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NFL may move forward on new TV deals without labor peace

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith joins Mike Florio to discuss the process behind getting to the proposed CBA, how social media impacted negotiations and more.

If the players who currently are voting on a new CBA ultimately vote no, some believe that the league will wait to finalize new TV contracts until the situation is resolved, whether later this year (if the league is bluffing), early next year (if the league isn’t bluffing), later next year (if there’s a lockout), or at some point after that. The truth may be that the league will still negotiate new TV deals, taking less money than the league could get with a decade of labor peace in its hip pocket.

“There isn’t anything that prevents the league from going forward and getting TV contracts without a Collective Bargaining Agreement,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told #PFTPM on Thursday. “I think if they have to go and get those TV deals without long-term labor peace, it is commonsense that those TV deals will be less than if they were negotiated with 10 years of labor peace. And if those contracts are indeed less, that’s a smaller pie. And if the league has to take a smaller pie, why wouldn’t they come back to the players next year and say, ‘There is a smaller pie available, therefore we won’t agree to a larger slice of a smaller pie’?”

And that approach could be the most likely, given that the networks currently seem to be ready to secure long-term contracts with the NFL, with or without the promise of labor peace. With rumors rampant that one or more networks that, if the CBA passes, one or more networks will finalize long-term deals promptly (a massive ESPN/ABC deal gets mentioned most frequently, given that the Monday Night Football deal expires after 2021, not 2022), Smith was asked this specific question: “Do you know whether or not the league is ready to move on one or more of these deals? That basically they’ve got one or more networks lined up, ready to make the investment, ready to commit to some gigantic checks, and they just want to get this deal done so they can close those TV deals?”

“The league doesn’t exactly invite me into those meetings, I’m sure that comes as a shock to you,” Smith initially said, creating the impression that he knows as much as the rest of this. And then he added this: “But it also shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that I’ve met with all the networks over the last two years, so why don’t I just leave it at that?”

This gets back to the broader point regarding the CBA. Smith wants to maximize both the slice of the pie and the size of the pie. He’s uniquely positioned to understand all facts and circumstances relevant to the situation, from the negotiations with the league to the negotiations with the networks and beyond. Smith has made his judgment, the judgment he was hired to make.

A “yes” vote accepts the judgment of the man who was hired to make it. A “no” vote rejects that judgment. Whatever any player chooses to do, he needs to realize this implication, and every player needs to ask himself the core question of whether he’s willing to defer to the man who rolled up his sleeves and put in the effort aimed at combining slice of pie and size of pie in order to get the most pie possible for his constituents.

Every player is entitled to reject that judgment, if he so chooses. Still, it seems as if plenty of the players who sounding off on social media think they’re sticking it to the owners when in reality they’re sticking it to the man who has been responsible for protecting and advancing the rights and interests of all players for the last 11 years.