Negotiations in the NFL Lockout
As of date, the National Football League is running its 2012 draft, which is a far cry from what happened just a year ago. When the labor talks between the NFL and the union broke down, the Union decertified, allowing individual players to file lawsuits against the NFL. It took a little over a year before the lockout came to an end and only because the owners agreed to the recommended settlement of the NFL Players’ Association.
Looking at the outcome of the lockout, the most surprising thing that probably happened was that both the NFL Players’ Association and the NFL could be called winners in the negotiation. The settlement proposed by the NFLPA was accepted by the NFL who also gave a few conditions of their own. The bottom line of the settlement is that both owners and players are paid, the players are given extra benefits, owners get extra income, and all of these agreements locked in a ten-year contract.
The outcome is both interesting and surprising because before they came into terms with these agreements, the players and the owners had to suffer through months and months of negotiation, lawsuits, injunctions, and bad publicity that it seemed, for a time, that the issue will never be resolved, let alone resolved in such a way that both sides get what they want.
Even with the satisfying outcome, though, several mistakes were made during the course of the lockout, the biggest and most glaring mistake of which is the lockout itself. The lockout affected not only the players and the owners but also the business that thrive and rely on the football season for income. Negotiation-wise, the lockout was a mistake simply because it is against the law. While the owners were calculating how much profit they would lose and how long a lockout it would take to make the players agree to their demands, they have forgotten that locking out the players is a violation of the antitrust law.
Another mistake, this time to be attributed to the Union is their decision to decertify and pursue individual lawsuits. Instead of filing lawsuits against the NFL, the Union should have continued with the mediation process. Both sides should have continued to negotiate their terms through the mediation process. As results of the negotiation showed, the lawsuits only aggravated the situation; in the end, both parties agreed on a settlement that addressed all their concerns, an outcome that could have been achieved with mediation.
Several negotiation strategies were used by both sides. In the side of the NFL, the owners used the walk away strategy. The lockout gave the impression that they can afford to shut down the league if the Union does not come to terms with their demand. This gave them a somewhat small edge; after all, if there are no games, the players do not earn. However, what they did was, as mentioned above, against the law and definitely did not gain them sympathy from the public.
The Union, on the other hand, used the sympathy card as their strategy for the negotiation. While the owners relied on economics to make the players agree to their deal, the Union aimed for public sympathy and wrath to compel the owners to give them what they want. They put up websites, started petitions, and made public their demands, relying on the possibility that public clamor for the games would revive a sense of urgency in the owners to agree to their demands so as to finish the labor talks as soon as possible.
When both of those strategies did not work, both sides went on to problem-solving. As both sides were already losing – both income and sympathy – a settlement was agreed upon.
There are several conflict styles and some of them are at play in the NFL negotiation. At first, both sides were using the competing style; they see the negotiation as a win or lose situation and both parties are set out to win – at the expense of the other. This style is most visible in the actual lockout. The owners locked out the players unless they agree to the terms that they set. As both parties went into the mediation process, they used the compromising style. Both parties tried to find the middle ground where both sides would have to give something up to gain something.
When the mediation process fell through and lawsuits were filed, the conflict resolution went back to the competing style, this time used most noticeably by the players who pursued litigation. In the end, however, the collaborating style resolved the conflict as both sides settled on an agreement where the needs of both sides are met.
Other styles such as avoidance, wherein at least one party decided not to engage in the conflict, and accommodation, wherein one party tries to appease the other, has not been used.
The NFL Lockout issue is a good study for negotiation – several strategies and styles had been used and many factors came into play. Looking at the process and the outcome of the lockout, it can be said that in this case, collaboration is the best course of action as it resulted to an agreement that both parties are happy with.
It can also be noted that had both the NFL and the Union went into the mediation process with a collaborative frame of mind the lockout would not have dragged on to over year.
CBS News. (March 2011). Players go to court as NFL labor talks break off. CBS News Sports. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/
Rishe, Patrick. (August 2011). Who won the 2011 NFL lockout? Sports Money. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com