As has been well-documented up to this point, Thursday afternoon the owners made the first move towards ending the NFL lockout by ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement. Good news right? Well not exactly.
Within a matter of hours, reports broke that the agreement was a significantly altered version from the one that both sides had agreed upon. Apparently, at the last second, the league decided to try to slip in a rather large number of stipulations into the paperwork, perhaps hoping that their little ruse would go unnoticed. Needless to say, many of the new terms and conditions were the exact same language the players had been fighting the entire time.
As you can expect, the NFLPA was outraged, and deservedly so. The owners' backhanded tactics encapsulated the exact definition of smarmy. Hell, for all intensive purposes, what they did might even be illegal.
According to NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith and NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen, the slippery move could potentially violate federal labor laws. Basically, it is incredibly illegal for an employer to coerce employees into the formation of a union. Calling a press conference and acting as if everything had been settled, when it so clearly hadn't, was nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate players into passing an agreement they hadn't even looked over.
Its genius, if not entirely unethical. By voting through a new CBA -- despite the fact that it was essentially their own CBA -- the league shifts the public pressure wholly to the players.
Now the NFLPA is caught in a bizarre limbo where they must either sign off on a one-sided agreement that essentially acknowledges they lost the fight in every facet, or they keep this going and give league the theoretical upper hand they have coveted.
In this battle of attrition, P.R. means everything. By forcing the NFLPA's hand, the league ensured that this turns from a owners lockout into a players strike. Within already fragile negotiations, that distinction makes a world the difference.
In retrospect, if the tactic showed anything, it was that the NFL is under the belief that the public doesn't care about how this gets done, as long as we get football in the end. Essentially, they think we're stupid.
At this point, its widely known that the owners agreed to this move almost unanimously, by a vote of 31-0. The one team to abstain? The Oakland Raiders. Why?
According to CBA team CEO Amy Trask, the franchise felt "profound philosophical differences" with the seedy process that took place behind closed doors in the creation of the owners' agreement. She added, "We voted in the manner we believe best for football and with the courage of our convictions."
You know the world's gone crazy when the Raiders are calling something unethical. Yet, somehow in yesterday's whole charade, Al Davis emerged from the madness smelling like roses.
And now the players have announced that the vote that was supposed to take place on Thursday, and then Friday, may not come until late this weekend. As of yet, the NFLPA has refused to bend to the greedy whims of the league. How long that stands remains to be seen.
But you know what, at this point I honestly hope the NFLPA rejects the deal, if on basic principle alone. For all their posturing and strong-arm tactics, the fact that the league is trying such a greasy bait-and-switch this late in the game is beyond ridiculous. I can live without football for a few months, but obvious backhanded business should never be rewarded.