Friday, July 22, 2011

Owners' bully tactics aside, football around the corner


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Are you ready for some football? It has been said many times, many ways, and around here chestnuts have been roasting for months … no open fire needed.
Well, hold off on the Christmas in July NFL jersey sales. At least for another day.
Professional football isn't back quite yet.
NFL owners tried to pull a fast one — or perhaps a slow one, considering how long it has been since they locked out the talent more than four months ago — by ratifying an "agreement" with NFL players on Thursday.
One tiny detail: The players had not agreed to the agreement. (Relax. That could happen today.)
It was funny watching the owners pat themselves on the backs for a job well done. Before Texans owner Bob McNair rushed from a meeting with his counterparts to the Atlanta airport, just minutes after the league made its announcement, he gushed about the so-called deal.
"I'm pleased to report that the definitive agreement that we've negotiated with the union, the owners approved it today by a vote of 31(-0), with one abstention, and I'm quite pleased," McNair said. "It's a 10-year agreement."
My dictionary gives the following definitions for agreement:
Harmony of opinion or action; mutual understanding or arrangement.
There was little harmony and certainly not a mutual understanding after the owners' grandstanding news conference, which meant nothing more than they had agreed to their own proposal.
Let's not even get into the use of definitive as an adjective.
The players held a conference call Thursday evening but decided not to vote . Smart, considering that at the time of that call, they had yet to receive the owners' final proposal.

'They tried to railroad us'

The non-vote wasn't a rejection, however, despite what many players perceived as a bullying tactic.
One player sent me a text message that said, "They tried to railroad us."
That was the general sentiment among the players, many of whom felt as if they were thrown to the public in a power play to make them look like the bad guys in this labor dispute.
As the player representatives scour over the proposal , there are likely to be few contentious issues remaining to be discussed. The two sides are closer to an agreement than they have been since the owners voted to opt out of the previous agreement three years ago. They have figured out how to split the $9 billion pie and are merely discussing who gets the crumbs.
In what could be a 10-year deal, with no opt-out clause this time (the last deal was signed in 2006), it behooves the players to make sure the fine print says what they have agreed to.
One aspect of the owners' proposal particularly upsetting to the players is the stipulation they recertify as a union by Tuesday, or the agreement will be pulled.

Scent of money in the air

Interesting that the billionaires, most of whom are anti-union in their other business entities, are demanding football players unionize.
Interesting — and most likely against federal labor laws, as the NFLPA alerted players in an email.
Still, don't let this latest snag throw you off the scent of money that in short order will drive these two forces together. The league announced it has canceled the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game, the first preseason game of the season, but that contest represents a drop in the collection plate compared to the $200 million haul per preseason weekend.

Let the action begin

It would be shocking if an actual agreement isn't reached in the next few days and even more shocking if the Texans' training camp, held at the facilities on Kirby that the team contributed so little money to build, doesn't open by the end of next week as scheduled.
The wackiest week in NFL offseason history, which will feature a flurry of player signings, is almost upon us.
No need to fret. If you are ready for some football, it's coming.

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