Former Eagles exec says court is wrong venue for NFL labor dispute


The NFL labor dispute has landed in the court system, but that, according to a former high-level team executive, isn't where it should be settled.

Susan Tose Spencer, a former general manager and minority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, said the dispute should be handled by a mediator because the courts aren't suited for such matters.

Spencer said she is worried the players' decision to pursue legal action will put the upcoming season in jeopardy.

The union decertified March 11 so that players could take the NFL to court. Each side has claimed victories since, with the owners most recently winning the right to lock out the players. The next legal battle is June 3 in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

"Antitrust federal courts are all judges appointed for life who are very educated and very professorial judges, who haven't dealt with labor," said Spencer, who lives in Las Vegas. "They've dealt with lawsuits. Once something in the labor column is put into the antitrust column, anything can happen.

"It doesn't work in sports. The class-action suit by the players could take four years to decide. It's in the wrong court at the wrong time in the wrong place."

Spencer became a barrier breaker in 1984 -- the first and still only woman to become vice president, acting GM and attorney for an NFL franchise when she held all three titles for the Eagles.

She was the team's legal counsel during the 1982 work stoppage that resulted in a shortened season.

The daughter of former Eagles owner Leonard Tose certainly has a bend toward management's side, but said it was important for both parties to work together to reach a fair settlement.

Spencer, however, is skeptical players chief DeMaurice Smith is the right person to handle negotiations because of his background as an attorney. She said that would lead Smith to be overly "focused on legal action because that's where he comes from."

"I say that as a lawyer, because I don't know DeMaurice Smith," Spencer said. "But if you're going to talk business, give me a businessman. Don't give me a lawyer. Lawyers don't make deals. Business people make deals."

The labor stoppage essentially comes down to how best to split the $9 billion in annual revenue the NFL takes in. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, owners received $1 billion off the top, which went toward expenses such as stadiums costs and operating the NFL Network. Management wanted an extra billion and opted out of the CBA.

Players have said they would be willing to grant additional money, but first wanted to see the owners' financial books. Management has offered to let the players view information, but the players said the scope was too limited.

Spencer said the owners' offer was more than fair, and showing too much information would create a competitive imbalance because top players wouldn't want to play on a team that was relatively cash poor.

"I don't believe the players should get screwed," Spencer said. "I don't believe they should get nothing. But you destroy the parity of the game."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

 

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