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.