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Marshall Goldsmith
Executive Coach/Author

Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive educator, speaker, coach and best-selling author. His most recent book is Mojo.

Show some care for the average fan

Question: At the center of the labor dispute between NFL owners and professional football players is George Cohen, a federal mediator known for his work in helping Major League Soccer come to a resolution over its own labor battles. Mediators have no power or authority to compel either side to do anything, but they still have the capability to influence the outcome in nuanced ways. What must Cohen do to bring the more uncompromising members of both sides together to make a deal?

Mr. Cohen should point out the cost to all parties of not making a deal. Fans (rightly or wrongly) are sick of what they perceive to be greedy millionaire owners battling with greedy millionaire players--for a few extra bucks. If an agreement is not reached, and the season is shortened or even canceled, the fans are the victims. While fans have put up with this in the past, there is always a chance they will get sick of the perceived greed on both sides of this equation.

For many Americans, we are still in a recession. Lots of people are unemployed or under-employed. The difference in net worth between owners, players and the average person in this country is greater than it has ever been. It might be smart to show a little sensitivity to the average fan.

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By Marshall Goldsmith

 |  March 8, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Getting real about what's at stake | Next: Reason, incentives and coercion


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More people watched the Super Bowl this year between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Green Bay Packers than any other sporting event, television show, or televised concert before. It was the most watched program in the history of TV. The truth of the matter is, American’s love football. The NFL had one of the most successful seasons in their history, based on television ratings this year. If these “negotiations” continue, it’s possible the season could be cut short, and technically cancelled (but this is highly unlikely in my opinion, simply because the people negotiating would lose money; an occurrence they strictly avoid).

Will American’s still watch football every Sunday, Monday night, and the occasional Thursday? Yes. While the greed in the NFL is getting out of control, it’s been that way for years. This year’s situation is not unique, and come August, people all across the country, from die-hard Cowboys fans to the very dedicated Lions fans, will tune in to watch their team play.

What Mr. Cohen should do is focus on the potential economical loses for both sides if they do not come to an agreement. As said before, the greed is rampant, from players to coaches to managers. If you want to accomplish anything, the focus must be on that. Money.

Posted by: andieobermeyer | March 11, 2011 12:33 PM
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Marshall Goldsmith is correct in saying that Cohen must identify the cost to each party. However, in this case, the highest cost to the owners and players is not the fans' loyalty. True, some fans may boycott in protest, but die-hard NFL fans love the sport and will support their teams no matter what. What is really at stake for these two parties comes down to money. However, if their primary motivation is indeed greed, they will never admit their true intentions to the public. Cohen must create a relationship based on trust with each of these parties to have them speak candidly with him for him to know the truth behind each of these parties' stances. Only then, when he knows each side of the story, can he use his experience as a mediator to find common ground.

Posted by: EdithTeng | March 11, 2011 12:25 PM
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While I agree that the George Cohen should mediate the discussion between the NFL owners and football players in a time-efficient manner, I don't think that the most important reason for mediation is for the emotional needs of the fans. Realistically, the NFL is a money-making making machine that has too much at stake for a season to be cut short.

There are important issues that need to be discussed during this time, and Cohen would do well to not only address how to divide the millions of dollars that are in dispute, but also provide room for talk about how the league can better protect the long-term health of the players. More important issues need to be discussed for keeping the experience of American football an enjoyment not only for the fans, but also for the players and owners.

Posted by: mirandawang19 | March 11, 2011 2:23 AM
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Here in Florida, the NFL has already decided the Tampa Bay region is too poor to watch Bucs home games.

That's right. Not enough of us can afford the current ticket prices to fill our tax-paid stadium more than 2/3 of the way, so the NFL decided we didn't deserve to watch even one single home game all season.

So now what? The NFL owners and players want to bring the benefits of Game-Free Sundays (tm) to the whole country.

A lot of yardwork is going to get done, and a lot of kids are going to have great times with Dad.

Thank you, NFL!

Posted by: roblimo | March 9, 2011 11:22 AM
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