But I am not sure enough of his football brethren understand the importance of the next 8 months of their professional lives.
Here was Brees, talking to Jim Trotter of SI.com - who, by the way, is flat out DOMINATING when it comes to covering NFL labor stories this year - and laying it on the line.
"Ever since Gene Upshaw passed away -- I'm just going to lay it all out there -- the owners saw blood in the water," Brees said Wednesday after a players-organized workout at Tulane University. "They felt like, 'This is our opportunity to take a significant piece of the [financial] pie back at all costs, a piece that we will never have to give back again. This is our chance, while they don't have leadership, while they're scrambling to find a new executive director. This is our time.'
"I can point to about five different things to prove to you that they were ready to lock us out. They opted out of the last year of the [CBA] deal; they hired Bob Batterman [who oversaw a lockout of NHL players]. They tried to take the American Needle case to the Supreme Court to basically give them an antitrust exemption or single-entity status, but were defeated 9-0; they established new TV deals to pay them in the event of a lockout, but we were able to put a freeze on that money because they did not negotiate in good faith and broke the law. And they had an internal NFL document that was leaked -- a decision tree -- that said smack dab in the middle of it 'financial needs in a lockout.' That was in 2008, OK? So you're telling me that they had no plans to lock us out and really wanted to get a deal done? I don't think so."
Brees was just getting started.
"Their philosophy was, We're going to give you a very subpar deal, a slap-in-the-face deal, and hope that you'll accept it because hopefully we've intimidated you enough into thinking that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and you're just going to succumb to the pressure," he said. "Well, guess what. We're a lot more informed and educated than in the past, and we're much better businessmen than you think and we're going to stand up for what is right and what is fair. Fifty-fifty is fair. It's been fair for the last 20 years and I think the game has done pretty well over the last 20 years. I think franchise values have gone up at a pretty good rate over the last 20 years. So you can't sit here and tell me that the system is broken."
If they players cave and fold, they will never - NEVER - make as much money as they once did playing in the NFL.If they stand firm, they can score a decisive victory over the owners, not unlike the victory Marvin Miller and the MLBPA did back in the 1970's and 80's.
It's gonna take some brass balls, though. The kind of balls it took Messersmith and McNally to play out their contracts to full expiration. At the time, it was like asking a ballplayer to jump into the batting cage with a blindfold.
It paid off...
In 1974, Miller used arbitration to resolve a dispute when Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley failed to make an annuity payment as required by Catfish Hunter's contract. The arbitrator ruled that Finley had not met the terms of the contract so Hunter was free to negotiate a new contract with any team - making Hunter a free agent. When Hunter signed a 5-year, $3.5 million contract with the Yankees, the players saw the amount of money that could be made when players were free to negotiate with any team.
Baseball's reserve clause tied players to a team for one year beyond the end of an existing contract, which in practice froze any player's ability to determine his own career. In1974, Miller encouraged Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the succeeding year without signing a contract. After the year had elapsed, both players filed a grievance arbitration. The ensuing Seitz decision declared that both players had fulfilled their contractual obligations and had no further legal ties to their ballclubs. This effectively eradicated the reserve clause and ushered in free agency.
As an economist, Miller understood that too many free agents could actually drive down player salaries. Miller agreed to limit free agency to players with more than six years of service, knowing that restricting the supply of labor would drive up salaries as owners bid for an annual, finite pool of free agents.
Miller led the union through three strikes, the first in 1972 which lasted 13 days, in 1980 spring training, and again in 1981 which lasted 50 days, and two lockouts, in 1973spring training and 1976 spring training. During Miller's era as leader of the Major League Baseball Players' Association (1966-1982), the average players' salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year.So now, the NFL players have a choice. Cave and gravel - if the 8th circuit upholds the NFL lockout, which appears likely - or take the league and the owners deep into "holy shit, I think they are serious" territory.