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Sports Business

Workouts weaken NFL, NBA players' negotiating position

July 5, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Being a self-motivated self starter is a wonderful trait.

But there is a faction who wonders if NFL and NBA players’ willingness to organize their own team workouts during their respective lockouts makes them appear a little too eager—or even desperate—to get back on their field or court.

Player-organized workouts, some agents and player union bosses are warning, could compromise the players’ negotiating position with owners.

While workouts are designed to put players in a position of strength on the field, self-organized post-lockout drills could put players in a position of weakness at the bargaining table.

Maybe that’s why the Indianapolis Colts players have been so stealth in organizing their workouts. No one is more calculating than Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Others, including New Orleans’ Drew Brees, have been open about workouts, allowing in the media and occasionally the public to get a glimpse of the drills.

Early on, the NFL players launched a “we want to play” publicity campaign, but labor experts now wonder if that strategy—including the high-profile players-run workouts—is backfiring.

There’s already much discussion about which player is going to step forward to organize the Pacers’ off-season workouts during the NBA lockout, which began July 1. There’s no shortage of media members who think it would be wonderful if Danny Granger or Roy Hibbert stepped up into the organizational void created by the lockout to keep the players in shape and ready if and when a season tips off.

But as the NFL lockout drags on, some NBA and NFL agents are telling their players to stay away. The theory is, if you’re not on the payroll, you shouldn’t be risking your health, jeopardizing your future or burning your own personal time for a team owner that is trying to slash your pay and other benefits. Besides, some have argued, it’s the team owners’ and managers’ responsibility, not the players’, to organize off-season workouts.

Agents and union representatives for Major League Baseball players warned their players against self-organized practices and workouts during the 1994-95 lockout. And many stayed away. Not that MLB has necessarily been a model for how to handle labor disputes.

For most NFL and NBA players, operating under lockout conditions is new terrain. There’s nothing in their years of playing the game—from rec league to college—that has prepared them to diagram a play for this sticky situation.

And there’s no workout that will make this dilemma go away.


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