So, the owners have ratified their own proposal, leaving their side to blast various "it's a great day for the NFL" stuff all over the media landscape. Of course, there's just one small problem with that bit of propaganda: The players haven't approved anything yet, and didn't even get the full proposal in their hands until late Thursday evening.
Most of the principals on both sides of the labor battle are in Boston on Friday to pay their respects to the late Myra Kraft, but even when the NFLPA is ready to go through that document with a fine-toothed comb, the process isn't as simple as the players "voting on the owners' proposal." This isn't employer/employee; it's partner/partner, and that's going to become a lot more apparent over the next few days.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Friday afternoon that player reps have sent dialogue to players saying, "We will meet again Monday to discuss our options and the direction we want to go."
People can get mad all they want about the laborious nature of the process, but it is important to remember that both sides are trying to agree on a document that will set the landscape for the next decade. The last CBA was fast-tracked in 2006, and the owners opted out in 2008. So, there's a bit more of an imperative to get this one right — no matter how quickly the owners want everything to move.
Remember also that the players aren't just trying to ratify a new CBA — they're also trying to agree to a global settlement of all outstanding legal issues. And before you take on the players for that, remember that it was the owners who tried to hoard $4 billion in TV money to fund an extended work stoppage, leading to the ruling by Judge David Doty that they'd be on the hook for damages. The decertification of the union and Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit were direct results of the owners deciding to lock the players out. At the very least, the fault lies with both sides, and the reality probably lies with the owners as the party at fault.
In any case, here's what actually has to happen before a new CBA can be ratified and a new league year can begin. First, all the final deal points and language must be agreed to by the NFLPA board members (player reps), and then, there has to be a vote to recommend the agreement to the Brady plaintiffs. If the Brady plaintiffs approve the settlement, and the court of Judge Susan Richard Nelson approves it as well, the process of recertification must then begin.
First, the board members have to agree to re-form as a union — that's the easy part, though there are some players who would prefer to leave the antitrust avenues open as a trade organization. Then, the legal process of recertification must begin; a process that involves several federal entities. And finally, a 51 percent majority of the players must vote via paper union cards to recertify. The players would like to do this at their team facilities, but that's still being worked out.
And THEN (yes, God help us, there's more…), the union can negotiate the things that only a union can — various grievances, benefits, rules regarding discipline, drug policy and drug testing. This could get complicated in that the players want a voice from their side when player discipline is brought down, as opposed to the unilateral nature of rulings that has marked the Roger Goodell era.
It's only after all that happens that the players, as a union, can actually vote to approve an agreement that is fully representative and collectively bargained. A lot of these steps can take place very quickly, and they might not hold up the process too much, but it's important to realize that the "on/off switch" nature of the remaining negotiations that the owners have portrayed are not accurate. Simply green-lighting what the owners have already proposed isn't going to happen — and from a legal perspective, it can't.
That's not the news anyone wants to hear; we're all tired of this marathon, and we're all worried about losing entire preseason weeks. But it's better to know now that the homestretch isn't the cake-walk some seem to think it is.