But the owners tried to take advantage of the players with a lousy deal, and the NFL's negotiating tactics, according to multiple sources, often involved a nasty level of swearing, personal attacks and a whole bunch of other words that would have made their mothers shake their heads in disgust.
So, yeah, the players walked away. Kraft must have forgotten about those other details Friday when he spoke to WEEI.
Obviously, the players weren't negotiating with halos hovering above their heads, but they had to exercise their one true form of leverage by dissolving the union and filing lawsuits against the NFL. Without decertifying, the players would not have legally been able to file an injunction or an antitrust lawsuit against the owners, because one side cannot file an antitrust suit against a side that it collectively bargains with.
Kraft also noted the owners extended the deadline to negotiate the CBA, and I've been told the players would have gladly responded to that extension if they received a fair offer from the owners. When that final offer shot their hopes down the toilet, the players did what they believed was their best course of action.
Kraft continued to harp on another thing. He said the owners are ready to get back to the table whenever and wherever. They're only waiting on the players.
By putting it that way, Kraft, the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell are making it sound as though the players have chosen not to return to negotiations. In one sense, that's true, but the players made that choice when they decertified, and they can't just rectify that right now.
If the players began negotiating right now, they would resemble the acts of a union, and that would destroy their cases in court, as well as their leverage. Simply, the players cannot legally get back to the negotiating table until the court process is over. That's a choice they made in March, and the players are not making a conscious effort each day to avoid negotiations.
The players have taken to the courts because it gives them their best chance to play football in 2011. They've already won their request for an injunction to block the lockout, and if they're victorious in the owners' appeal process, the league will immediately open for business. Of course, they'd still need to reach a CBA agreement, but the NFL does not need a CBA to stay in business, evidenced by the six seasons it operated without a CBA two decades ago.
So, when Kraft says a deal won't get worked out through litigation, he's right. The court system cannot force the two sides to reach a CBA — the owners and players have to work that out among themselves — but the courts can ensure there will be football in 2011. That's what the players want, and that's why they "walked away" from negotiations to decertify the union.
While Kraft was correct with his comments, he also left out some major details that made the players take the blame for the labor dispute.
Do you believe the players are at fault for the lockout? Leave your thoughts below.