Big Board Sports: The Bills, Antonio Brown, and Collective Bargaining in the NFL

Announcer: It’s Big Board Sports with Rodger Wyland on 104.5 The Team.

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Rodger: We’re back here on Big Board Sports 104.5 The Team and the free 104.5 The Team app. Joined by our good friend, Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Of course, he’s everywhere. Literally everywhere. Good morning. How are you, my friend? Happy New Year to you friend.

Chris: [Crosstalk 00:00:35]. Thank you very much.

Rodger: What’s new?

Chris: You know…

Paul: I’m just running around.

Rodger: Taking a deep breath.

Paul: I am taking a deep breath. I was moving along, you know, I realized how beautiful it is. Bucolic, I guess coming out to your studio here. You know, historically, when you go to radio stations, they’re kind of, you know, in the city or some kind of busy place. It is beautiful out here. It is…

Chris: We’re planted right in the middle of the woods.

Rodger: You are. And you roll in on a busy time because people love the NFL playoffs and see who’s going to win the Super Bowl. We know one team that is not this year is going to be the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady not playing this weekend, and is out on Wild Card Weekend. Amazingly enough.

Paul: It’s almost like what’s happening? You gotta pinch yourself. You know, my Bills are gone. So, without that, I’m going to be struggling to decide what games I’m going to watch.

Rodger: I thought about you because I know you’re a Buffalo fan. And at halftime I had really good thoughts.

Paul: We all did, we all did. And then we just watched it tick away. And then the overtime was, you know, again, hope who came back in, and then it got deflated out. But a good season. Still excited about the future of the Bills.

Rodger: Yeah. How do Bills fans…and you’re one of them, how do you grade out Josh Allen right now, Paul? Do you think he’s made progress in year number two?

Paul: Yeah. Sure do. He’s a young guy. He’s so talented, so strong, and we watch him out there. So athletic. Right. So, you got that great combination. You just got to put some years in between his college career and his professional career. This is year two. We’ve seen a tremendous change in a year. If he keeps progressing, you know, we have hopes that he is our next Jim Kelly. And I think that may be a stretch. Jim is special, but I do think that this guy’s got a lot of special qualities.

Rodger: He’s tough.

Paul: Yeah. Tough guy. Yeah.

Rodger: I mean, he’s got a lot of toughness to him.

Paul: Sure, he is.

Rodger: And I definitely see that. Now when you try to compare him to Jim Kelly, and hopefully he can be as good as Jim Kelly because that was something special, keeping that.

Paul: Well, we’ll even take that with a little minus and get somewhere. Yeah. We would, sure.

Rodger: With a little minus and he’d still be good.

Paul: Yeah.

Rodger: What do you make of Antonio Brown right now? I know he’s trying to get back.

Paul: Sure, he is.

Rodger: He worked out with the New Orleans Saints. He was on the New England Patriots.

Paul: He was.

Rodger: Can’t seem to stay out of the news for a lot of the wrong reasons, not the right reasons. And this sexual assault allegation still hanging over his head that the National Football League is investigating. And I haven’t heard anything about it lately.

Paul: Yeah, it’s been quiet. I know he got…he went in and spoke to them recently. And again, to your first point, he’d probably be better off if he did not own a cell phone. I think he reacts, and then he tweets, and then he apologizes. And I think that that’s not helping his cause. But as far as these allegations go, what we’ve got is we’ve gotten Broward County, Florida, we have his former trainer, Ms. Taylor, and she is you know, alleging some pretty significant stuff, sexual misconduct stuff, and she’s even kind of, you know, alluded to a forced sexual rape. And I know they’re…you know, these allegations are civil. And I’ve got to keep that in mind because again, there’s two things happening. You’ve got civil liability, is money damages for what you’ve done, sort of what I do, car accidents, etc. Then you’ve got criminal liability. And let me be super clear. There are no criminal, even investigations happening with Antonio Brown, simply civil, not discounting what’s happening, but you know, that’s where he is right now. He’s trying to, you know, do some reputation management and again, may be his own worst enemy.

Rodger: As we know, court of law, doesn’t matter when it applies to the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell. He is judge, jury, executioner. We hear it all the time. And so, whatever comes of his investigation into these allegations against Antonio Brown, he’ll make his decision. Does Antonio Brown though somewhere in a CBA, Paul, have some ground to stand on against the commissioner if in fact, he were even win a civil suit?

Paul: Right. So, he counterclaimed. So, she sues him. He counterclaims. You know, one of those strategic moves you do, you say, “Hey, you’re suing me. Well, guess what? I’ve got a gripe against you. I’m going to counterclaim you.” It’s sort of the same lawsuits, kind of call it, part two of that lawsuit. But in doing so, he’s opened himself up to a lot of what we call discovery, right? So, now, his whole life can really be opened up. And usually, you do that when you’re feeling a little holier-than-thou or you’re at least…or, or Hail Mary, I guess, one of the two. But regardless, we’ll find out because that lawsuit’s going. Now, the potential great outcome for him would be that he counterclaims her for a bunch of money and she says, “Hey, I’m exposed here.” And maybe she walks away from the whole thing.

Now, to your point, what does then happen with the League? The League doesn’t need a lawsuit dropped in order to say welcome back. There’s still gonna be a lot of look into what he’s been doing, what his actions have been. Again, that’s Broward County, Florida. We know the first thing we heard was in Pennsylvania, right? Now, no criminal charges there. The allegations that there was some forced kissing and some of that up there, but the police again, are not investigating. There’s statute of limitations issues. But I always get the sense when I look into that, that none of the police departments are rushing towards this thing. And I don’t want to misread that one way or the other, but certainly, I think if they thought they could move forward on him from a prosecutor’s perspective, it makes your career. And if your defendant is Antonio Brown or someone of noteworthy, you know that’s the case you hang your hat on moving forward.

Rodger: Is Antonio Brown well-represented here through all of this?

Paul: He sure is. Yeah. I mean, you know, so he’s got lots of money and he’s got lots of good lawyers. So, hopefully, they’ll give him really good advice.

Rodger: Yeah, we’ll see what the…I mean, listen, you know this. At the end of the day, if there’s a suspension, he’s allowed back in the field, there will be teams in the National Football League that are gonna want to take a chance on bringing Antonio Brown in because you know he can be a difference maker, bottom line.

Paul: He can make the difference. And there’s very few teams who do not need him. Right. I mean, we could all…certainly, even look at my Bills, you know what would happen there, another target like that. But I think what the deal is, is that he’s going to get…if he were to get cleared, I think you’re going to have some time that has to pass before the next team goes in, in any big fashion. You know, maybe they’d come in and give him a year contract, but again, you want the League to clear you, then you go in. Because right now…I mean, his technical…this is sort of unique, but his technical component to him is you could still…as a team, you could have a contract with Antonio Brown. He just can’t play. So, in other words, he’s on your team, but he can’t play. Well, that’s in effect nothing. Right. That’ll shut you down. The League has to allow him to play.

But at this point, I do think that to your point, Roger, most folks, most teams would look at him and say, “Boy, you know, if he does clear up his name, could we ever use him in the roster?”

Rodger: Paul, I’ve one that’s NFL-related. But I think a lot of fans are anticipating the end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will expire after next season, the 2020 year. And I’ve read, you know, players really want to grab a little more control of this league if they can. And by control, we all know that means money, the revenue sharing.

Paul: Yeah. Sure.

Rodger: The owners control the better half of. When you’re in a negotiation like that, can you give us a little bit of insight as to what may be the players would use as leverage to get a better CBA in their favor?

Paul: Yeah. They’re just going to look to see…they’re going to find examples and this won’t be a great one for them. I don’t think Antonio Brown’s name is going to be thrown around. But they’re gonna use examples where things are unfair. And I think they’re going to go all the way back and, you know, look at these concussions. I think that is something that the whole country is looking at, you know, Will Smith in the movie. And we all kind of opened our eyes and said, “Huh.” I think it’s back to that as well as some individual players whose stories are compelling. And I think ultimately, they’re going to succeed in having more say, they’re gonna succeed in having more compensation. But again, they’re well-represented also. So, I think we’re going to see some arguments that they need to… Public opinion is a big part of this. And if they can get the public to say, “You know what? Yeah, we’re all the work out there on the field and we sort of have some sad stories to tell, where players gave it all, and they are now kind of penniless that are not…” You know, that thing, I think does motivate the general population and therefore, the League has to react to them.

Rodger: Well, I’ll tell you one thing. The last collective bargaining agreement, they cleaned up in terms of like practices. And I remember training camp being so grueling with these players and all of that went away. So, the players won a lot more than the owners in this CBA era. That’s for sure.

Chris: Yeah. They’re just not getting I think, the money they want. Right. But you know, the owners come back and say, “Okay, you want more money, we want more games.”

Rodger: Right.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right.

Chris: And we could be talking about an 18 game, regular-season schedule potentially.

Paul: Yeah. Probably as fans we kind of want. You know, I sit there…

Rodger: They’re short in pre-season games. I could care less about that.

Paul: Yeah. I struggle through those. Yeah.

Rodger: But you want to tack on a few more in the regular season, I’m all for that.

Paul: Ask more teams in the playoffs and all that stuff. Right.

Rodger: Yeah. Right. right. So, you get the Buffalo for any games?

Paul: So, we went to Giants Stadium when they played the Giants this year. I brought my father in law, my mother, and everybody. And it was just a glorious day. Sun was shining and they won. So, just one this year. Historically, once or twice I get out to Buffalo to get to enjoy that. And I’m just surprised how many fans, even in our office, you know, I don’t know if they’re changing because it’s me, you know, they say, “Oh, I’m a fan to, Paul.” But it’s really come out of the woodwork, all the Buffalo fans. So, there’s like a little group that gets together even on Sundays to watch the Bills. Interesting…

Rodger: There’s a huge following here.

Paul: Yeah. A huge following.

Rodger: I mean I, we had a news director years ago, Paul Conti, who was a huge Buffalo Bills fan. Right. And we would get talking about, all right, in this area, we’ve got four regional teams of interest, Giants, Jets, Bills and Patriots. What is the pecking order? And I can tell you, Giants are number one. No doubt about that. But when the Bills are playing well, and relevant, and in the postseason, honestly, they are way up there. There’s a big following, a Buffalo Bills fans in the 518.

Paul: I think we stayed quiet for a while. You know, we got kind of humbled in the ’90s, but you know, we talk about it. But we had secret handshakes and winking to each other, but now we’re out and we’re bold.

Chris: Yeah. No, you guys aren’t setting up any folding tables to jump through at the office. Are you like Bills Mafia does?

Paul: Supper unique. When we talked about the potential of advertising in Buffalo, we said, “You know, what would be a neat way to do it? We’d have to find a safe way, like put a big check on a table and let it break.”

Rodger: I like that. Yeah.

Paul: You know, something like that. I did come across our conversation. But no, we don’t do that. And in fact, I know that no one’s doing that now safely anyway. There’s some rules against that.

Chris: Exactly. Yes.

Rodger: Paul, great seeing you, my friend.

Paul: Great to be here. Thanks.

Rodger: And we’ll do this periodically throughout the rest of this year. But I always tell people, you think of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, you guys do so much for the community throughout the course of the entire year that you probably don’t get enough credit. I mean, we know what you do, but then in addition to doing what you do, you also give back to the 518 in many ways.

Paul: We’re blessed to be able to do it and thank you for saying.

Rodger: Thank you, Paul.

Paul: Thanks, guys.

Chris: Thanks, Paul.

Rodger: Paul Harding with us here on Big Board Sports on 104.5 The Team and 104.5 The Team app.