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The Sports Lobbyist


December 19, 2010 8:10 PM

Stopping the NFL Lockout By Talking to your Mayor?

512px-Patriots_41_-_Broncos_7.jpgIt's not news that the possibility of an NFL lockout looms large. The question is what to do about it. This is the first in a series of regular
sports lobbying analysis to determine if there is a way to stop the lockout through the power of politics, government, and your voice ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

This past week, an interesting group of anti-lockout advocates stepped on to the field - state legislators from Massachusetts.
State Representative Marty Walsh and State Senator Brian Joyce were actively
engaged in writing letters to Patriots owner Robert Kraft regarding the lockout.
Their questions and overall lobbying strategy coupled with his response are insightful
as to the question - is there a way to create political pressure to stop the
lockout?

Why Do These Elected Officials Care? - Representative Marty Walsh is involved because he is a ticket holder and
fan. It's unclear why Brian Joyce is involved. What's obvious is that it doesn't
appear they have been swayed by some large constituent body in MA upset about
the lockout and asking them to intervene. On the one hand it is promising that
elected officials would be aware of the lockout and work to stop it on their
own, but it is disappointing that the fan base wasn't the impetus for their actions.
The difference of course is legislative time spent dealing with the matter. For
each elected official, there is likely a dozen other issues they have to deal
with on a weekly basis and the constituencies of those issues likely have a more active voice than the average football fan.

What Was Their Argument? - The argument that the legislators used is interesting. Arguing jobs,
Walsh wrote of past lockouts as "We all
remember the empty stadiums, empty streets, and ill-will wrought by those work
stoppages. Nobody wants to re-live that experience."
This is an argument
which doesn't reflect the sad nature of fans not being able to watch a beloved
sport, but instead puts the burden of jobs on NFL owners. This response seems
to be the result of the NFL Players Union's earlier
letters to politicians across the country warning of devastating job losses if
the lockout occurs. In a letter to NY politicians, the Union
wrote "During one of the worst economies
since the Great Depression, NFL owners are preparing to cancel the 2011 season
and, in the process, devastate
New York businesses and stadium workers who count on football Sundays to make
ends meet."
 The Players Union lobbying
strategy seems to be successful in not necessarily getting universal
legislators to act (this was only a few) but it is successful in giving those that act a
valid argument when discussing the issue with NFL owners in their state.



Did It Work?  "They should lobby the union. We're
negotiating hard" replied Kraft to a reporter's question on this response.   Not exactly a win....

 

Lessons Learned 

1.      Pressure by politicians on those actively involved with the lockout does work. An NFL
owner is rich for a reason and typically those other business interests which make him rich involve other policy issues with local elected officials. An NFL owner wants to be able to
speak to a legislator about issues relating to business interests and not have
to defend an NFL lockout.

2.      The argument is solid. Jobs mean something. Many owners spent their own time
lobbying to have cities pay exorbitant costs with the argument that the money brought in by new jobs and taxes would be a quality return on investment. Legislators are in a
position to flip that argument back on the owners.

3.      Elected officials can't do it alone. It's great these elected officials are involved,
but without the constituency heavily backing up their efforts it becomes easy
for NFL owners in this case or the players union in the future to ignore concerned
elected officials or tell them it isn't as big a deal as they think. Why should
elected officials think differently if they haven't heard from local fans? It's a coup for the lobbying union to have this level of active constituency, but it isn't reflective of every legislator in MA who has fans in his district which would be obviously upset should a lockout occur. Where are those fans? It seems all of them need to speak to their local mayor, senator or legislator to tell them why they don't want a lockout. 


(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the
advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the
staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and
political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office
of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His
analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have
appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and
FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily
and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have
appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI,
TechCrunch, and Mashable

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