NFL, Players Union: Fight Behind Closed Doors

After the NFL touts record Super Bowl viewership, the league and its players' union would be wise to minimize tune-in as their labor dispute escalates. If the two sides continue with an increasingly contentious stand-off that threatens to cancel part of next season, they should avoid all temptation to negotiate publicly.

Players have legitimate concerns about ways to reduce the amount of concussions, but the dispute is over one thing: money. Each side wants more.

Fans don't want to hear the sniping. Oblige. Stop with Internet videos and tweeting and tossing barbs during press conferences and to reporters off the record.

Engage in a ferocious battle, sure. Hire Dana White to referee a UFC showdown between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union chief DeMaurice Smith -- just do it behind closed doors. (OK, the fight can be televised.)

But do not follow the TV industry, where public battles between cable operators and broadcasters over carriage fees were a recurring imbroglio last year. So much so, that the FCC will review some of the issues later this year, which could leave one or both sides out a lot of money.



The NFL and union seem to be content to engage in brinksmanship, a strategy that may not bring a settlement until maybe five games are canceled in the fall.

Blackouts, such as Fox and ABC off the air in the New York market, prompted the government to get involved in revisiting regulations on retransmission consent -- where cable/satellite/telco TV operators pay local stations to carry them. Before the FCC took up the assignment, Sen. John Kerry took a hard line and conducted a hearing.

If Goodell and Smith become too shrill, Congress may do the same with them, which might highlight player greed and bring threats to repeal special advantages the NFL enjoys. Legislators don't want a flood of calls next fall from people who want their NFL.

Several epic disputes in the TV field -- where avarice was surely involved -- likely yielded many complaints in 2010. Among the standoffs were Cablevision locking horns with Disney and Fox, while Time Warner Cable took on Disney and Sinclair. The public acrimony was worthy of the Tea Party vs. an admitted Tax and Spender.

In March, Disney removed its ABC station from Cablevision hours before the Oscar broadcast. The cable operator said Disney chief Bob Iger was willing to hold viewers "hostage." Disney returned fire, calling out "the Dolan family dynasty" that runs Cablevision. The dispute led to part of the Academy Awards off the air.

Then, Fox was blacked out on Cablevision for more than two weeks in the fall, causing the two World Series games to go dark. Cablevision said Fox was engaged in flat-out "corporate greed." Fox shot back that a Cablevision offer was part of "a long line of publicity stunts."

Wisely, two other battles were settled before blackouts occurred, but not before acrimonious public posturing. Sinclair threatened to remove stations off Time Warner Cable. And the cable operator alleged Sinclair plays dirty pool with deal-making: "Unfortunately, this sort of behavior is typical when negotiating with Sinclair." Sinclair responded in kind.

In August, Disney and Time Warner Cable sparred with the potential of several ABC stations (and ESPN) being knocked out in parts New York and Los Angeles. Disney has a penchant for pulling channels and "they're threatening to do it to us," Time Warner Cable said. Disney said "finger-pointing" wasn't helpful.

Then, the two sides issued a joint press release indicating they had agreed to a détente on the mudslinging. But actions can speak louder than words. The NFL and its players should remember that.

1 comment about "NFL, Players Union: Fight Behind Closed Doors".
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  1. Robin Mingus from NASW-Michigan, February 4, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.

    Shame on all of you. Let's get real about this! Now is such a critical time in the lives of many Americans, poverty is at an all time high and we have millionaire athletes and team owners fighting over money and health insurance co-pays (to name a few). There are people (their fans) that go to work every day and risk life and limb to make minimum wage without any health insurance, many can barely afford to keep food on the table. Buck up boys and stop spending all your money on jewelry, expensive cars, lavish homes, sex, drugs etc.....

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