LL: Do you think the owners are being painted in a fair and accurate picture?
STS: Once they (the NFL players) pulled that trigger and decertified, what choice did the NFL owners have? Lie down and die and say that was a good chess move and you beat us?The only other offense they have is a lockout.
They didn't trigger that. It was the players association that did that. The only people who win when the lawyers take over are the lawyers. No one else wins. All of this is just a bunch of garbage. All the money and time you put into it is not worth it.
LL: What are you thoughts on the players demanding 10 years of financials from the NFL owners?
STS: You know how much the IRS wants when they review your financials? They want three years! The NFL players association asking for 10 years of financials from the NFL owners is ludicrous. That demand was only intended as a red herring. I don't think any business person would tell you the cost of expenses are less than they were three years ago. Even regular businessmen know that.
The business and product of the NFL is a much bigger product than it was when I was there in 1982. There is a lot more personal now and I don't think the players understand the value of the people who work behind the scenes. The staff who promote and enhance the product. Go onto any NFL team web site. The amount of categories and the numbers of people working there is large. So of course the price goes up.
Look at the payroll! Its not the rich guys versus the poor guy. When these players get their signing bonuses, none of these guys are poor. Do I have empathy for them? You bet I do. Do I know they have a short shelf life? Of course I do. Do I know it is one of the most brutal sports outside of boxing? Yes I do. Do I feel for them after football? Absolutely. But to say they are not making any money?
It's simply not true. Professional athletes have a choice- to either go into the workforce or go into their respective sport.
If you really boil down what the owners offered and what the players response was- demanding 10 years of financials- is that logical? Would other business people need that to make a logical decision? Do they need that to have an understanding of what the expenses are? The owners could easily say here's a chart of our non-football expenses that are related to making the game happen. Here are the last three years and you can see how much it has gone up.
LL: Transparency is the buzz word in this lockout.
STS: In all of DeMaurice Smith's 's press releases he talks about transparency. Transparency for who?
For example, I don't know whether the players are being paid by the former Players Association. Who is paying their legal bills? Who is paying this kid who is one of the ten who filed the lawsuit in the antitrust case that has not even been drafted yet? Who's paying his bill? The four quarterbacks can probably pay for their own. But who is paying that player's bill? You think he is paying for his own lawyer? Hell no!
So where is the money coming from? It doesn't seem to smell right to me. Why should somebody who isn't even in the association or the union be sponsored by somebody who was pulled out of the union and getting their legal fares paid for?
Howard Eskin told me he has been hearing rumors from the players that the law firm that is the DeMaurice Smith law firm is funneling out these lawsuits to associated firms for any player who wants to file and they are encouraging the players to file litigation.
I asked him is this true and he told me people told him confidentially that it was. So if we're talking transparency Lori Ann we need a hell of a lot of transparency from the Players Association. A hell of a lot.
I would also like to know who is paying the player's medical insurance? Is it the union? Is it the NFLPA? We need to know that. They are being subsidized if that is true. What is going on with the money that is sitting in the NFLPA? These are questions that need answers.
LL: Do you think a settlement will be reached?
STS: It all hinges on Minnesota. The longer they stay in court, the less likely there will be a season. If I'm calling this correct, Smith's ego will get the best of him and it will not allow him to go back to the table. His ego will say the judge was woman and she has only been on the bench for three months and didn't know what she is talking about. He will then file an appeal to the appellate court.
I don't know what the owners will do but if they get denied, they would probably do the same thing. I think the players are in a rut because they are being sold a really bad set of goods. They need to talk to an independent lawyer. Ike Reese, a former Philadelphia Eagles, told me some of the players know this but they are intimidated. They are afraid to speak up.
LL Do you think Smith should be fired?
STS: I do. I think he should be fired. For misrepresenting to his players on what the deal really is. The best business deal is one you make—not the one you sue on. Both sides were not that far away from a settlement Lori Ann.
If someone wants a billion and they come down to 325 million, they were getting closer to closing. So you mean to go to court for 150 million more and then spread it over 32 teams- that's not a lot. Do you think the 150 million is really worth it to them? No. I don't want to paint a bull's eye on Smith because I don't know him, but his strategy doesn't make sense to me. It is not a sound strategy for the players. Is it good for him to get known? Of course.
He is everywhere. He is going to get known as a tough guy who holds the line and holds the owners hostage. Does it help the players?
No. If he really cared about his players he should have told them let's go day by day and see where we go. That deal could have gotten done. I have done enough deals in my day to know if you get that much movement on a deal and if you sit there long enough you will get a deal done.
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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."