothing secret about it I don’t think, was preparing for the next round of collective bargaining,” he said. “The NFL prepares to the nth degree, and we do it in great detail and a lot of process, and so we are starting.

“We probably have a good year’s worth of homework to do before we involve the owners directly,” Batterman added. “We meet with club executives, with staff, we do a lot of internal prep before we get into policy decisions with the owners.”

Batterman is a partner at Proskauer and advises a wide range of industries on labor. In sports, he is known for his work with the NFL and NHL, both of which he steered through lockouts. The NFL under Batterman’s guidance locked out the players in March 2011 and pursued a complaint at the National Labor Relations Board. The NFL and NFL Players Association settled and signed a 10-year CBA in August 2011.

Batterman was a disliked figure among the players for his hard line.

Reached last week about Batterman resurfacing, George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, took a softer approach.

“Tell him I say Hello and I hope he comes back for round two eventually,” Atallah wrote in an email.

NFL dollars

Year League revenue* Salary cap^
2016 $13 billion+ $155.27 million
2015 $12 billion+ $143.28 million
2014 $11.2 billion $133 million
2013 $10 billion $123 million
2012 $9.7 billion $120.6 million
2011 $9.4 billion $120 million
2010 $9.1 billion NA
2009 $8.5 billion $127 million

* Includes projected and estimated amounts
^ Does not include benefits money paid to players. That additional sum also has increased since the current CBA was implemented in 2011.
NA: Not applicable; uncapped year, per CBA.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal archives, including SBJ reporting


Batterman described the current CBA as a good deal for both sides, with the salary cap recently rising to $155 million per team. (It was at $127 million in 2009, the last year with a cap before the lockout.) Player compensation has risen in recent years, but so has league revenue (see box).

At the owners meeting March 20, league executives showed a chart with two lines: league revenue and player costs. The two lines paralleled each other for years through 2010, with a sharp divergence then occurring as league revenue outpaced player costs. Both rose, but league revenue at a far sharper pace after the new labor deal in 2011.

“It is a good deal for both sides; the players are making a lot of money,” Batterman said. “[B]ut you still have to prepare. You don’t know what the union will be asking for. There are still improvements we should be seeking.”

When Batterman arrived at the meeting, he said the owners made light of his reputation.

“All the owners when I started walking in said, ‘Lockout Bob is back,’” he said.