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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Burwell: Court can send NFL a message ..

    BY BRYAN BURWELL Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:25 am


    As the the NFL owners' Traveling Road Show and Hubris Circus has finally made its way here to our little neck of the woods looking for somebody, anybody, to buy what they're selling, let's hope the message they receive inside a St. Louis courtroom is the same one they've been hit with everywhere else: We have nothing for you here but a bad attitude.

    Much like Judge Susan Richard Nelson said in a Minneapolis federal court and disgusted football fans expressed so eloquently in the court of public opinion last week when they practically booed and jeered Commissioner Roger Goodell off the stage at the NFL draft in New York, the best thing that could happen for anyone who cares that pro football will be played without interruption this fall is for the three-member panel of judges on the 8th Circuit Court to offer up another round of raspberries for the owners and their high-priced attorneys.

    The NFL owners have shopped their greatly flawed version of the truth behind this labor lockout all over the place and so far gotten no takers. The owners want the courts and the public to believe that a lockout, temporary or long term, "would cause the players no material, and certainly no irreparable, harm," but that ending it would "irreparably harm" the owners. This of course is a lot like saying that invoking starvation would not hurt hungry people, but ending it would make life a living hell for gluttons.

    So now the NFL's labor dispute lands inside the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse, where the appellate court will determine whether to end the lockout or let these 32 men continue down an arrogant and misguided path that threatens to not only keep the players out of work, but cause cities like St. Louis unnecessary hardships because ordinary people who earn a living in the stadiums and hotels, restaurants and bars surrounding those arenas would be out of work as long as the lockout lasts.

    When you get past all the legal mumbo jumbo in the owners' 18-page brief, the best little nugget is the almost laughable paragraph that tries to convince the court that the short-term (and ultimate long-term) effects of a lockout won't create an economic or career hardship on the players. You might want to ask the hundreds of undrafted rookie free agents how that works.

    In a normal NFL year, the moment the seven-round draft is completed, teams hit the phones and start calling rookie players they think could make a contribution to their roster, get them signed to contracts and into town for rookie minicamps. Undrafted rookies are in limbo now, and when you are that far down on the food chain in pro football, you need every second to seize the opportunity to make an NFL roster. A lockout creates a very material and potentially irreparable harm to that improbable dream.

    A lockout leaves plenty of careers in limbo. Consider the lives of veteran free agents who are sitting at home with no contract, no idea where and when the next paycheck is coming, no clue as to which team will make them an offer or if and when their agents can begin negotiations with those teams. If you are a professional athlete with a finite period in which you can play at an elite, world-class level, each month, week or day that this lockout drags on does in fact greatly impact your professional life.

    The owners would like the courts to ignore this fact and dwell instead on this fiction from Monday's brief: "Conversely, the absence of a stay would irreparably harm the NFL by under-cutting its labor law rights and irreversibly scrambling the eggs of player-club transactions. Those harms would be real and immediate, and they more than adequately support the issuance of a stay here."

    Not really. If the lockout ended at this very instant, the NFL would be able to get on with its regular business within 24 to 48 hours. They would simply put into effect the same rules that they operated under in 2010 and life would go on without a hitch.

    Oh yes, did we forget that the only reason there is a lockout and this supposed scrambled egg situation is because the owners chose to opt out of the existing deal?

    In an op-ed piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, Goodell tried to pitch the public the idea that the players are the ones who have created this mess. He suggests that they want to wreck the existing system and put one in place that resembles the NBA. "Is this the NFL that players want?" Goodell wrote. "A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players — those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars — play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?"

    Funny he should mention that. Here in St. Louis, we are very familiar with that sort of system, only it's one that is already in place for the owners. Isn't that exactly the sort of economic hammer Rams owner Stan Kroenke wields over our entire region? I don't like it, but that's the way the franchise free-agent game is played, and if the St. Louis region wants to keep Kroenke's franchise here beyond 2015, then we have to pony up millions to improve the Edward Jones Dome.

    If St. Louis doesn't figure out a way to upgrade the dome before all of its mandated lease deadlines, Kroenke can "cast into doubt" the Rams' future in St. Louis "by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor" a larger, better-situated market like Los Angeles.

    If those free-market principles work so well for the owners, why are they upset about the potential for the script being flipped by the players?


  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: Burwell: Court can send NFL a message ..

    Burwell doesn't get it.

    Most fans really don't care who is right or wrong or who "wins" and "loses."

    We just want the matter to be resolved and for the games to be played.

    Don't characterize us as if we all look at the owners as evil and the players as innocent victims.

    They're all wrong.

  3. #3
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    Re: Burwell: Court can send NFL a message ..

    I want the league to win (by this I don't mean the owners). I want to see a league that can continue to grow and develop like it has been and doesn't get turned into an NBA or MLB. That's what I want, above and beyond all other concerns.

  4. #4
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    Re: Burwell: Court can send NFL a message ..

    I agree that mostly the fans just want them to take care of business and start playing football again. That said, some of the rhetoric is kind of mind-boggling to me.

    The owners want the courts and the public to believe that a lockout, temporary or long term, "would cause the players no material, and certainly no irreparable, harm," but that ending it would "irreparably harm" the owners. This of course is a lot like saying that invoking starvation would not hurt hungry people, but ending it would make life a living hell for gluttons.
    You know, because starving children experience stunting that can permanently damage mental and physical growth, and unemployed NFL players have to choose between dipping into savings or getting a temporary job. Just the same, right?

    When you get past all the legal mumbo jumbo in the owners' 18-page brief, the best little nugget is the almost laughable paragraph that tries to convince the court that the short-term (and ultimate long-term) effects of a lockout won't create an economic or career hardship on the players. You might want to ask the hundreds of undrafted rookie free agents how that works.
    Coincidentally, these are not actual members of the NFL's work force but rather recent college graduates who under normal circumstances would still have a high probability of not making teams' 52-man rosters. Somehow I doubt that causing damage to the "improbable dream" of a recent college grad is not a strong legal argument.

    If you are a professional athlete with a finite period in which you can play at an elite, world-class level, each month, week or day that this lockout drags on does in fact greatly impact your professional life.
    This is probably the only legitimate pro-players argument in the piece. Barring significant injury, most of these guys have maybe 8-10 years in the league before age catches up with them. That said, I think it's hard to argue that monetary losses cause "irreparable harm" unless there's immediate danger that these guys could default on their mortgages or the like. If the harm is strictly monetary, it would be pretty easy to think of a way that reparations could be made if a court ruling went against the league.

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