The NFL seems to be sticking with the Bob Batterman playbook.
In a move eerily similar to one used by the NHL, Profootballtalk.com is reporting that the NFL launched a Web site devoted to the league’s labor conflict with the NFLPA. The Web site, NFLlabor.com, provides both media and fans with information on the state of negotiations between the NFL and the Players’ Association. Categories include a FAQ section, a labor news section and a section where anyone can download the current collective bargaining agreement.
While Profootballtalk.com’s Mike Florio believes it is rather “unusual” for the NFL to launch its own site “that will focus solely on the labor issues,” this development should not be surprising at all. This is not the first time a league has launched its own Web site devoted to a labor conflict. In the stages leading up to its own lockout, the NHL developed its own portal dedicated to voicing its perspective on the ongoing negotiations with the NHLPA. This move proved very effective, as the Web site helped disseminate the league’s message and justified its position to media outlets and fans.
Veteran labor attorney Bob Batterman is credited with designing the NHL’s lockout strategy. He now works for the NFL in a similar capacity. It makes sense that the NFL is undertaking a strategy seemingly perfected by Batterman back in the early portion of the millennium.
This move allows the NFL to go on the PR offensive and spin its own message directly to the media and the game’s millions of fans. The Web site’s second entry features a quote by Commissioner Goodell in large block letters stating “we [the NFL] want an agreement.” Quotes of this nature effectively shift the PR burden onto NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to respond to such a statement or face the risk of his constituency losing face and allowing the NFL to convince the public that the NFL is right on the right side of this conflict.
The Web site is just the latest sign that Batterman's blueprint is being resurrected. Those who question the likelihood of a lockout in professional sports need to consider these developments as confirmation that both sides are headed for a potentially contentious and drawn out negotiation that could span well beyond the current CBA’s March 2011 expiration.
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Jeff Levine is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is a sports attorney, and the Executive Director of One Sports and Entertainment, International.
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