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Boland: Snatching Defeat From Victory

Well, as I sat down to start on this one, I was going to do some insipid post about "If this hour we skip tonight could skip anything, what would you skip?" (Light 'em up! 555-5- ahem, sorry.) However, that was before I found this article on the National Football Post by Robert Boland, former player agent and currently a sports attorney andprofessor of sports management and business at NYU. Who better to get information about antitrust and collective bargaining than a professor who teaches Antitrust and Collective Bargaining in Sports, Sports Law and Professional Franchises, and the Business of Professional Football? Professor Boland confirmed my worst fears about  the unions' decertification case. Follow me past the jump where we look at his article and digest just what this means.

But then De Smith and the players pressed for more disclosure of owner finances, 10-years of audited records, and rejected a revenue compromise that would have avoided a possible lockout and an escalation of this conflict, maintained the status quo and directed needed benefits to retired players - all things the players had as goals at the outset of this battle.

Even if the players didn't agree on the numbers presented, I don't see why they couldn't have asked for another extension based on the provisions they had asked for being included in premise. Let's look at some of the details of the proposal the league released as its final offer:

1) Item number 3, "A guarantee of up to $1 million of a player's salary for the contract year after his injury..."

2) item number 6, "Owner funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2,000 former players by nearly 60 percent."

3) Item number 7, "Offer current players the opportunity to remain in the player medical plan for life" (emphasis mine).

I realize going to the NFL for details on their final offer is akin to asking Bernie Madoff how legitimate his business and investment practices were, and that we don't know all the details (for instance, about what the qualifiers are for remaining in the medical plan), but this sounds like a fairly good offer, even if the intent is to shift focus away from the books. Aren't these benefits enough to at least warrant fine-tuning or more talks?

I find it hard to believe the players would have decertified over simply not having access to the books, if progress truly would have been made based on the NFL's reported final offer. Which has me asking, did the NFLPA have anything in mind except decertification? There's hardly any incentive for the owners to reveal their numbers - not only are you asking them to open the books to you, but the books would also be open to competitors - the other teams. If you know what your opponent's operating budget is, you know what they can and can't afford to do as an organization. It's an impossible thing to ask, even if the numbers do show the owners earning as little as they say they are.

Perhaps having the NFL called out on its hoarding of television revenue gave De Smith the equivalent of liquid courage. But even so, the ruling of the American Needle case was what it was - that given the interests of the NFL as an industry, it makes sense to have collective decisions.

It just doesn't seem like anything is truly primed to go the players' way, and they may have turned their back on the best offer they will ever have in this debacle.