NFLPA discusses lockout with students
Even as the players have made their case in court, the NFL Players Association is making its case in the classroom.
Representatives of the NFLPA were invited guests at the American University's Washington College of Law on Tuesday, answering questions from students about the league's decision to lock out the players and the court proceedings that have followed.
The NFLPA made a similar appearance at Rutgers last month. The programs help the former union - now technically a trade association - make sure that students and the public at large are fully aware of its side of the story.
''I understand there's a lot of fan frustration and fan anger - directed at both sides, frankly,'' Atallah said. ''I understand that. I'm a fan of the game myself, so I'm sympathetic to it. I think at the end of the day the fans and people need to know the players have worked on resolving this and have been attempting to avoid it for more than two years now. ... It's not lost on me that people want to see their football.''
The savvy students peppered Atallah and former player Nolan Harrison with various legal questions - the words ''litigation,'' ''decertification,'' ''injunction'' and ''mediation'' were uttered many times. While the parties are under orders from a judge not to talk about the ongoing court-ordered mediation talks in Minneapolis, Atallah reiterated that a negotiated settlement from those talks - rather than more legal wrangling - is the preferred outcome for the players.
''The unfortunate thing about the current state of the business of football is that anything outside of a litigation settlement takes us into the unknown,'' Atallah said.
Atallah and Harrison restated many NFLPA positions: that the league had been planning the lockout for years in advance, that the players never threatened to strike, that they never asked for more money than they were getting in their previous deal, that they're concerned about the economic impact on businesses such as restaurants if games aren't played and that it doesn't make sense to them to have draft picks pigeonholed into five-year contracts when the average career doesn't last that long.
Harrison responded with vigor to a student's question that referenced the dispute as one of millionaires vs. billionaires.
''Let's be clear about things: No one can cry poverty in the NFL,'' Harrison said, ''but not every player is making over a million dollars.''
Harrison said many players are done by age 25 and ''go back to being regular students, regular employees, regular businessmen.''
''To be fair,'' he added, ''not every owner's a billionaire. But they're pretty darn close.''