There he goes again

In the labor negotiations, or lack thereof, with the NFL Players Association, NFLLabor.com has learned many things. One is that George Atallah, the NFLPA spokesman, is capable, smart, hard working, a very nice person, a big soccer fan, and an eloquent advocate for his cause.  

That is why his comments about the NFLPA-financed antitrust lawsuit against the NFL are thought-provoking.

Check out this quote in a recent interview with Colts fan blog 18to88.com:

“We are not out to ruin the game,” said George. “The only reason the players went to court — two very important facts: the only reason the players went to court was to get the lockout lifted. The second fact is if the owners truly do not want a lockout, they can lift the lockout at anytime. And guess what? We’d be out of court. Seriously. “

Not exactly.

Here is what the lawsuit says about the draft: “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 also seeks elimination of the collectively bargained free agency system. Says Brady v. NFL: 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.”

A careful read of the NFLPA-financed litigation does include the request for an injunction against the lockout, but it also clearly attacks fundamental elements of the league’s structure that have produced a great game for the fans and prosperity for the players. This litigation is slowing the process of reaching an agreement.

The NFL imposed a lockout AFTER the NFLPA rejected a proposal on March 11 that addressed many of its concerns, broke off negotiations, and filed a lawsuit. The March 11 offer was aimed at avoiding litigation and a lockout. The offer was a basis to continue negotiations. The NFLPA chose a different path.

Let us play? We all want to play. First, we need a fair agreement with the players on the rules of the road. The way to get the lockout lifted is to negotiate an agreement. So, let the word go forth from this time and place that the time to negotiate is now.

And while we are borrowing from JFK, “Let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

Let us get an agreement.

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