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Player anger and mistrust triggered litigation option

NFL Contract Talks Continue As Deadline Approaches

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith addresses reporters after the league and the NFL Players Association failed to reach an agreement in labor talks at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. The NFLPA has filed for decertification and will no longer be the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the players. Players will now be able to file antitrust lawsuits against the NFL. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

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Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, who has provided some excellent details as to the events that have unfolded during the labor dispute, now provides a thorough look at what the players were thinking as this past week unfolded.

For those of you who’ll claim that it’s biased in favor of the players, we recommend regarding it as a window into their minds.

The column focuses on the ultimatum provided by NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith on Friday afternoon, reiterating his two-year-old demand for audited financial statements in exchange for another extension of the deadline to negotiate under the old labor deal. It was more, the players contend, than a P.R. ploy aimed at making the league appear to be the party that abandoned the process.

“It was our way of telling the fans that we did everything we could -- and it was a message to the league that we’d had enough,” NFLPA* assistant executive director of external affairs George Atlallah told Silver. “It was a message that we had had enough of the deception and the disrespect -- and the control.”

We’ll defer to Silver’s article for the rest of the details. He paints a picture of a players contingent that became increasingly frustrated and upset in recent weeks due to the manner in which they believed they were being treated. Silver’s account of the players’ perception as to the final days of negotiation contrasts sharply with the league’s belief that the NFLPA* was simply going through the motions before attempting to strike a better deal via the courts.

As Giants co-owner John Mara, a man viewed as a moderate member of the league’s negotiating team, said Friday, “One thing that became painfully apparent to me during this period was that their objective was to go the litigation route. I think that they believe that that gives them the best leverage. I never really got the feeling during the past two weeks that they were serious about negotiating, and it’s unfortunate because that’s not what collective bargaining is all about.”

Obviously, the players have a different take. Silver has done a very good job of illustrating it.