FACT CHECK: NFLPA spokesman’s comments inconsistent with players’ litigation

In a recent interview on Bizball radio, an NFLPA spokesman denied that the lawsuit filed by the NFL players really attacks fundamental elements of the NFL’s success, such as the Draft – even though that is what the lawsuit says.

The NFLPA spokesman was asked if the NFLPA and its lawsuit intended to “kill the golden goose” as Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested could happen in an April 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece. “If you believe his op-ed, we are [intending to kill the golden goose],” the NFLPA spokesman said. “If you look at the negotiations that took place leading up to decertification, everything suggests otherwise. During the historical or previous collective bargaining process that ended on the 11th of March, the players had offered multiple times to continue playing under the previous deal, which included significant restrictions on free agency, the draft and a lot of the things that he talked about in his op-ed.”

This looks like a case of “say one thing, do another.” In contrast to the spokesman’s comments, the Brady v. NFL antitrust litigation filing asks for a radical change in the way the NFL operates, including the elimination of the NFL Draft. The lawsuit states the NFL “imposing the anticompetitive Draft with an ‘Entering Player Pool’ violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act.”

More from the lawsuit: “The College Draft is one of the longest-running restraints on competition for player services in the NFL…The imposition of the Draft with ‘Entering Player Pool’ is an anticompetitive, horizontal agreement between competing NFL teams…The restrictions imposed by the NFL completely eliminate and prevent any competition for the services of rookie NFL players and are not necessary to achieve any pro-competitive objective.”

The lawsuit asks for much more, essentially the elimination of the player personnel system designed to ensure competitive balance. “The NFL’s “imposition of other anticompetitive restrictions, including the Salary Cap, ‘Franchise Player’ designation, ‘Transition Player’ designation, and/or other player restrictions, violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act,” says Brady v. NFL.

The lawsuit further says that the NFL’s “imposition of restrictions on competition for player services, such as the Salary Cap, the ‘Franchise Player’ restriction, the ‘Transition Player’ restriction, or other restrictions on player free agency, are part of an overall combination and conspiracy by the NFL to suppress competition in the United States market for the services of major league professional football players…The restrictions which they seek to impose are intended to suppress competition in that market and are not necessary to achieve any pro-competitive objective.”

If you are confused by this, we understand. To say you want to continue the current NFL system at the same time you file a lawsuit attacking the core structure of the NFL seems misleading at best and dangerous to the NFL’s future at worst.

As Commissioner Roger Goodell has said of litigation, “All that has done is delayed serious negotiations. We need to get back and start talking about that and try to see if we can reach an agreement.”

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