After I previously wrote about Tiki Barber’s legacy and the fact that his career with the Giants is over due to his own verbal diarrhea, Eli Manning essentially confirmed this on the Dan Patrick Show. Manning said during a radio interview that the team would likely welcome back WR Plaxico Burress before RB Tiki Barber. “I think Plaxico would probably be welcomed back a little quicker,” Manning said. Manning added Barber left the team on a bad note, including multiple public criticisms of Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Giants coaching staff. On the other hand, Burress has fond memories of winning the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for him, he literally and figuratively shot himself in the foot.
Manning said he was effected by Barber’s criticism as a broadcaster after he left the team, although the criticism may have helped him become more vocal as a leader. Barber claimed that Manning’s speeches in the huddle were comical and non-assertive.
All of this simply confirms what we already knew. Barber did too much damage that is beyond repair.
It is fascinating to see and hear what people, specifically New York Giants’ fans and football fans in general, think about Tiki Barber. Generally speaking, fans only care about players’ performance on the field. The off-the-field shenanigans only gets brought into the equation when someone does something horrific, commits a crime, goes to prison, or is so completely outrageous that his personal life overshadows his athletic career. But deep down, there is a respect and appreciation for what a player did for your team during his career – usually. I am not so sure this is the case for former Giants’ running back Tiki Barber.
It is hard to believe that a player who holds almost every Giants rushing record in history could be booed on a night at Giants Stadium honoring him along with other all-time great franchise players. It is hard to believe that some people argue Barber’s departure was what catapulted the Giants to becoming Super Bowl champions in the 2007 season. It is hard to believe that people are so willing to castigate and judge a person who has not done anything illegal or so grossly outrageous like some other professional football players that are still revered despite their “mishaps.”
Now four years after his retirement from the NFL and a failed broadcasting career, Tiki Barber is looking to make a comeback at an age where very few running backs have ever had success. During an interview with HBO that aired on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Barber acknowledged that he now needs football more than it needs him. This is partially due to his failures off the field after he initially retired which led to an extremely long bout with depression.
“I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours,” said Barber to HBO.
Barber has spent the past four months working out in an attempt to make a comeback, although his chances rest on the league and its players reaching a new collective bargaining agreement. He said football represents a necessary anchor in a life turned upside down by the depressive aftermath of scandalous divorce and disintegration of his television career. Upon his retirement in 2006, Barber was on his way to an illustrious career in television beginning as a NBC football analyst for Football Night in America. Earning $2,000,000 per year, Barber progressed to having a featured role on the Today Show. But things did not turn out how Barber had envisioned, and he was eventually demoted and fired. This led to his bouts with depression.
“I crafted this career, right? And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It’s hard to deal with.”
In addition to his career struggles, he was also dealing with major strife in his personal life as his marriage had started to fall apart just months after he ended his ten-year playing career. Then his image as a “good guy” took a serious blow when he ended up moving in with Tracy Lynn Johnson while his wife was pregnant with twins. Even though Barber proclaimed that he had separated from his wife before he moved in with Johnson, the tabloids and media painted him as an adulterer. Barber did all he could to defend himself and his honor. He tried explaining that his wife getting pregnant was right in the middle of his marital problems, and things did not change for the better.
After retiring from the game he loved to play, then having his NBC career crash and burn, and then having his reputation and integrity shattered by the public’s perception of his failed marriage and new girlfriend, Barber sorely needed something to grab onto to change the cycle. That is when he was encouraged by friends and other players to attempt a comeback.
Assuming he is in game condition shape and works off a lot of the rust that may have accumulated over the past four years, Barber should get a shot on an NFL team to contribute. One option that is not going to be available to him is a return to the Giants. This is what is so disheartening about the whole situation, and Barber has no one to blame but himself. In an ideal world, this would be an amazing story of an all-time great player making a comeback to the only team he ever played for and being embraced as a returning hero. Unfortunately, there will be no storybook ending for Barber and the Giants. And there are many reasons why.
First, it should be noted that Barber truly is one of the greatest players to ever play for the Giants. Some of his career highlights include: one of twenty-one players to ever rush for over 10,000 yards; third player to ever rush for more than 10,000 and receive more than 5,000 yards; three-time Pro Bowl selection; first player in NFL history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season; one of three players to ever have at least three 200-yard rushing games in one season; one of four players to have four 2,000 total yard seasons; third player in NFL history to be the career leader in both rushing yards and receptions with their team; and holds an NFL record of leading his team in rushing every game for 80 consecutive games from 2002 through 2006. He also holds practically every Giants team rushing record in history, despite not winning a Super Bowl.
So with a resume like that, how can this man not be revered by Giants fans? There are several examples of how Barber crossed the line and raised the ire of Giants players and fans. In 2002, Barber publicly criticized All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan’s negotiating stance on a new contract. Barber commented that Strahan was being selfish and greedy, a tact that fellow teammate Keith Hamilton took exception to as being a violation of a cardinal rule never to speak about other players’ contracts.
Additionally, Barber did not hide the fact that he disliked Tom Coughlin’s coaching style and demeanor. This, despite the fact that Barber saw his statistics and performance improve exponentially under Coughlin’s tenure. Nevertheless, after the Giants were handily shut out at home during the first round of the 2005 playoffs by the Carolina Panthers, Barber made post-game comments that he felt that the Giants were outcoached by Panthers’ head coach John Fox (the former defensive coach of the Giants). After receiving a lot of media attention about this comment, Barber apologized and insisted he only meant to convey that the Giants’ performance was unacceptable. Additionally, after a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2006 season, Barber criticized the team’s play-calling for abandoning the running game too soon. On the eve of what would be his last game with the Giants, Barber told ESPN that he is “demeaned and talked down to” by Coughlin. Taking it another step further, Barber attributed his decision to retire to Coughlin’s unrelenting style in practice.
“Coughlin pushed me in the direction of television. I don’t know if you realize this, but we were in full pads for 17 weeks, and with the amount of injuries that we had, it just takes a toll on you. You physically don’t want to be out there, when your body feels the way you do, in full pads.”
After he retired, Barber was interviewed just prior to the start of the 2007 season where he questioned Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s leadership abilities. Barber was quoted as saying that Manning’s motivational pre-game speeches sounded “almost comical.” Manning fought back in the media by bringing up Barber calling out the coaches and all of the articles written about his decision to retire in the middle of the season. After retiring without a Super Bowl victory, Barber seemed at peace with leaving the game without a championship ring. However, the very next season after he retired, the Giants went on a miraculous run to win Super Bowl XLII by defeating the then-undefeated New England Patriots for their third Super Bowl victory. Eli Manning led the game-winning drive down the field and was named MVP. At this point, Barber looked foolish for his caddy questioning of Manning’s leadership skills.
Since then, Barber has been the subject of Giants fans anger and dislike. When several Giants were honored during the last season at the old Giants Stadium, Barber received a chorus of boos when he was announced. He has even further tarnished his reputation with his mouth when he was quoted in the May 30, 2011 Sports Illustrated comparing hiding in his agent’s attic with his girlfriend so they wouldn’t get caught to Anne Frank hiding from the Nazis. I don’t think that Barber intended anything offensive by this comment, but it was another instance of him being unable to think before speaking and sticking his own foot in his mouth.
All of these things have added up to the point where Giants fans have ostracized Barber from their team. His accomplishments on the field have taken a back seat to what we think of him personally. No, he never committed a crime or spent time in prison. No, he never did anything so truly offensive to warrant extrication. But he had bitten the hands that fed him one too many times and attacked other beloved figures in the franchise. All of it seemed like sour grapes because deep down, it had to have killed him that the Giants won a Super Bowl the very next year after he retired.
Personally, I will always respect and admire Tiki Barber for what he accomplished on the field. He progressed from being a fumble-happy third down back to one of the premiere rushers of his and other generations. He was a warrior who played hurt and did whatever he could to help the team win. What he chose to do and say after his retirement is unfortunate because it has effectively ruined his reputation. But his legacy should always be that he was the greatest running back to ever wear Big Blue. His lack of championship rings and chronic case of verbal diarrhea does not negate the fact that #21 was one of the best ever. I thank Tiki Barber for his contributions to the Giants during his career and I only hope he finds success and happiness in returning to the NFL. Unfortunately, he has a lot of fences to mend before he is welcomed back by the Big Blue faithful.
Here are some of the questions and responses in the article:
Do you think the NFL lockout will affect your fantasy football league(s) this year? If so, how?
“Yes. It’s reducing interest in football, which naturally reduces the normally rabid league interest in fantasy football. Aside from any missed games and diminished interest, the lockout will ostensibly kill the preseason evaluation period. Most people in my league watch the preseason games to scout for draft steals, and I think the lack of a preseason will lower the overall quality of teams in our league.” – a 5-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Washington, DC
“…Already has affected it…we usually get together to watch the draft…also, our league is a keeper league, which means roster management with trades can be a 12 month deal…no one is of the mind to talk trade…it’s a downer…” – an 18-year fantasy veteran and Steelers fan in Parkland, FL
“Every year I go to Waco, Tx for my fantasy football draft. Leading up to draft weekend, most of the participants have studied training camps, made offseason grades, and compiled their draft strategies (a couple even make notebooks). I travel the furthest for this annual ritual. This year we haven’t made our reservations (we typically rent a cabin, lake house, or stay out at someone’s ranch for the weekend), we don’t know what dates to begin blocking off the calendar, and we are forced to discuss basketball to fill the time.” – a 10-year fantasy veteran and Cowboys fan in Washington, DC
“We already decided to cancel the fantasy league and start a pool league on Monday nights. Both sides are greedy, bloodsucking, overpaid, egomaniacs that are destroying minimum wage jobs while they (complain) that they can’t live on only 20 million a year. What a bunch of sniveling little babies that don’t deserve any attention or respect.” – a 25-year fantasy veteran and Bears fan in Waikoloa, HI
“Most definitely it will. This is one of the aspects of NFL football that brings even casual fans closer to the game. I know some women, who can’t even tell you the rules of football, but play fantasy because they enjoy it. It’s kind of like filling out NCAA brackets, everyone does it. The NFL even markets fantasy, and I’m assuming spends millions on it. For instance everyone knows the classic T.J. “Who’s Your Mama” commercial. This is just one more aspect of the “golden goose” that this lockout will kill.” – a 5-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Durham, NC
Has your league made contingency plans if the lockout stretches into August?
“Yes, we have a keeper league with non-standard rules that have necessitated that we already start planning for possible adjustments to our rules depending on whether or not there is a season and how long it is. We have already pretty much decided we must have a draft this August even if the labor dispute is unresolved at that time.” – an 11-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Alexandria, VA
“We are going to try to find a fantasy UFL or college football league and if we do that there will be an asterisk on the trophy.” – an 8-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan from Fisherville, VA
“Since our league is a fairly turnkey operation, we are flexible as to when we start. The only thing that will change will be the entry fee; Likely lowered based on number of weeks missed. So ultimately, the end-of-season prize pool may not be as large. That would be a disappointment.” – a 12-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Silver Spring, MD
“Nope. We’re counting on the NFL getting it done. To quote Harold Camping, “There is no Plan B.”” – a 10+ year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Baltimore
This is just a small sample of the fantasy sports population. In the United States, there are approximately 27 million people who play fantasy sports, and a majority of those play fantasy football. By far, fantasy football is the most prosperous sport within the industry. If there is no NFL season, the ramifications could be disastrous to the fantasy sports industry, including the companies that provide services and the people who spend money to play. Obviously the fans want there to be football, but amongst those fans is a very important demographic of people who play fantasy football. The delay or cancellation of the season will have a far-reaching impact on many industries, and it is important to remember that the fantasy sports industry is one of them.
To my knowledge, this Washington Post column is one of the only articles written about the NFL lockout where the impact on fantasy football was addressed. I realize that fantasy football pales in comparison to the popularity of the NFL, but in many respects they are part and parcel to each other. The popularity of the NFL helped launch the massive growth and popularity of fantasy football. Additionally, the mainstream acceptance of fantasy football has given the NFL newer and more casual fans. The business and companies that write the fantasy magazines, create the draft boards, run the websites providing stats and advice, the websites that host leagues, make the trophies, host parties, and so on, will be in dire straits if the season is affected. While NFL fans will eventually go back to their teams and either watch games on TV or go to the stadium, the same cannot be as definitely said for the fantasy football companies. They may not have the flexibility or financial ability to close shop and reopen. Just something to think about.
The rollercoaster ride that is the NFL labor situation took yet another turn today as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL’s request to stay Judge Nelson’s order enjoining the league’s lockout. The three-person judicial panel comprised of Judges Steven Colloton, Duane Benton and Kermit Bye has tarnished the brief sense of optimism surrounding the league as it conducted its annual draft in New York. The 8th Circuit’s ruling once again potentially puts the 2011 season in jeopardy. While the courts and the parties have all indicated they would be working to resolve this expeditiously, the reality is that nothing happens quickly in litigation except racking up legal fees and growing more frustrated.
The court’s rationale for staying the order was “to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal.” Judges Colloton and Benton voted to lift U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s temporary injunction against the NFL’s lockout of its players. Judge Bye dissented, writing that the NFL did not face a “true emergency.”
Colloton and Benton lifted the temporary injunction in a one-paragraph statement:
“The motion of appellants National Football League, et al., for a temporary stay of the district court’s order dated April 25, 2011, pending a decision by this court on the appellants’ motion for a stay pending appeal, has been considered by the court and is granted. The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal. See, e.g., In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 841 F.2d 230, 232 (8th Cir. 1988) (describing grant of temporary stay to consider motion for stay pending appeal); see also Cobell v. Norton, No. 03-5262, 2004 WL 603456, at *1 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (describing administrative stay procedure); Arnold v. Garlock, Inc., 278 F.3d 426, 433 (5th Cir. 2001) (describing implementation of temporary stay to provide sufficient time to consider fairly whether a formal stay pending appeal should issue); Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133, 1137 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (describing entry of a temporary administrative stay to permit time for full consideration of motions). The district court’s order of April 25, 2011, is temporarily stayed.”
Bye dissented in a slightly longer statement, which included:
“In my tenure as an appellate judge, the only circumstances I can recall in which the power to grant a temporary stay has been invoked by a party, and exercised by our court, have been circumstances which truly qualify as emergencies. For example, I have granted such a request on behalf of an immigrant who has filed a petition with our court to review a removal order entered by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA), when the immigrant’s removal date was imminent and the government had not yet responded to the immigrant’s request for a stay of removal pending our review of the petition. Another situation in which a temporary stay, pending review of a motion for a stay itself, may be appropriate is in a death penalty case where an execution date has been set and is imminent.
“Such circumstances qualify as true emergencies because of the impossible or nearly impossible task of reversing the consequences of allowing a district court’s order to take effect. We cannot reverse the consequences of an execution if it takes place before we have had a chance to hear from both parties. Similarly, an immigrant who has already been removed faces a very difficult task of returning to this country should we actually grant a motion for a stay of the removal pending our review of the immigrant’s petition.
“The NFL has not persuaded me this is the type of emergency situation which justifies the grant of a temporary stay of the district court’s order pending our decision on a motion for a stay itself. If we ultimately grant the motion for a stay, the NFL can easily re-establish its lockout. The NFL is certainly not in the same emergency position as an immigrant about to be removed, or an individual about to be executed, who cannot so easily reverse the consequences of initially allowing a district court’s order to take effect. Because I believe we should limit our reliance on Eighth Circuit Rule 27A(b)(4) to true emergency situations, I disagree with the panel’s decision to enter a temporary stay based on the circumstances involved in this case.”
Judge Bye’s dissenting opinion should resonate with NFL fans who are extremely critical of the league and its executives. The NFL has become the pinnacle of American sports in terms of prosperity and popularity. The league generated over $9 billion and they are quarreling over how to split that up and share with the players who are the ones that put their lives and well-being on the line to entertain the public. Now they are seeking relief from the court under a federal rule that is typically reserved for true emergencies. The appeals court is expected to rule next week on the NFL’s request for a more permanent stay that would last through its appeal of the injunction, a process expected to take up to two months.
The announcement that the lockout had resumed came right after the third round of the NFL draft had ended. NFL spokeman Greg Aiello said that “teams have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately.” Ironically and unfortunately, this all came on the same day that players returned to their teams’ facilities for the first time since March. The players went from breathing sighs of relief and exchanging high-fives with teammates in the morning to feeling despondent and frustrated as midnight approached and the league went back into lockout mode.
Joe Linta, an agent who represents Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, wants the NFL to go forward with free agency despite the decision. “The owners will create a huge injustice to their own GMs and personnel departments if they don’t allow the signing of undrafted free agents,” he said. “They may not care about the players, but they should at least help their own scouts, coaches and personnel people who have worked so hard in the scouting process. This is by far the biggest issue of the next 48 hours.” I would argue it is ONE of the biggest issues. The newest members of the National Football League, the players that were just selected in the draft earlier this week, are left in limbo as they begin their professional careers. They were just drafted, and now they can’t even talk to their new teams.
This entire fiasco has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately for the fans and the players, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. It is likely that the lockout will remain in effect for the foreseeable future as the courts decide what to do with the motions and injunctions. This means we have no clear answers on what will happen with free agents or how the new rookies will fit into their new teams. The more these issues get tied up in the legal system and reliant on the courts to untangle, the more likely it is that the summer mini camps will not start on time. After that, all bets are off.
One other area where the labor dispute will have a tremendous effect is the fantasy sports industry. Fantasy football is by far the most popular and prosperous sport for fantasy leagues and participants. Without free agency and with a potential delay or cancellation of the 2011 season, several fantasy football companies will suffer catastrophic financial losses. From printing magazines with projections to hosting websites where leagues play to providing advice and content, there are lots of people whose well-being is dependent on whether there is a season. Fantasy sports is considered by some to be an impregnable citadel of financial security due to its constant growth and popularity amongst financially stable Americans. However, this labor dispute is the one potential piece of kryptonite that could give fantasy football a harsh reality check. Let’s hope for everybody’s sake that cooler heads prevail, the courts do what they are supposed to do, and we can all get ready for some football.
In Jerry Reese we trust. Since Reese became the Giants’ general manager a few years ago, he has developed a well-deserved reputation as being one of the NFL’s best evaluators of talent at the top and bottom of the draft. Almost all of his draft picks have made the team and contributed on the field. Assuming there is an NFL season, 2011 looks like it will not be any different as the Giants drafted Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara with the 19th selection in the first round. Amukamara, the defensive player of the year in the Big 12 Conference, was surprisingly available for the Giants who gladly scooped him up.
In 2010, his senior season, Amukamara had 59 tackles and one sack. He did not have any interceptions, but that is more as a result of opposing teams refusing to throw in his direction – much like Derrelle Revis of the New York Jets. With Amukamara essentially negating his opposing team’s best receiver, the Cornhuskers allowed only 153.6 passing yards per game in 2010, which was the fewest in the Big 12 and the fifth lowest in the entire country.
Now the Prince comes to New York where he will likely step right in and play opposite Corey Webster forming a potentially formidable combination on the corners. Reese was thrilled to get Amukamara who he described as “big and fast, and a good tackler; a physical player.” Reese also acknowledged that he thought Amukamara “would get picked a lot higher than that.” Amukamara provided NFL-type defense while in college and received ringing endorsements from his coach, Bo Pelini, who thinks that he “has all the tooks to be an outstanding pro.” These tools will be put to the test as the Giants embark on their journey back to the playoffs after missing out the last couple years. Part of the reason for the Giants late season collapses was untimely defensive lapses and big plays allowed. Amukamara should help prevent that from happening again as he looks to establish the NFC’s version of “Prince Island.”
The NFL plans on seeking a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. If there is no stay of Nelson’s decision, free agency and other offseason business could begin in theory, but it is unknown how it would operate.
“This is a good ruling, for sure, but I never want to celebrate until it’s actually over,” said NFLPA Players Association executive George Atallah. On the contrary, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Nelson’s ruling in favor of the players may “endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.” Goodell believes that the players’ approach would force the NFL to operate in a vastly different manner, and that only some star players and their agents would benefit while a majority of players (and fans) will suffer.
But as fans, we already have suffered. The fact that the owners likely orchestrated this whole fiasco several years ago and are now creating a labor dispute because $9 billion in revenue is not enough to share is a tough pill to swallow for NFL fans living in a cash-strapped economy. The players are not free from blame, but the onus needs to be on the owners and the Commissioner’s office for creating this mess and making it exponentially worse. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on ESPN: ”If we’re in a world where players are actually suing so they can play football … that tells me we’ve lost our way.” Well said.
The two sides have unsuccessfully participated in federal mediation multiple times over the last several weeks. The main issues still separating NFL owners and players are how to divide the $9 billion in revenue the league generates, the NFL’s push to expand the regular season to 18 games and benefits for retired players.
The most recent collective bargaining agreement expired 11:59 p.m. on March 11, 2011. The players determined that it was not in their interest to remain unionized if the existence of such a union would serve to allow the NFL to impose anticompetitive restrictions with impunity. A substantial majority of the players voted to end the collective bargaining status of their Union, and the player representatives of the Union then voted to restructure the organization as a professional association rather than as a union. Accordingly, at approximately 4:00 p.m. on that day, the NFLPA informed the NFL that it disclaimed any interest in representing the Players in further negotiations. The NFLPA also filed notice with the Department of Labor to terminate its status as a labor organization. See Brady, et al. v. NFL, et al., CASE 0:11-cv-00639-SRN-JJG (D. Minn.) at 13 (April 25, 2011).
The NFL argued that the decertification of the NFLPA was a sham and that the National Labor Relations Board should first rule on a league complaint filed about the decertification before the federal courts decide on the players’ lawsuit.
Once the union was decertified and players were allowed to file grievances on their own behalf, they filed a complaint alleging several antitrust claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act as well as breach of contract and related tort claims. They allege that the NFL and its thirty-two separately owned and independently operated teams have jointly agreed and conspired – “through a patently unlawful group boycott and price-fixing arrangement” or “a unilaterally-imposed set of anticompetitive restrictions on player movement, free agency, and competitive market freedom” – to coerce the players “to agree to a new anticompetitive system of player restraints” that will economically harm the Plaintiffs. Of importance regarding the classification of the NFL and its 32 separately owned teams, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that the NFL is comprised of 32 individual corporations and cannot form a single corporate entity to evade Section 1 of the Sherman Act to develop, license and market their intellectual Property. See American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, 130 S. Ct. 2201 (2010).
One of the alleged anticompetitive agreements is the NFL’s lockout aimed at shutting down the entire free agent marketplace, as well as a boycott of rookies and players currently under contract. The players moved for a preliminary injunction the same day seeking “to enjoin the NFL from perpetuating the lockout.” In response, the NFL claims Judge Nelson and the District Court of Minnesota may not enjoin their “exercise of their labor law right to lock out their player-employees” as the lockout “is unquestionably lawful and permitted by federal labor law.”
To Nelson’s credit, she took into consideration everything and everyone who is potentially affected by a lockout imposed by the NFL and the ramifications for possibly not playing football in 2011. Plaintiffs argued that because of the constant pressure to prove their physical and economic worth, the loss of an entire year in a short professional athletic career cannot be recaptured and, therefore, cannot be adequately compensated by damages. The players further argue that time spent off the playing and practice fields diminish their skills. As a result of sitting out an entire season, this diminishment in skills could shorten or end the careers of some players.
Judge Nelson also considered the public interest in her analysis. In fact, Supreme Court has reiterated that courts “should pay particular regard for the public consequences in employing the extraordinary remedy of injunction.” The public has an interest in the enforcement of the Sherman Act, which, by seeking to ensure healthy competition in the market, has a broad impact beyond the immediate parties to this dispute. Moreover, the public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales. And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football – who have a strong investment in the 2011 season – is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.
While this decision is a victory for the players and for the fans, it is by no means an indication that a quick resolution is in order. The decision has no impact on the NFL Draft which is scheduled to begin this week. Because there is no operative collective bargaining agreement and the NFLPA has been decertified, players may not be traded once they are selected by an NFL team. The only trading that can take place is the exchange of draft picks – not people. Additionally, the 2011 season is still potentially in jeopardy. We can only hope that the Court’s ruling will help promote continued mediation and settlement discussions between the players and owners. I shudder to think, but can you imagine what the winter would be like without the NFL and fantasy football? Inconceivable (yes, a Princess Bride reference).
When college football players dream of playing in the NFL, one of the highlights they envision as they embark on the journey is hearing their name called at the NFL Draft and having a photo taken with the Commissioner. It has been a tradition for decades and something that NFL players say is a lifelong dream. This sentiment is no different this year for the incoming class, except this year’s draft is unlike any other.
As reported in the USA Today, the NFL Players Association is considering hosting an alternative event in New York to ingratiate the this year’s rookie class, and forego the tradition of the NFL Draft during the weekend of April 28-30, 2011. This concept is clearly a result of the labor strife that has caused the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987. NFLPA spokesman George Atallah seemed to think that the rookies have no incentive to attend the NFL Draft.
“The prospective players are locked out. That’s the business reality they face. They can’t negotiate a contract. So it strikes me as odd that they would attend an event organized by a group of people that locked them out.”
Atallah insists that the NFLPA hasn’t called for a boycott of the NFL Draft. However, this is a clever way of achieving the same goal without directly endorsing it. Prospective draftees could be placed in an unenviable position having to choose between getting called to the podium and having a picture with the Commissioner, or attending an event where they will be embraced by their new professional teammates. This is a critical decision for the rookies to make because once they are drafted, they are “one of the boys.” During this labor strife, the players want to remain unified, and that includes the rookies because the rookie pay scale is one of the biggest issues in the negotiations.
There are many problems with this whole situation. But one thing that should not be overshadowed goes beyond the war between players and owners. Yes, the players rightfully want to stay unified. No, the rookies cannot negotiate a contract even if they attend the NFL Draft and have their picture taken with the Commissioner. But it isn’t the rookies’ fault that this labor dispute has unfolded right now. They should not have to be forced to choose between living a lifelong dream of attending the NFL Draft or attending an event hosted by the players. No matter what the NFL players say publicly, the question must be asked whether there would be any repercussions or stigmas placed on rookies who do attend the NFL Draft.
The ironic thing about all of this is that if a rookie does attend the NFL Draft, the man’s hand that he will be shaking will be the hand of the man who is locking him out.
Despite the heroic efforts of federal mediator George Cohen and favorable decisions issued by the Court, the inevitable is finally upon us. The NFL officially has its first work stoppage since 1987 as labor talks broke down and the NFL Players Association (“NFLPA”) decertified. Cohen conceded that his attempts at facilitating an agreement have become futile:
“The parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues. No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time.”
By dissolving and announcing it no longer represents the players in collective bargaining, the NFLPA cleared the way for class-action lawsuits against the NFL, which opted out of the CBA in 2008. The CBA was due to expire on March 4, 2011, and then was extended twice with the wishful thinking that the owners and players could find common ground on the key issues, which include: 1) how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues, and 2) how much financial information the league would be willing to turn over.
The ramifications of this impasse could be a lengthy court battle that could potentially jeopardize the 2011 season as it did in 1987 when the players went on strike and the league used replacement players. More recently, the NFLPA decertified in 1989, and antitrust lawsuits by players led to a new CBA in 1993 that included free agency, and the union formed again that year.
Union head DeMaurice Smith said the parties discussed a proposal that the owners had presented. While significant differences continue to remain, Smith informed the owners that if there was going to be a request for an extension, then the players would ask for ten years of audited financial information to accompany that extension. About 15 minutes later, the union decertified.
While the net result isn’t good for anyone, each side thinks they are more reasonable than the other. A representative of the NFL stated that :”the union left a very good deal on the table,” which included splitting the difference in the dispute over how much money owners should be given off the top of the league’s revenues. Under the expiring CBA, the owners immediately got about $1 billion before dividing the remainder with the players; the owners originally were asking to roughly double that by getting an additional $1 billion up front.
In addition, the NFL allegedly has offered to mantain the current 16-game regular season schedule with four pre-season games for at least two seasons (with any changes negotiable), institution of a rookie wage scale through which money saved would be redistributed to pay veterans and retired players, creation of new year-round health and safety rules, establishment of a fund for retired players including $82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years, and disclosure of the league’s audited financial profitability information. The NFLPA rejected this offer which led to the current impasse.
So here we are…exactly where we hoped we wouldn’t be a long time ago. Fortunately, there is so much to lose on both sides that resolution is inevitable before the 2011 season starts. The rookie draft will still take place in April and other business will still resume as normal. Right now we are in the middle of March where college basketball is at the forefront of the sports world, then to be followed by Opening Day and the beginning of the baseball season. Right after that we have the NBA and NHL playoffs which will lead us into the summer. So there is plenty going on to keep us sports fans occupied. My advice for now is to put the NFL issues on the backburner and let the parties work out their conflicts. Both the owners and players have incentives to reach an agreement. Granted, if an agreement is not reached in a timely manner, there could be a serious detrimental effect to a lot of people and a lot of businesses. But there is no need to push the panic button just yet. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and everyone will realize that resolution is the best solution.
During the work stoppage, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s salary will be $1.00. This is wonderful news, except I don’t feel bad for him. Plus, if the league and the players wanted resolution without having to expend all the costs and fees associated with litigation federal mediation, they could have just paid me $100.00 to settle the dispute on behalf of the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment, which would have entitled the NFL and NFLPA to a season’s worth of unlimited dispute resolution services. Maybe next time Mr. Goodell.
At midnight on March 4, 2011, the current NFL collective bargaining agreement was set to expire. This deadline was temporarily extended by 24 hours to give federal mediator George Cohen additional times to speak to both the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. Earlier this week, a federal judge in Minneapolis gave a key ruling in favor of the players that could strip what the union has been calling unfair leverage for the owners in labor negotiations. U.S. District Judge David Doty backed the NFL Players Association in a dispute with the league over $4 billion in TV revenue. The players allege that this money was collected to potentially fund a lockout.
The union had requested that the TV money be placed in escrow until the end of any lockout. However, Doty declared that the NFL violated its agreement with the union by structuring 2009 and 2010 TV contracts so owners would be guaranteed money even if there were a work stoppage. The union argued this violated an agreement between the sides that says the NFL must make good-faith efforts to maximize revenue for players. Doty also ruled that the players may be entitled to money damages on top of this.
This ruling has turned the tables on the owners in terms of their leverage. Now, it appears as though the sides are contemplating a longer extension of 7-10 days to continue negotiating in an attempt to work out a deal before there is officially a work stoppage. It seems apparent that the owners did not anticipate this result regarding the TV money. George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director for external affairs, said that Doty’s ruling means “there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on.”
In his ruling, Doty revealed previously confidential details of league TV contracts and said that the NFL “consistently characterized gaining control over labor as a short-term objective and maximizing revenue as a long-term objective, all the while advancing its negotiating position at the expense of using best efforts to maximize total revenues for the joint benefit of the NFL and the Players.” NFL lawyers have argued the league used sound business judgment to maximize revenues for both sides to share, but Doty wrote in his ruling that the NFL enhanced “long-term interests at the expense of its present obligations.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the ruling has no effect on its teams’ efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement and they were “prepared for any contingency.” The same cannot be said for the owners as they clearly did not anticipate such a ruling from the court. Now the owners are in a position where they have to continue negotiating and work out a deal to prevent any further damages assessed against them. It appears that some NFL teams have considerable debt stemming from their stadiums and various services associated with the operations of the franchise. Those owners were banking on having the $4 billion in TV money to carry them through a work stoppage. Now without that safety net, some owners may not have the same flavor for a lockout. This scenario bodes well for a potential resolution and has given NFL fans their first glimmer of hope that a work stoppage can be avoided. So fear not people…it looks like there could be football in 2011 sooner than we had thought.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), a method of peacefully and amicably resolving disputes and conflicts between two or more parties with the assistance of a neutral party. Its origin dates back many centuries and has been effectively used in several cultures as a way of settling issues. ADR plays a prominent role in the United States’ legal system as 98% of all litigation never reaches a jury. That is because settlement is almost always a preferred method of resolution for all parties due to the inherent risks of leaving one’s fate to a panel of jurors. Fantasy Judgment’s function is a form of ADR in that the Supreme Court will hear a case presented by one or more parties with, and then the Court will impartially render a decision based on the facts of the case, existing precedent, written rules, and common sense. Fantasy Judgment has no stake in the outcome of a dispute so we are able to objectively look at all of the evidence and determine what the appropriate outcome should be.
ADR within the fantasy sports industry is still a relatively new concept. But ADR within the professional sports industry is prevalent in all of the major sports. Currently there are two very high profile instances where ADR is being used to help seek resolution to extremely complicated matters. The first matter involves the lawsuit brought by trustee, Irving Picard, against the owners of the New York Mets which stemmed from Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. Picard has demanded $1 billion in damages, and the Wilpon family maintains its position that they knew nothing about Madoff’s illegal schemes. Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo has been selected to mediate this case in an effort to resolve the case before it goes any further. The second matter involves the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association regarding the new collective bargaining agreement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and union head DeMaurice Smith met in front of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (a U.S. government agency), for several hours on February 18, 2011 and have at least agreed not to speak publicly about the process.
While these two cases are extremely different in nature, they both represent circumstances where all parties involved have a lot to lose if resolution is not obtained. Chances are that they will both be resolved well before either would ever reach a courtroom. Both sides of each litigation will have to make certain concessions if they want to resolve their disputes, and that is the mediator’s job to recognize what is negotiable and what is not.
At the very least, these two high profile cases will make the general sports audience aware of what mediation is and how ADR works. And an ancillary, self-serving result could be that fantasy sports players are more aware of neutral dispute resolution for issues that arise in their own fantasy leagues. Yes, that was a cheap plug. But they all count.