On Thursday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all NFL players describing the proposal the owners made to the union last Friday before talks broke down and an NFL lockout was implemented. Many of the details in the letter had previously been made public by the league but the real story, in my mind, was that Goodell was bypassing DeMaurice Smith and going straight to the players.
Clearly, something like that won't help the relationship between the players and owners and that relationship, where one side apparently feels slighted, is one of the major road blocks in these negotiations. Both sides seem to have issues communicating with each other effectively.
SB Nation interviewed Smith on Friday morning to get his reaction to Goodell's letter and Smith indicated that the communication in that one letter was more than he's seen from Goodell in over two weeks of federal mediation.
"Roger's letter to the players....in that short letter Roger said more words than he said throughout the entire mediation process, and you can quote that. So I ask you the question, for a guy who spent more time writing a letter to the players than he spent engaging in good faith negotiations during 15 days, does that sound like a true intent on behalf of the National Football League to reach a deal during the final 15 days of mediation?"
See the communication problems the two sides have? Smith goes on.
"Everyone likes to focus on what happened during the last 15 days. Well let me tell you what happened during 15 days of mediation. We had decision makers in the room virtually every day. We had men from the executive committee, former players who sit on the executive committee and team reps in the room for 15 straight days. For most of that time, the NFL never had a decision maker in the room. On the last day of mediation, the National Football League proposed a deal that is -- quote -- the worst deal in the history of sports."
I can understand Smith's frustration with the NFL owners not being present for everyday of the negotiations. As a fan, it frustrated me too because it gave the impression that the NFLPA was the only side serious about getting a deal done.
That said, impressions aren't everything. A story posted by Peter King of SI.com last month suggested that the only decision maker the owners truly needed was Goodell. "One ownership source says Goodell's level of trust among the owners is so high that if he recommends an agreement that passes muster with the players, it will easily get the three-quarters vote (24 of 32 teams) necessary for passage." So if King's ownership source is correct, Goodell was the most important and perhaps only decision maker they needed in the room.
There's obviously a significant disconnect between these two sides. On Thursday, SB Nation interviewed Goodell and his answers to similar questions are drastically different than Smith's. For example, Goodell says the players should get back to the negotiating table instead of litigation while Smith says Goodell's letter was more communication than he had seen in over two weeks of federal mediation.
It all comes down to communication and neither side seems to have figured out how to do that.