WHIMS & FOIBLES
Don’t expect quick resolution to NFL labor conflict
 
Interview on September 12, 2010, between Scott Cody, WWL-TV sports reporter, and J.W. "Jim" Miller, on WWL-TV’s Fourth Down on Four.
 
Scott Cody (Intro): 
It’s the 500-pound gorilla that’s not necessarily in the room, but he’s knocking on the door. An impending labor situation has now gone public on the nation’s biggest stage at one of its biggest opening night crowds ever.  The question now is how will it be received.(Tape of players’ No. 1 gesture prior to Saints-Minnesota opening game. Interviews with QB Drew Brees suggesting that everything points to a lock out of the players by NFL owners in 2011; NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith outside the Superdome, saying the League is preparing for a lockout.)
 
SC: As we delve deeper into the NFL labor situation, we welcome Jim Miller, former UNO athletic director,  Saints 
executive and member of the NFL Management Council who was heavily involved with the 1982 strike where you saw a similar solidarity method where players went out to midfield and shook hands similar to what they did Thursday night. What’s the message there? Do owners notice that type of message?
JM: Absolutely. I think it’s in the best interests of the union to show that all their members whether they’re making minimum salary or seven or eight figures, that we are all behind this.  Now, it’s easy to say on the front end of this,  as it goes further and further and negotiations get more intense and games are missed, you find some erosion on both sides.  That’s what we saw in ’82, some erosion (of support for the union’s position) from the players, but we also saw some erosion our own people from the clubs. 
 
SC: Union executive director DeMaurice Smith came out and said he’d like to have something done by November.  Your thoughts on something getting done even by March 1 (2011)?  
 
JM: (Laughing) November, 2011?  There’s no pressure.  There’s no pressure to get anything done by March, so I find it commendable that Mr. Smith would say ‘Let’s get something done and it’s in everybody’s best interests to put a happy face on it right now, but there is nothing that will get done in my experience until there is maximum pressure on either side, and that’s not going to be in March. 
 
SC: Let’s talk about who’s got the leverage at this point and how the players could get a little more leverage. They talk about how they want to play and how everything is going toward a lockout.  They still have a strike in their back pocket. What are your thoughts on that?
JM: Well, leverage is the one thing that can solve any kind of collective bargaining situation, but right now I don’t know that either side has significant leverage. That’s why things aren’t going to get done before (the contract expires in) March. There is no leverage.  As you get closer to training camp, maybe there’s a little leverage or pressure.  I think pressure is probably a better word, because at this time it’s been a pretty good collective bargaining agreement for both sides.  Players’ salaries have gone up tremendously, even in the last three or four years of the Recession, the owners have  made a lot of money.  The asset value of their franchises has risen substantially although that’s something that really doesn’t apply here because asset value is only significant when an owner is going to sell his club and these owners are not going to sell.   Cash flow is the big issue right now for the NFL owners because of additional spending that they’ve done in stadium improvements and initiatives such as the NFL Network, which are good for players and ownership
 
SC:  As we go along, we’ll be looking a lot at the heads of the two groups, DeMaurice Smith and (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell.  This is their first rodeo.  As far as labor negotiations go, how much of a factor will that be as far as each one wanting to put their stamp on things, perhaps, on their legacy?
JM:  There’s no question that will be a big factor.  If you look at collective bargaining history, in the first negotiations conducted by a new Player’s Association executive director there’s been a strike. It happened with Ed Garvey way back, it even happened with Upshaw, and that’s building the reputation.  But it’s like my old boss Jim Finks used to say: If you get a reputation as an early riser, you can sleep ‘til noon.  If you get a reputation as a guy who’s going to take them out (on strike), like Upshaw did, the next 15 years were peaceful
 
SC: There’s the golden rule that says "He who has the gold makes the rules.  Any chance that the players get a little more gold if this thing goes forward. Guys like Drew Brees, saying in the forefront of this issue. 
JM: I said before that I think it’s commendable for the haves to stay in front of this issue and to pull all the players who aren’t making the big money behind them and convince them that we’re all in this together.  And that’s good.  They have to do that. I do think that if this thing goes to a labor stoppage, guys like Drew Brees will have much greater capability to withstand it than the minimum salaried guys or rookie free agents. 
 
SC: Well, we’ll keep following this.  You can follow Jim’s thoughts on JWMillerSports.com, your new website which will kick off on November 1.  We always appreciate you coming down, and we'll probably ask you down again. 
JM: Thanks, Scott. I look forward to it.
 
© 2012 JW Miller Sports.com. All Rights Reserved.
A Father and Son go Fishing 

I took a time out from team sports this week and went fishing.  Really!  Not “gone fishing” in the euphemistic sense of doing nothing, but real fishing in a boat with rods and reels and live shrimp bait and my son. Our host Kenny Taylor, who is married to Jean’s cousin Sheryl, belongs to a fishing camp way down past St. Bernard Parish on the east side of the Mississippi River near Phoenix, LA. My son Charles Connor (“C.C.” for short) had a day off from school on Veterans Day, so when he got out of school Wednesday we took off for a 24-hour excursion.
C.C. has always loved to fish, but the few times we’ve dropped a line in Lake Pontchartrain or the Marconi lagoon, it seemed the fish have been on vacation.  Kenny’s offer to take us deep into the marsh was a godsend, because it not only took us into serious fishing country, but it assuaged a father’s guilt of not doing more things like this with his son.  I often regret that C.C. came along too late in my NFL career to experience the insider’s view of practices and players walking into dad’s office and such.  But that fact only served to make this trip special.  
Of course, the fish had to cooperate, and that is the happy ending to this story.  On Wednesday afternoon for about two hours before sunset, we found a “honey hole” of speckled trout, and C.C. was pulling them in as fast as Dad could net them and bait the hook again (C.C. drew the line at trying to put live shrimp on a hook). The next morning, we rose at 4:45 and went out to another spot where Kenny said we might catch redfish, the Louisiana fishing equivalent to prime rib. The supposed redfish pool had an overabundance of speckled trout, and we caught about two dozen before C.C. hooked our first red.  Once the reds started biting, we pulled in our limit in less than an hour.  
C.C. not only caught the first red, but he caught the day’s trophy, a 26-incher that probably weighed around eight pounds. I also caught a few fish, but the best thing I took home was a memory of a great time with my son. 
2011 will be a great sports year if only ... 

My new Callaway Octane driver gives me another 20 yards off the tee, bringing my monster drives to about 230 yards ... The Saints hit their stride in January and defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl ... Hornets crowds average 15,000 for the rest of the season as the team goes deep into the playoffs ... The heads of the NFL and NBA players' associations and management keep the fans in mind before they do something stupid ... LSU gives Basketball Coach Trent Johnson a nice severance package and hires UNO's Joe Pasternack as head coach ... Kentucky with its three freshman starters wins its eighth NCAA men's  basketball title. (You don't like it? Start your own website!) ... Tiger Woods win the Masters and puts some excitement back into professional golf ... The Saints, drafting No. 32, trade up and pick LSU DL Drake Nevis in the first round ...  FIFA, soccer's international governing body, holds a major press conference to announce that TV rights for the 2014 World Cup have been sold to Cox Communications. Cox promptly announces the games will be blacked out on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain ... Tiger Woods, in a further attempt to put excitement back into professional golf, announces he is engaged to Kim Kardashian and that Reggie Bush will serve as best man ... LSU wins another College World Series and Head Coach Paul Manieri says he owes everything to his coach at UNO, Ron Maestri ... Kentucky's Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones are NBA lottery picks while Doron Lamb returns to school for his sophomore year ... The NFL and Players Association agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement August 1, before any games are cancelled ... On August 2, Donovan McNabb claims the new CBA "disrespects" him, and he announces his retirement ... Ron Maestri ends his interim job filling the unexpired term of Jefferson Parish assessor Lawrence Chehardy, which he got by virtue of his experience at filling the unexpired term of parish council member Jennifer Sneed, and announces he has been asked to fill the unexpired term of Gov. Bobby Jindal who will resign to run for president ... The NBA and its Players Association reach agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Halloween. Commissioner David Stern immediately cashes the check he has been holding that allows Gary Chouest to buy 100% of the Hornets ... Former Hornets owner George Shinn values the past and embraces the present ... On September 1, Paul Dietzel holds a press conference to announce his health is great and, although 87, he feels 40 years younger ... On Sept. 2, LSU holds a press conference to announce Les Miles has resigned for health reasons and that Dietzel has accepted a 10-year contract to return as head coach ... Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez lead the Boston Red Sox to a 4-game World Series sweep over the Cincinnati Reds ... A modern sports record is achieved when no professional athletes are arrested in 2011 ... The University of New Orleans reverses a decision made by former chancellor Tim "The Arsonist" Ryan and announces it will return to Division I as a member of the Southland Conference ... Rocker Ozzy Osborne announces his candidacy for public office, saying "Every decision I've ever made I was high on drugs or alcohol. I am Evil Incarnate! I am the Prince of (Bleeping) Darkness. I am a natural." ... The following day, the BCS holds a press conference to introduce its new president, Ozzy Osborne, who immediately announces the BCS will institute a playoff system to crown a true national college football champion ...  Happy New Year!
Interview on February 27, 2011, between Rob Ennis, Fox-8 TV sports reporter, and J.W. "Jim" Miller, on Fox 8's Final Play.


Rob Ennis – We’re happy to have with us Jim Miller, former Saints executive and owners 
spokesman during the 1982 NFL player’s strike. But this year nobody is talking about a 
strike. They are talking about a lockout. Tell us what’s the difference. 
J.W. Miller – Rob, a lockout is when the owners simply lock the doors. A strike is when 
players walk out and decide they are not going to live under the conditions of whatever  
current collective bargaining agreement they have. 
Ennis – You also served as a liaison between the League and its teams on matters of 
collective bargaining. Of course, the current CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. Thursday night. 
What’s the sticking point why the NFL and NFLPA have not been able to reach agreement?
Miller – This year it’s a different situation because management is trying to take back. 
The toughest thing in any collective bargaining situation is trying to take back something 
you have given up before. This is a situation where the Players Association says we have 
a great deal, and the owners are saying, yes, it’s good for the players but we need more 
of the revenue for initiatives like the NFL Network and new stadiums and stadium 
enhancements, things that will grow the pot and benefit both clubs and players. 
Ennis – What is the bigger issue, players’ share of the total revenue or the owners 
proposing that 18 game schedule?
Miller –The 18-game schedule is just one method to grow the pot, because if there’s a bigger pot it’s easier to shave off additional revenue for the owners. That’s really a side issue, because I don’t believe the players in the final analysis will object to 18 games because they play four preseason games now, they will be in camp just as long, so I don’t think the 18 games in itself is a major stumbling block. It’s just a matter of growing the pot and giving a bit more to the owners. 
Ennis – News broke yesterday that the union plans to decertify by Thursday. What exactly does that mean?
Miller – Decertification by a union is really a legal tactic but it’s one that the courts have upheld. Management says it’s a ploy, you’re not going away as a union, and if it smells like a union and scratches like a union, it’s a union. The Player’s Association says (if we decertify) we’re not a union. When there’s not a collective bargaining relationship, that throws everything into the anti-trust courts, where the NFL doesn’t want it to go.
Ennis – Isn’t this all about leverage right now?
Miller – It is about leverage, but there’s another issue that’s arisen and hasn’t gotten much attention. Last Thursday the Player’s Association went to U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis who has not been a friend of the NFL and asked him to declare the NFL TV contracts null and void. The provision in question is the NFL’s agreement with the networks to take less money in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in order to continue a revenue stream in the event of a lockout. The union says this is an unfair labor practice, because it relieves the NFL of a reason to bargain in good faith. If they are continuing to enjoy revenue from the networks, there is nothing that compels them to bargain.  You are going to hear a lot about that issue this week, before the union even gets to decertification. 
Ennis – If you are Roger Goodell, what kind of approach are you going to take knowing the CBA expires Thursday night?
Miller – First, I never thought the owners would lock out the players on the March 4 deadline. I’ve always thought cooler heads would prevail, that they would agree to an extension that allow the two sides to continue to negotiate while giving the coaches what they want, and that is the off-season workout program. You’ve got to mollify the coaches, because they are a big constituency that both sides need to pay some attention to. So, if I’m Goodell, I would propose the extension, although I’m not sure that in the current climate the owners, who have to approve Goodell’s actions, are in that kind of mood. Some owners are rattling sabers and they want to lock out on March 4. My problem still is who are they locking out on March 4? The players don’t want to be there for off-season workouts anyway, so I don’t think there’s going to be any real leverage until training camps start at the end of July. 
Ennis – If they don’t reach an agreement and a lockout occurs, what’s the next step?
Miller – Again, it’s all going to be in the courts. The union is saying that if we decertify, there is no collectively bargaining relationship, there’s no union so who are you locking out? So, it’s all going to the courts. I predict that both sides will try and reprise the ghost of Perry Mason, because both sides are going to need some legal intervention from the Great Beyond to get this thing done quickly. 
Ennis – Do you think the 2011 season will be delayed or possibly wiped out?
Miller – It’s a possibility, but I think the legal maneuvering with the decertification, with Judge Doty’s ruling on the network TV payments, the possibility of extending negotiations, I don’t see the season being canceled, but, again, it’s going to be up to the legal machinations that are starting to occur this week. 
Ennis – That was former NFL and Saints executive Jim Miller, and you have a new website.
Miller – I do. JWMillerSports.com. You won’t get the daily injury report, but I take a little different approach, and I’m having fun with it so click in. 
Ennis – That’s Jim Miller, thanks for being with us.
Miller – Thanks, Rob. I enjoyed it. 


Interview on March 23, 2011, with J.W. "Jim" Miller, on WWL-TV's Morning Show with Eric Paulsen and Wayne Carter. 


Paulsen: Joining us this morning to bring us up to date is a familiar face for a lot of us, former Saints executive who was a spokesman for the NFL owners during the 1982 players strike, Jim Miller. We’ve talked about this being the “millionaires vs. the billionaires,” but in all reality most players are not millionaires. 
Miller: That’s exactly right, Eric. In fact, that is why the NFL Players Association does not want to get to the point of losing games. That is why I am optimistic that there will be a season, because when they start losing games that is when the rank and file players will start caving.
Paulsen: So you think the owners will not be the ones to blink first?
Miller: Well, right now it’s in the courts and the Players Association is trying to maintain some leverage.
Paulsen: They have a chance in the courts?
Miller: Absolutely. They have a great record in Judge David Doty’s court in Minneapolis. The union is undefeated in Doty’s court since about 1990, and that is what they want to do, gain some leverage and then go back to the bargaining table from a stronger position and say okay, the courts ruled in our favor so let’s do the deal. 
Carter: If a strike were to happen, what could we expect to see in terms of a season. I know you were involved in ‘82. There’s talk of replacement players, how would that all play out?
Miller: I don’t know that we will get to that point. I don’t believe we will but if we did, there would be a lockout, no football, and as I said, that would be the time that the rank and file players, the ones making only $500,000 or $600,000 will go back to the union and say, hey, we can’t miss any more game checks.
Paulsen: A lot of these players come in and they’re young, they get this big money – what is the minimum salary, around $400,000 - which for most people is a lot of money but it doesn’t last that long.  
Miller: Exactly right. It’s peer group pressure. If you’re making “only” $400,000 in an environment where the average player is making $2 million, there is pressure for you to buy that Lamborghini and not the Mercedes. 
Paulsen: And the average is way up there because you’ve got players making $12 or $14 million, but the vast majority are making well below the average.
Miller: That’s true and most of these kids haven’t had two nickels to rub together and suddenly they have all this money and not much training on what to do with it, and that’s the sad part.
Carter: And we’ve also talked about the fact that the coaches are caught in the middle. How much are they involved in this or have they been kind of removed from it?
Miller: Well, I’ve said before that the sound you hear around the NFL these days is the tightening of coaches’ sphincters because they are caught in the middle. You have to mollify the coaches some way. They want the off-season training to begin. They want to be able to sign rookie free agents after the draft to know who is coming to training camp. But they are a very disgruntled group right now, but they are club employees so they are playing the game. 
Paulsen: So we have these rule changes that have been voted on, but nothing will be implemented until this thing is solved. But you believe we will have a season, because there is just too much money involved?
Miller: There is too much money involved, and I believe that reason will prevail at some point but it won’t be before we go through the courts and find out exactly who is going to have the leverage when they return to the bargaining table. 
Paulsen: Do you think the owners are going to give some because they sign the checks, they own the teams. They have the power right now.
Miller: They have the power, but one of the toughest things to achieve in any negotiation is to take back what you have given up, and that is the dilemma for the owners are right now. They are trying to take back a bigger share of the $9.5 billion of total revenue that they gave up in the last negotiation. The players now more of the pot than they deserve, according to the owners. 
Paulsen: Okay, well you can learn more about the NFL negotiations on Jim’s website, JWMillerSports.com. And you have your opinion on a lot of this stuff on your website. 
Miller: That and much more!
Carter: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. 

Have you said a prayer for a friend today?   

     They met at age 8 in a playground basketball league. My son was a willing participant, but his friend was a bit more, comfortable with dribbling and accurately shooting at the eight-foot basket. But at that age, no player is that much better than the rest and skill is secondary to just plain having fun, which they did. Neither could tell you today how many games they won or lost, but each would agree that he had met another boy he liked and had fun being around. 
     They saw each other in elementary school the next two years but after fourth grade, they entered different middle schools. They still saw each other in church and in summer activities, always greeting each other with a smile or a fist bump. They rejoined each other this year when they entered eighth grade. The two boys had only one class together, and it was algebra, a subject that elicits the same bewilderment in my son that it did in me 48 years ago. 
     They were in that algebra class a couple of weeks ago when a voice over the intercom informed my son's friend to report to the office and to bring his books. Students are called out of class frequently for doctor's appointments or family activities, so my son and the other boys saw no reason for alarm. What he did not know was that his friend had not been feeling well and his parents had taken him in for extensive tests. The results had come back in the form of every parent's nightmare. My son's friend has cancer. 
     Further tests were to be taken, so at the time the severity was not known. But lingering in everyone's mind was another 14-year-old student and a friend who died just over a month ago of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A supportive parents information grapevine put out a call for prayer that the cancer contracted by my son's friend was curable. Further tests have been positive, indicating that my son's friend has a form of cancer that is, indeed, curable. 
     "If you're going to have cancer," a physician friend told me, "this is the best kind to have." The literature says a young person has a 90 percent recovery rate, but it will require extensive treatments. And prayers. So if you have a minute today, join my son and his schoolmates and our community and say a prayer for his friend. 

J.W. Miller told a Fox-8 TV audience that a judge's decision on the NFL network TV rights fee payout could tip the negotiations one way or the other.