NFL owners lock players out!

U.S. District Court Judge David Doty of Minneapolis, a Ronald Reagan conservative, delivered a huge victory for the NFL players’ union. He ruled the NFL owners were in violation: The lockout insurance to the owners from the TV networks of $4 billion was a no-no. His ruling on punitive damages is soon to come in favor of the union players.

It’s clear to me that many don’t want government intervention or court rulings, but that’s what it’s come to. Had Judge Doty not made his ruling two weeks ago, there would have certainly been a lockout on March 4. As it is, the players and owners were able to continue talking until Friday, March 11.

Minimal progress was being made with a mediator. That is, until the talks stopped and the two sides could not agree on extending talks. So Friday they broke off talking, and the players decertified as a union.

The players believe that by decertifying as a union they might block the owners from locking the players out, because the maneuver would strip the NFL of antitrust protection. Remember, a strike is when the players are bringing the fight to the owners; a lockout is when the owners are bringing the fight to the players.
The owners, however, imposed a lockout of the players the very next day. So now it’s headed for U.S. District Court here in Minneapolis, where it is believed that Judge Doty will get to rule on the lawsuits filed by the players.

This is a battle of epic proportions going on between the owners and the players’ union. There is nothing fair about it — the owners have proven that. The owners have the power and control, and Judge Doty’s ruling made that clear. They have the financial support of the networks. And this labor battle is about big money: $9.3 billion.

The players are losing right now because NFL business has stopped cold for veteran players and restricted and unrestricted free-agency. Lawsuits have been filed, and the U.S. District Court here in Minneapolis will be busy making rulings on the next steps.

Remember, it’s the owners who ask taxpayers to fund stadiums. The players have never asked the public for anything, ever. The owners, after the most successful season in sports history, still have demanded that the players give them back another $1 billion that has gone to the players previously.

Repeatedly the players have asked the owners to show their books; the owners have refused, and that is why it’s now a lockout. The owners can’t have it all, because all 32 teams and owners are not equal.

Some NFL cities are larger than others, like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia. Some stadiums are better than others, like those in Dallas, Houston, Washington and New England. But the players have gone along with the system that was put in place, and they have performed to record numbers taking great risks.

It’s as clear as day to me: The 32 owners are divided among themselves. There is no clear leadership, just 32 equal voices. The commissioner is not in a leadership or neutral position as he should be; he’s doing what he has been told to do.
When you make $10 million a year as Roger Goodell does, you do what you are told. He has abandoned the players.

The players have been pushed — actually, thrown — into a corner by the owners. They did not ask for a raise, nor are they seeking one! They are not dummies; they saw this coming over a year ago. As competitive as they are as players on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays, they are now in a fight for survival.

Because their game, the NFL, is number one by the widest margin ever, Judge Doty will do the right thing. The numbers don’t lie. It’s up to him to put the owners in their place. How did this situation (decertification by the union, lockout by the owners) get to this point? And who’s to blame?

Even the Vikings’ stadium bill proposal must wait — timing is everything. Getting a deal done first is paramount. The fans by the thousands are lining up in support of the NFL players. As the deal was about to expire on the collective bargaining agreement, 63 percent of the NFL fans polled blame the NFL’s 32 owners, while just 37 percent believe the owners are right.

Fitz Notes & Quotes
The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers had 20 players on injured reserve last year. The Packers have been able to stockpile talented players drafted in later rounds over the years thanks to the keen, talented eye of Reggie McKenzie. He’s one of the best talent evaluators the NFL has seen since former Vikings VP of Player Personnel Frank Gilliam.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors guard, scored 33 points in a 126-123 loss to the Timberwolves Sunday, February 27. Curry also added 11 rebounds. When asked if he gets extra fired up to play the Timberwolves since they passed on him in the NBA Draft two years ago, Curry said, “Not really. I mean, it’s the league; I’m not trying to key [in] on one team.

“But I have the same mentality every game that I come out and play,” Curry continued. “That’s my mentality: I don’t look at the bench or front office or who’s in the suite and point at them [saying], ‘You should have picked me.’ Jonny Flynn’s a great player, and Ricky Rubio, when he comes over, hopefully they’ll get some production out of him. I’m just doing my part with Golden State.”

Fitz ‘Did You Know…?’
As incredible as Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love’s consecutive double-double streak has been, he’s not getting the attention he deserves. He plays on a bad team that’s 17-51 and simply ignores playing defense.

His streak of 54 consecutive double-doubles required a lot of heart and toughness. It’s the longest in the NBA since 1976; however, it ended Sunday in a 101-77 loss at Golden State. Love was held to six points and 12 rebounds. Two NBA teams have perfect records within their divisions. Chicago is 12-0 and the Minnesota Timberwolves are 0-12.

I remember 1976 like it was yesterday. I was still in college at Indiana State University. That was the year of the NBA-ABA merger when ABA stars like Julius (Dr. J) Erving and George McGinnis came to the NBA with the New York Nets and Indiana Pacers, respectively. Both players became teammates in the Philadelphia 76ers not long after the league merger.

The true record for consecutive double-doubles in NBA history is 220 consecutive games. It belongs to the great Wilt Chamberlain.

It’s March Madness time, and there’s an NCAA field of 68 with conference tournaments everywhere. Which is the oldest men’s basketball conference in the nation? It started back in 1899 as the Big Ten Conference. The Missouri Valley Conference started in 1908.

Indiana State University clinched the 2011 MVC’s automatic bid to this year’s tournament.

Al Newman won two World Series when he played with the Twins and then became a coach and scout. Newman has started his own baseball website at www.Upperdeckreport.com.

The People’s Station, KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM, was founded by Joe Ewald Bash more than 30 years ago.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.