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PORTSIDE  October 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE October 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Meet the Lockout Lawyers Destroying Sports

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Date:

Tue, 16 Oct 2012 19:39:51 -0400

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Edge of Sports

Meet the Lockout Lawyers Destroying Sports

By Dave Zirin 

October 15, 2012

http://www.edgeofsports.com/2012-10-16-784/index.html

Currently the sports world is suffering its fourth lockout in
the past fourteen months. On four occasions since August
2011, pro sports owners have locked their publicly subsidized
stadium doors, sent stadium workers home and stopped play as
usual. This is not coincidence or happenstance. It's a
coordinated management offensive that has reverberations far
beyond the playing field. Let's look at the facts.

Last fall it was NFL and NBA players locked out of their
jobs. This off-season, we first had the NFL referees, who
make a pittance relative to the league's revenue, watching
scab refs stumble for three weeks. Now we have the ongoing
lockout of National Hockey League players. NHL owners are
coming off a year in which they made a record $3.3 billion in
revenue. League owners have responded to this success by
locking out the players, demanding massive concessions,
canceling eighty-two games and squandering reservoirs of good
will among fans.

I'm sure this must seem like a wild coincidence: four
lockouts in fourteen months, affecting three of the four
major professional sports leagues of this country. What are
the odds? Actually, they're very good. This is not merely a
case of four sets of labor negotiations that have tragically
broken down. This is a conscious, industry-wide strategy. A
law firm called Proskauer Rose is now representing management
in all four major men's sports leagues, the first time in
history one firm has been hired to play such a unified role.
In practice, this has meant that in four sets of negotiations
with four very different economic issues at play, we get the
same results: lockouts and a stack of union complaints with
the National Labor Relations Board. It's been great for
owners and awful for players, fans, stadium workers and tax
payers.

Proskauer Rose partner Howard Ganz represents the NBA and
Major League Baseball, and fellow-partner Bob Batterman has
led negotiations for the NFL and the NHL. As Sports Business
Daily reported, "Batterman and Ganz provide advice on
strategy, as well as on issues that can emerge during talks,
such as the legality of using replacement players."

In other words, they are the people who scuttle collective
bargaining and give word when to bring on the scabs. It was
the now-infamous Batterman who was lead negotiator when NHL
owners locked out the players in 2005 and canceled the entire
season. Ian Pulver, counsel for the NHL Players Association
in 2005, said of the lawyer, "Bob Batterman is a hard-nosed,
smart management attorney who leaves no stone unturned. He
will do his best to attempt to execute the orders of his
clients including, but not limited to, breaking unions if
necessary." When Batterman was told of Pulver's words he
said, "I would be proud to have that on my epitaph."

Proskaur Rose's love affair with corporate power is not
confined to representing professional sports owners. They
boast on their website of having "one of the world's pre-
eminent private equity practices." They are Bain, if Bain was
smart enough to remain in the shadows. The firm's other prize
clients are a Murderers Row of Big Oil titans including BP
America, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. Incidentally, this culture
of representing polluters and union busters with pride and
without societal concern seems reflected in the firm's
internal culture. Proskauer Rose is now being sued by their
former Chief Financial Officer Elly Rosenthal, who accused
the law firm of firing her following sixteen years as CFO
after she took leave for breast cancer treatment. (Remember
Elly Rosenthal the next time you see the NFL festooning its
players in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.)

Perhaps it's time we start viewing sports leagues less like
family fun and more along the lines of highly scrutinized
institutions such as BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. They have
more in common than just their lawyers. Like big oil bosses,
pro sports owners love corporate welfare, right-wing
politicians and are deeply hostile to union workplaces and
collective bargaining. Just as what's good for ExxonMobil's
stock value-price gouging at the pump, lax environmental
enforcement, war in the Middle East-is bad for America;
what's good for pro sports owners is bad for fans, stadium
workers and especially taxpayers.

Given the context, today's news that the NHL has hired
republican guru of sophistry Frank "let's call global warming
climate change" Luntz to help with their messaging, makes
perfect sense. This is a Frank Luntz crowd and its agenda
reaches far beyond the world of sports. The number of
lockouts, once the third rail of collective bargaining, has
doubled since 2010. But you need more than cash reserves to
make this the new norm. For management to win a lockout they
need to convince the public-and transform the culture-into
thinking that lockouts (starving out your workers) is an
acceptable practice. No NHL players are starving, of course,
but this is about exploiting sports to enforce a new national
labor paradigm.

Some might think that a good idea would be to pressure the
NBA, NFL and NBA to actually fire the lockout lawyers. They
might suggest that we start a campaign to insist that the
leagues hire negotiators who put the interests of fans and
taxpayers at the center of these negotiations. But even if we
could successfully disengage Proskauer Rose from our pro
sports leagues, NBA and NHL Commissioners David Stern and
Gary Bettman have more in common than just the combined five
lockouts they've overseen in the past thirteen years. They're
also lawyers who used to be partners at a firm called
Proskauer Rose. We are confronting our worst nightmare as
sports fans: a vampire squid with a law degree attached to
every tentacle.

[Dave Zirin is the author of "The John Carlos Story"
(Haymarket). Receive his column every week by emailing
[log in to unmask] Contact him at
[log in to unmask]]

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