Public relations is part of any collective bargaining process. The two sides do their best to "control the message", either presenting their position in an effort to sway the public's opinion, or in the case of the MLS owners, say nothing at all.
Yesterday's sudden wave of noise from the Players was notable for it's ratcheting up of the rhetoric. Out of nowhere, it seemed, the players rattled their sabers, letting anyone who would listen know that the League is holding things back. Playing the victims, as they've done throughout, they carefully and methodically chose the moment to let fly with a controlled message.
It started with two prominent soccer writers (Ives Galarcep and Jeff Carlisle) posting stories on the matter, with direct quotes from Pat Onstad in one case and Joe Cannon in the other. It continued on Twitter and Facebook, where more than a few players drew attention to the aforementioned stories as well another piece, written by Richard Snowden at Soccer365, that frankly borders on propaganda. Sprinkling in other items to better turn fans to their side, notable players used social media as a tool in their campaign.
(Link goes to Snowden's Soccer365 piece)
Using calculated, coordinated, classic PR (or so it would seem to me; I have no public relations experience), the Players launched an attack on the League, and did so on a Friday evening the week before the negotiating deadline during the slowest part of the news cycle. That's clearly no coincidence, and indicates that the players who let fly with opinions (quotes in stories), links (on Twitter), and inflammatory statements did so because they were directed to.
(Cannon also linked to Snowden's piece)
The Players have failed, by some people's estimation, to get their message out properly. While many of us that scan blogs and soccer news sites daily may know where they stand and for what they're looking, it's probable that the interested-yet-less-connected MLS fan doesn't really understand their position. Yesterday was a clear effort to rectify that situation at a crucial time in the negotiating process. Another extension is unlikely if not impossible; actual play begins very shortly (starting with Columbus' series with Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League).
As for Snowden and his latest salvo at Soccer365, it loses some of its thunder in light of his past efforts. After Snowden wrote a similarly toned piece call "This System of a Down Must Go", in which he made a factual error for which he was subsequently called out, I invited him on the American Soccer Show to discuss it. Perhaps because of the harsh reaction he received, he pulled out of the interview, even indicating to me that he may not write about soccer again.
None of this, of course, means that the Players are being intentionally misleading, or "spinning" things to their side unjustifiably; if they saw the need to fire a volley of PR on Friday because they want to gain leverage against the more powerful (in negotiating terms) owners, then more power to them. The way I see it, they'll need all the public opinion help they can muster to get even a few concessions from the League.
A work stoppage could be coming, and it could be in the form of a players' strike, as they've told Galarcep, Carlisle, and the Twitter and Facebook-following faithful. Or, this could be just another effort to turn the tide as much as they can before they head down the home stretch to a new CBA that they'll accept whether they're granted guaranteed contracts and free agency or not.
I leave you with this, from the Twitter feed of Steve Goff of the Washington Post. Unattributed (which is notable), it either reads as blustery nonsense or a true indication that the world is going to end (i.e., there's going to be a work stoppage):