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Players losing the PR war

The players take a PR hit, but it's a calculated risk. Can they recover?
The players take a PR hit, but it's a calculated risk. Can they recover?

Yesterday on Turf Show Radio, 3k and I talked a little about the lockout, the giant elephant in the room that's taking a dump on the 2011 NFL season. One of the most interesting points of the whole discussion was 3k's assertion that the public sentiment had turned against the players. We can hate both sides, plenty of seething anger to go around.

3k made a solid point. Once the NFL and the NFLPA bargained down from their initial $1 billion ask to splitting the difference of the some $700 million the two sides had gotten down to through talks, the union's decision to reject the offer, decertify and send the case to court made it all about money. Not the safety and health issues. The owners had just a little more money, the 18-game season was essentially tabled for 2 years...from a fan perspective, it was a pretty good deal. It was certainly enough to save football, each side walking away with something gained, something lost. Of course, you can be forgiven if you forgot how negotiations worked, since America seems to have completely lost the ability to compromise anymore. It's hard to feel too much sympathy for the players after that....and I was pretty pro player in this thing.

As if to underscore it all, the comments made by Steelers owner Art Rooney, II, one of the more player friendly owners a moderate next to angry reactionaries in that same circle, are pretty damning for the players affiliation formerly known as the NFLPA. Rooney basically accuses the union of an unwillingness to budge at all, having made a predetermined decision to decertify and pack up for court. Said Rooney:

There wasn't a lot of yelling and finger-pointing, but there was some. More than anything, it was frustrating in that there just wasn't a lot of movement. There just didn't seem to be a lot of interest on their side in getting something done and we just came away from it with the impression that this was their plan all along - to decertify and take this thing into the courts.

I think the players were pretty emboldened by Doty's decision to take away the owners' lockout insurance in the form of guaranteed TV contracts. I would even go so far as to say that a very well paid bird in a $7,000 suit whispered in the union's ear that they could get everything they want in court, or at least have a damn good shot at it, It certainly looks like the ruling gives them a shot at it.

Sentiment may be turning against the players, but you don't have to win the public relations war in a courtroom. They'll take their chance at getting the season back on track and go into PR damage control while the lawyers fight it out and fans are placated with real live football.

If there's a silver lining here, it's that nearly everyone, owners and players, recognize the likelihood of an injunction stopping a lockout happening soon. Rooney's not the only one who thinks so.

Jump into the fray.