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Rehiring the fired would be icing on NFL labor cake

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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As the NFL and its labor force closes in on a potential deal that will have the twin effects of making them both richer, some sources have described the remaining issues to be hashed out as "fairness issues."

As in, "They don't cost enough money for us to give a damn about."

Well, here's a fairness issue, one that nobody has given much thought to, we would bet, and which is much in our minds, at least as long as the NBA is firing employees for the crime of being employees:

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Getting the NFL employees who got the cardboard box way back when back in the building and on the job. After all, Roger Goodell is this close to getting his take-home pay bounced back to eight-figures, so it might be -- no, it is time -- for all the folks in the fives and sixes who got canned after the 2009 season for economic reasons to be offered their gigs back.

We mention this because the NBA has just kneecapped 114 of its finest in preparation of the ugly fight with the players over what we know will be more money for both sides. This is another one of those labor fights in which one side is about to come into some huge new jack and doesn't want the other side to have it, even though we all know everyone is going to get their taste in the end.

And the 114 will be forgotten, as the smallest fries always are.

But the notion that not everyone gets to share in a company's prosperity has always been one of the corrosive parts of capitalism, and with the NFL and its players apparently on the verge of settling the tab, the office types who did their apparently vital jobs well and to the credit of the company shouldn't be forgotten. They paid for the labor war with 100 percent reductions in their everything, after all, and unlike the big players in this, needed their jobs most of all.

In short, this ought to be one of Goodell's initiatives once he whipsaws/cajoles/begs the owners to agree to the new deal -- to announce a plan to repatriate the folks who made the office run.

It doesn't have to be a grandstand play, like his "I won't take a dime during the lockout" press conference, or DeMaurice Smith's equally lame response. It can be a line in a press release -- "We're rehiring anyone who wants his or her job back, and if need be finding them something if the jobs they had are now redundant."

No fanfare. No hero shots. No grandstanding.

Unless of course that is what Goodell needs to have in return to make this happen. We're not opposed to preening per se nearly as much as we are preening as raison d'etre.

Either way, there are folks here who weren't threatened with job losses, as the players and stadium workers and team employees were, but people who actually did lose their jobs, all as part of pre-lockout posturing. Theirs are the jobs that should be restored first as part of the post-lockout posturing.

And this is not some act of noble windbaggery on our part, either. We had forgotten about the NFL people who got canned until the NBA stood up and canned their 114, for much the same reason as their NFL counterparts -- because they could be. We paid too much attention to Drew Brees and Jeff Saturday and James Harrison, too. We are easily distracted by shiny objects, and we admit it.

But the folks who got fired shouldn't be forgotten as part of the detail cleanup that every negotiation finishes with, and there's no reason for the league not to bring them back, or for the players to forget them in the aftermath. After so much waste of time and energy and billable hours and media blatheration, this would be something that wouldn't actually be a waste.

And best of all, it wouldn't require another media stakeout on top of all the others: "Look, I think I see the top of Robert Kraft's head ... hey, there's George Halas ... hey, I'm hallucinating."

In short, we've all had enough. But this is one last detail that needs to be dealt with if the lockout is truly to be considered done.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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