NEW ORLEANS — Call it "The Duck Theory."
You know, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ... OK, you're familiar with the logical conclusion, right?
Well, it's the same approach that NFL attorneys have adopted, apparently, with the NFLPTA. The group that once was the NFLPA, but decertified a little more than a week ago, still essentially functions as a union. And that was one of the several points driven home here Monday morning by a quartet of NFL attorneys — Bob Batterman, Gregg Levy, David Boies and Paul Clement — during a background-only briefing with the media during the annual league meeting.
It was a convincing argument by an impressive cadre of Legal Eagles. One that might not quite rise to the standard "sham" argument the NFL has suggested in countering the decertification maneuver — since we're not a labor attorney, we'll allow the people who are to parse that move by DeMaurice Smith and his lieutenants — but nonetheless an effective contention.
Back in the early 1990s, the NFLPA decertified as well, basically in conjunction with the Reggie White lawsuit that resulted in the labor peace the league and its players enjoyed until this year's lockout. And then the union recertified, even though it said under oath it would not reconstitute itself again, ever. So, why should anyone believe the players now? Want to bet Smith a mortgage that he won't take a zero paycheck the rest of his life?
"The fake suicide was a fake," said one league attorney Monday morning. "A fake suicide is not a suicide."
That the NFLPTA continues to function as a players association, no matter the alphabet-soup nom de plume it assigns to itself, is pretty obvious. Even to those millions of football fans who, correctly, couldn't care less about the ramifications of the lockout, other than the fact that football could be interrupted come September.
The union's alleged action was termed a "tactical decision" by a league official, and, let's be honest, that's precisely what it was.
Said one league official: "The law defines a labor association by what it does ... not what it calls itself."
In suggesting that rookies not attend draft activities, still maintaining the offices in Washington, D.C., holding players rep meetings in Marco Island, Fla., and suggesting they might go back to the negotiating table under certain conditions, the NFLPTA never really has ceased functioning as a union.
It still quacks like the same annoying quack.
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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.