The hard line former candidates for the post of NFLPA Executive Director that were defeated by DeMaurice Smith in vote of the Executive Committee last year are clambering again. Former NFLPA President Troy Vincent was one candidate that is reportedly active again in the annual meeting of the union this year. Rumors are that Vincent’s immediate target is current NFLPA President Kevin Mawae. Originally, Mawae was not expected to have any opposition for reelection. Now he will from the hard line group. Mawae is known to be less hard line than his likely opponents. The President must be an active NFL player. If Vincent can get Mawae replaced by a hard line guy, that will put more pressure on Smith to take a more aggressive stance against the owners. It will also put another hard liner on the negotiating team.
There are 4 players that are stepping down 10-man Executive Committee. Those players are Keenan McCardell, Donovin Darius, Mark Bruener, and Kevin Carter. If those 4 are replaced by hard liners, Smith’s position could be in jeopardy. A change at the top of the union’s negotiating team would insure a 2011 lockout.
What restarted the attempted coup is an unanswered question. However, it is clear that one key issue is the change in Smith’s position on a salary cap. Originally he said that he would never present an agreement to the rank and file of the union that included a salary cap. However, now he says he is willing to accept one. Actually, he will insist that a salary floor be included in any CBA. We have all seen the owners keep their hands in their pockets during this free agency period. Smith realized early on that the only way to insure an agreed to percentage of total compensation is to have a salary floor below which a team can not go.
There are other issues at play as well. One of those is the distribution of TV and other “common” income between the teams. The HL faction demands that all teams get an even split. In addition, they want the low income teams to get extra financial help to insure that no team’s salary totals fall below what they think is a reasonable minimum.
What will happen if the hard liners get control of the union?
One thing that has not been mentioned anywhere that I believe will happen is a challenge to the TV contracts that allow the league to be paid even if there is a lockout. The union will likely ask the National Labor Relations Board to strike down the part of the TV contracts that provide payments during a lockout claiming that money represents an unfair pressure against the union in labor negotiations. Given the pro-union stance of the President and his administration, that request to the NLRB will likely succeed. The NFL would take any such action by the NLBR to court. I believe the courts would be the final arbitrator of the issue but that process would take months and the outcome would be uncertain. The court would certainly grant a temporary restraining order to stop networks from making payments to the teams until the case could be heard. That would change the dynamics of the negotiations. The length of the process and the anger on both sides it would generate would further reduce the chances of a settlement in time to avoid a lockout.
The greatest area of focus for the HLs will be the overall percentage of total revenue that the players will get. The owners backed out of the current CBA due mostly to the 58% of total revenues less League-wide Projected Benefits that were granted to the players by the contract. According to some, the owners asked for a 14-18% reduction in the players cut depending on how the percentage is calculated. The union refused. HLs want to keep that percentage within a couple of percent of the expiring deal.
The union HLs want guaranteed contracts for all players. The owners would be stupid to agree to this. However, if they are not getting paid by the networks the owners might be pressured into accepting this. The concept of guaranteed contracts would devastate the league the way it has injured both the NBA and MLB.
What could be worse is that they may demand that all current contracts are guaranteed. Many existing contracts are back loaded to bring up the total dollars for PR purposes. Many older players get back loaded contracts as a matter of respect even when both sides know that those dollars will not be paid. The player will either retire or be cut to prevent getting the back load dollars.
The HL faction also want the union to sue the owners over collusion for failing to spend like the Congress on free agents. That will be a given if the HLs win but might happen regardless of the outcome of the coup.
The hard liners want a floor but no top salary cap to spending by a team. The teams will not be likely to allow that.
The bottom line:
If the hard liners win control of the negotiating committee the odds for a lockout go from around 50% now to around 90%.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on
and edits .