The NFL and its players are going to court because both the union and its leader, DeMaurice Smith, wanted to go to court. The players know that in a battle between them and billionaires, the public is inclined to take their side—which is why I'm writing this article about the truth.
An educated public will understand that the players union's goal was not to negotiate, but to decertify. All of these quotes are taken directly from nfllockout.com, the players' lockout website, and are taken from the post that is supposed to explain why the union had to decertify.
Player Whine—"The players offered repeatedly to continue working under the existing CBA, but were rejected by the NFL five times."
The first thing the players will do is remind you is that they want to keep playing and that the owners opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement two years ago. While that is true, it is also a stupid argument to make. The owners didn't do anything illegal. The CBA extension that the players agreed to in 2006 gave the owners the option of ending the CBA early.
Why did they agree to that? Because the players also had the ability to opt out early if the deal wasn't working out in their favor. Just because the players didn't elect to opt out doesn't mean that they are free of blame here. They wanted the ability to opt out as well when the CBA was agreed to. So don't blame the lockout on the owners' decision to opt out.
Player Whine—"The NFL demanded a multi-billion dollar giveback...."
First of all, the NFL owners started the negotiations asking for ONE billion dollars for the owners before calculating the revenue split. When you consider that the union only gets 60 percent of the total revenue, they stood to lose out on $600 million, not even $1 billion and certainly not multiple billions.
Secondly, sources have more or less confirmed that, during mediation but before March 11th, the NFL had lowered it's financial request down to $650 million not being shared (which translates to $390 million out of the players' pockets.
Most importantly, the NFL put out a final proposal on March 11th as a last-ditch effort to keep the players at the negotiating table. They offered to split the $650 million difference down to $325 million before sharing...just $190 million out of the players' pockets. That is barely over 2 percent of the total revenue.
They were two percent of the total revenue apart, but that two percent was so far for the union that they "had no choice" but to decertify.
Player Whine—"The NFL demanded a multi-billion dollar giveback and refused to provide any legitimate financial information to justify it."
This is one of the ridiculous demands the NFLPA's stance that proves they wanted to go to court. The NFLPA demanded 10 years of audited records from the NFL. That sounds somewhat reasonable until you realize that the information they are requesting isn't something that the individual owners even get to see from other teams.
Meanwhile, if you look at the information from the Packers (the league's one publicly-owned team), you would see that their operating profits have fallen from $34 million before the 2006 CBA to just $9.8 million in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
The players demanded 10 years of audited records because they knew they were never going to get them. The owners know if they did give the players the records it would just be so they could go through all of it and nitpick the ways the owners lost money.
Player Whine—"The NFL kept on the table its hypocritical demand for an 18-game season, despite its public claims to be working toward improving the heath and safety of players."
While the NFL still would like an 18-game season, it was not a demand in their last proposal. Their last proposal actually specifically said that both the 2011 and 2012 season would be 16-game seasons and any change to 18 games would have to be agreed upon by both parties.
Player Whine—"The NFL refused to meet the players on significant changes to in-season, off-season or pre-season health and safety rules."
The proposal also included provisions to reduce the total of number of workouts for players and limit the intensity of practices in-season. That would start this offseason, giving the players more time off than they used to have in the 16-game format before even trying to expand to 18 games.
When you put together all of the evidence available to you, it becomes painfully obvious that the players didn't want to negotiate. Dragging this out to decertification not only helps the future political aspirations of NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith, but gets the players to court, where they feel they have the best chance.
Judge David S. Doty, who the case is likely to end up in front of, has ruled with the players multiple times in the past. The players think Doty is their best route to the best deal for them, not necessarily for the league.
So the next time you hear someone talking about the lockout, make sure they know who is at fault. While normally the rich white people are the bad guys, in this case it's the union, not the owners, who are threatening to take football away from us.
Visit Big Derf Sports for this and more from Fred Tobin.