In a labor battle where each side seems determined to prove that it can be smaller and more ridiculous than the other on a regular basis, the simple act of a team receiving its Super Bowl rings has now been thrown into limbo.
Bill Pennington of the New York Times reports that as long as the current lockout is in place, players and owners are prohibited from contacting each other. Therefore, the Packers' management can't consult with the players on the design of the rings the team won the right to wear when it beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, in Super Bowl XLV. And since the two sides can't talk, there's apparently no way for both sides to wind up at the White House long enough to meet President Obama (who might be too busy dealing with his bracket to talk to them in the first place — and who may try to get involved in the labor fight, to the presumed dismay of both sides). Teams usually receive their rings in June ceremonies, but the design obviously takes time.
To put it bluntly, the restrictions on the ring design and ring ceremony are ridiculous, punitive, and completely transparent on the NFL's part. Just a few days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell bypassed the NFLPA completely and sent a form letter to every active NFL player, and as the ownership side keeps insisting that the NFLPA is more interested in litigation than mediation, we have these mysterious bans on rewards for the players on an all-of-a-sudden basis.
It's bad enough that players are locked out of team medical facilities at the same time the NFL has said that any violations of the NFL's currently nonexistent conduct policy will be dealt with when the work stoppage is over. But for the NFL to say that one rep can't get together on each side to at least agree on a design for Super Bowl rings smacks of the kind of "nyah, nyah, nyah" tactics these guys should have outgrown in second or third grade.
After all, the Packers' organization currently benefits from sales of Super Bowl merchandise and highlights DVDs; perhaps since we're establishing a rule that neither side should gain from that game at this time, there should be a hold on the team's receipt of any merchandising revenue having to with the purchase of Super Bowl swag until this is all over?
In the end, this is totally unnecessary, and at a time when both sides are saying that they're open to anything that would break the logjam and get talks starting again, a simple and appropriate ceremony in which the players from the best team in football get what they're due after the greatest game of their lives would be a great start. Until then, this is the kind of thing that has the NFL living up to every negative perception in the book.