ST. LOUIS – While NFL owners and players took some moderate steps toward solving their labor issues during "secret" meetings in Chicago earlier this week, outside league attorney Paul Clement put a damper on those talks by criticizing the players for even entering into them.
This is the prime reason why the players have been hesitant to negotiate with the owners, fearing that any attempt to resolve the matter through negotiations would be used against them by the league to prove they are still a union and that the NFL Players Association's decertification was a sham. Clement's comments come despite the fact that the league has repeatedly said it would not use the negotiations against the players. Both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league attorney Jeff Pash reiterated that stance last week during an owners meeting in Indianapolis.
Still, Clement firmly showed that the negotiations could be used against the players.
"I think there's no question that to the extent with what's going on is continuing negotiations. I think what that underscores is that the union has not disappeared forever," Clement said on the steps of the United States Courthouse after Friday's hearing regarding the lockout.
Trade association representative Scott Fujita(notes) quickly responded on Twitter, writing: "Let me get this straight: Both sides engage in confidential, court-ordered discussions, and the NFL uses that against the players, in court?"
While Clement's comments were not made in court, it's easy to infer that they could be. Certainly, the public criticism of the players for trying to work out a deal is counterproductive to the process.