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Pirate Booty: De Smith Takes Cue from Gene Upshaw, Owners Give Back Money, and More

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As I was putting together this Saturday's edition of Pirate Booty I realized it was going to be dominated by lockout news. But, being the sick individual I am, I have become increasingly fascinated with the ebb and flow of the lockout tug of war. And the news coming out yesterday is almost comical and certainly interesting. So, if you are as warped as I am, jump on over....

DeMaurice Smith Envisions Decertification to be Permanent

Michael Silver wrote a fantastic article on DeMaurice Smith's threat to permanently keep the union decertified.

Smith contemplating permanent decertification - NFL - Yahoo! Sports
Absent a union, players would be free to assert their legal rights under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and accepted institutions such as the NFL draft and rules governing free agency would be vulnerable to courtroom challenges. It’s also possible that a non-unionized workforce could gain legal protection from a lockout, as the players did in April in successfully obtaining an injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson.

I had no idea, but—as Silver points out—Gene Upshaw had done the employed the same strategy. The following is from a letter Gene Upshaw wrote to ex-NFLPA president, Dick Anderson:


"Finally," Upshaw concluded, "the players are much better off without a union and collective bargaining, and each and every player only has to look at his game check to realize that simple fact." He told Anderson that "… it is the NFL screaming for a union because it is in their best interests to have one."

Now, I don't think Smith is taking this stance with the idea that the union will actually stayed decertified. This is simply another negotiating tactic.

De Smith seeks leverage in threat of no union | ProFootballTalk
Upshaw was very smart. More than smart enough to know that, because of the antitrust exemption that comes with a multi-employer labor deal, the NFL needed the union more than the players needed the union. Thus, Upshaw knew that he could get greater concessions by fighting against the return of the NFLPA. Smith, in turn, is smart enough to know that, with the first shot of the Brady case seemingly destined to fizzle like John Madden’s "last shot from a Roman candle," leverage needs to be mustered for the inevitable negotiations that are moving to the front end of the horizon.

With the likelihood that Judge Nelson's decision to lift the lockout will be overturned Smith needs to do everything he can to regain some bargaining power. Former QB Kurt Warner is aware of this, and he is not hopeful that this move will be enough. He knows what is at stake for the players:

Kurt Warner: Players have to give in for NFL to reach a deal -
"I'm still optimistic that they're going to find a way to make sure there's football," Warner said. "The players have too much to lose. And as much as I hate to say it, at some point, the players have to give in. And, hopefully, they can gain some other things on their side. "But ultimately, they have too much to lose."

If all players have London Fletcher's resolve than Kurt Warner's prediction is not going to come to fruition.

London Fletcher "absolutely" prepared to miss a season if necessary | ProFootballTalk
Florio asked Fletcher if he was prepared to miss the season if necessary. "Absolutely," Fletcher said. "It’s not just about me. It’s about the players that played before me and the players that played after me."

Owners Rethink Their Cheapness

The darndest thing happened the other day. The Baltimore Ravens discovered that they had enough money to pay their employees full wages after all. They didn't get any new revenue streams. There weren't any new guarantees of football starting on time. - Ravens rescind employee paycuts
The team is the first NFL team to give back money to workers during the lockout. Several teams have issued pay cuts and furloughs, and some have even had layoffs since the labor dispute began on March 11.

I find it even more despicable now. These guys view the wages of hard working people as a PR move. They never should to, nor did they have to, cut the wages in the first place, too. At least they are doing the right thing now.

Stephen Ross of the Dolphins is feeling the PR heat, too:

Dolphins owner vows to rectify employee lockout pay cuts -
"We all have our problems, and we're trying to minimize them as much as possible, and as fairly and equitably as we can," Ross said. "We recognize that people affected are working for us. They don't have all the upside, so they shouldn't have all the downside. "We're just kind of delaying cash payments. We all know the position that we're in."

Did he really just say "kind of delaying cash payments?" What a slime ball! Why is he delaying them in the first place?

Gene Wojciechowski, of ESPN, is not a big fan either:

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross made comments about the NFL lockout this week that don't stand up to real-world scrutiny. - ESPN
But please, no more lectures on labor rights and wrongs from the hypocrite who tried to hire Jim Harbaugh as the Dolphins' new coach while the team's actual coach, Tony Sparano, flapped in the wind. We need Ross' special perspective on those issues the way landfills need fruit flies.

Wojciechowski also takes Ross to task for this little nugget to.

Who the hell wants to own a team and not play? It's about having a system that works. It's not about a bunch of greedy owners. It's a bunch of players looking to see how much they can really get.

Um...he realizes this is lockout and not a strike right? Moving on....

And during all of this legal battle between coaches and players, lawyers and judges, and dueling presidence the coaches are caught hopelessly in the middle. They tried to flex some muscle with their "union" but that is in its infancy and it shows.

Saints coaches 'appalled' by NFLCA appeals brief -
New Orleans linebackers coach Joe Vitt said Saints' assistants were "appalled" by the NFLCA's decision to file a brief, the Times-Picayune's Mike Triplett writes. "It was awful presumptuous on their part that they would represent all the coaches on our staff," Vitt said of the NFLCA, which is led by former NFL assistant Larry Kennan, who served as the Saints' tight ends coach in 1995. "We're supporting the owners," Vitt said. "I've said this a million times, our organization has been built on trust. (Owner Tom) Benson has been great to us. Unequivocally, we support our ownership." Therein lies one of the problems with the NFLCA not representing all NFL coaches. As Triplett points out, coaches can choose to belong to the union, and Vitt said that Saints' assistants collectively agreed not to join back in 2006.

So, the Saints aren't even a part of the union. What do the Saints players think of their coaches unequivocally supporting their owner?

Then there are the Redskins coaches, who are a part of the union, but were still not happy with the NFLCA's statement. The NFLCA plays this off as an issue of people "caught up reading:"

Washington Redskins assistant coaches are taking issue with a brief filed on their behalf that takes the side of the players in the NFL labor mess - NFL News | FOX Sports on MSN
"I know what happened there (with the Redskins). They didn’t have all the facts. A lot of us make decisions because we’re in a pressure situation and get caught up reading about something and don’t have all the information. I’m OK with that. Most of the guys I talk to are really in agreement that this is the right thing to do."

What a mess!