Lock out the lawyers
This Christmas day, sports fans will welcome the beginning of an abbreviated National Basketball Association season. The season, much like the National Football League season, was saved from a lockout and protracted litigation -- no thanks to some of the lawyers involved who stereotypically seemed only to get in the way of parties who were otherwise desperate to come to an agreement. In the end, it took a lockout of the lawyers in each dispute to get an agreement done. Execution of a new NFL collective bargaining agreement depended largely on the owners and players agreeing how to split the league’s $9 billion revenue. Other issues included a proposal to extend the regular season, establishment of a salary cap and the implementation of health and safety measures. The owners claimed they were losing money due to player salaries, while the players believed some owners simply wished to renegotiate their own revenue sharing agreements. Unfortunately, negotiations on a new agreement broke down, the players union decertified and a group of players took the league to court. Most reports seem to indicate a deal was inevitable and a compromise would be worked out. But those same reports indicated lawyers involved in the negotiations were not helping the situation. NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith at one point had to tell lawyers for his side to “stand down.” Both sides eventually made a point of meeting and negotiating “in secret” and without the lawyers in the room. Litigation in federal court and an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only frustrated negotiations. A deal was finally reached to save the NFL season, but probably no one would agree that the lawyers helped.