Robert Kraft: Lockout Could Start to Really Annoy Fans

With the baseball season just starting to heat up and the NHL and NBA playoffs well underway, it’s easy to forget that we might not have football to look forward to in the fall. NFL players are currently locked out of team facilities while guys like Drew Brees are digging into their own pockets to keep their teams fresh.  If nothing else, at least the owners are acknowledging that the entire situation is starting to look bad.

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald called our attention to some comments Patriots owner Robert Kraft made about the lockout on Sunday, in which he acknowledged that the current labor struggle is starting to make the league look bad in the eyes of the fans.

“The problem can be solved. I really believe that,” Kraft said. “We’re blessed to have one of the greatest sports businesses in the world right here in America. And one of my concerns is that we not aggravate our fan base, because they don’t really understand, and they don’t want to understand whether it’s the owners or the players (fault). They just want to have football.”

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Sports Have Become a Battle in the Court Room Instead of on the Court

Perhaps you’ve been caught up in the playoffs extravaganza with the NBA and NHL. Maybe spring baseball is what captivates. After all, if the season ended today… you’d have a lot of confused people. (Why would the postseason start in May?) An even smaller segment of the population may have been enthralled by the sequins and color coordination that the World Figure Skating Championships affords. If you’re mesmerized by any of these or just simply don’t like to watch football televangelist Mel Kiper, Jr. (whose haircut was inspired by the movie Eraserhead), then, perhaps, the business-section allure that sports are currently providing is what entrances.

Courtroom drama, as well as business and corporate takeovers, are as much a part of Americana as crappy automobiles, point shaving, and Klondike bars. Unfortunately, we have seen what people would do for all three and it isn’t exactly pretty. Normally, at this time of year, football talk surrounds a lack of prudence, maybe not a pigskin but certainly a ball-and-chain. Now that conversation has turned to jurisprudence: the uniforms may not be as vibrant, but it gives players a chance to break out the Paisley without fear of being pasted. Should it surprise anyone that the Los Angeles Dodgers season has played like an episode of Law and Order? After all, the alleged owners do spell their name with “court.”

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Chris Kluwe Mocks Roger Goodell’s Letter, Lockout on White Board

The white board of Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is back, and that is good for everyone. In case you don’t remember, Kluwe took to his cartoon figures to point out the hypocrisy in the NFL’s punishments of hard hits. The former Bruin continued his critical ways when he tweeted that TCF Bank Stadium had an “unplayable” surface back when the Vikings were set to play there.

Now that he has plenty of time on his hands because of the lockout, Kluwe’s back to his creative drawings. He tweeted out the picture above on Friday and shortly thereafter this “letter” from Roger Goodell:

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NFLPA Using Threat of Future Decertification to Keep Agents in Check

We’ve talked about what the lockout and decertification processes mean for the NFL and NFLPA, but one aspect of the sport that hasn’t been discussed much is the agents. Initially, when reports emerged suggesting the players union would decertify, there was concern that without regulation from the Players Association, agents could run wild.

People speculated that agents could theoretically steal each other’s clients, recruit on college campuses, and do things they normally wouldn’t be allowed to based on the rules outlined by the NFLPA. There was also concern that players wouldn’t have to pay their agents since they were no longer governed the NFLPA. Well fear not LBS Nuts, things won’t be as bad as you were worried they might be.

Larry Brown Sports spoke with agent JR Rickert who has numerous NFL, NBA, and MLB clients for answers to these questions. Rickert said the agents were advised about many of these issues during a seminar in Indianapolis. Most notably, Rickert explained that the NFLPA essentially is holding a threat over the agents to caution them against breaking the rules.

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What Decertification Means for the Players Union and NFL

On Friday evening, the NFLPA made the decision to decertify in a move that would block the lockout by the owners. I keep getting asked the question by readers and friends what decertification means, so I figured it was worth a post to explain things.

The NFL players initially bonded together and formed a union in an act they hoped would help generate more favorable rights. For instance, by forming a union, they could approach the owners with certain demands and the owners would have to negotiate or lose their players (and risk going with “replacement players” who are inferior in talent). The sides formed an agreement known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement that details how the league will be run. The CBA contains points such as when players can become free agents, whether teams will pay players who get injured, and how long the season is.

I’ve never read the NFL CBA, but several years ago I read the MLB CBA and let me tell you, every possible detail you could imagine is covered. We’re talking everything from meal money on road trips to the way arbitration hearings will go is spelled out.

Anyway, the NFL owners realized that the league was getting extremely popular and generating ridiculous amounts of revenue, and they wanted more of it for themselves. Two years ago they opted out of the CBA, just like A-Rod opted out of his contract with the Yankees to negotiate a more favorable deal.

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Drew Brees Feels Badly for Fans

The NFLPA has decided to decertify and sue the NFL for violation of anti-trust laws. LBS is firmly on the side of the players in this negotiation, feeling that the pot should be split 50-50 and that the players deserve lifetime health care for their injuries. It’s pretty simple: the players surrender their health every time they take the field and they should have many more rights than they do now. The owners owe the players much more decency than they currently provide them, and it’s sad to see their greediness result in the lockout that has been prevented by decertification.

It’s also sad that fans have to endure the labor battle between the two sides. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recognizes this and expressed that sentiment on his twitter account Friday.

In various tweets, the former Super Bowl MVP wrote “To our fans – I give you my word that we as players are doing everything we can to negotiate with the NFL towards a fair deal … The NFL brought this fight to us – they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request … I am very sorry that you as fans have to endure this. Football is more than just a game for all of us. We will keep fighting…always …Not once have the players asked for more money during this negotiation. That is a FACT. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us”

Well guess what Drew, you’re right in not expecting people to feel sorry for the players, but you have someone here who sees beyond the owners and does feel badly for the players. And with compassionate sentiments such as this one, you make it much easier for us to root for the players to have success in gaining more rights and equality in their fight with the owners.

Was NFL Owners’ Idea for 18-Game Schedule Just a Negotiation Tool?

As the NFL players and owners continue to meet to try and agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they have several items to negotiate. One of those points was the owners’ supposed desire to implement an 18-game regular season. Most players opposed it, fans weren’t elated for it, but the owners wanted it and spoke like it was an inevitability.

Regardless of their desires, NFLPA exec De Smith says the union will not discuss an 18-game season. The rigidity of Smith’s stance on the issue makes me wonder if the owners can use that for leverage in negotiations with another topic. It also makes me wonder if they ever wanted 18 games in the first place, or if they were pushing the idea solely for the purpose of leverage in negotiations.

The fans never pushed for the idea of 18 games. As LBS contributor Gene pointed out, and Jimmy Traina wrote on twitter, contrary to what Roger Goodell has said, the fans’ objection never was four preseason games, it was just having to pay for four preseason games in order to purchase season tickets. The two are not the same issue.

It’s quite possible Goodell and the owners knew the players would object to it, and by pushing for the longer season, they’d guarantee themselves leverage for another topic. Hey, they already had guaranteed themselves payments from TV networks in the case of a lockout, who’s to say they didn’t have this planned too?