4 Negotiation Tactics Robert Kraft Used to End the NFL Lockout

As this real life negotiation example demonstrates, a win-win solution is always available to creative negotiators and mediators with an integrative negotiations mindset. The example may be from the past – which proves the core characteristics of good negotiation and mediation practice does not change.


Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, was by all accounts a major factor in getting the NFL collective bargaining agreement signed earlier in October 2011. To do so, Kraft employed four key negotiation tactics to help the players and owners come to a “win-win” solution.

4 Negotiation Techniques to Overcome Impasse at the Negotiation Table

#1) Establish Relationships Of Trust.
According to The Boston Globe, Kraft worked hard to develop personal relationships with his counterparts, including offering DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, a ride on his private jet en route to meetings. As a result, when he spoke, the players were more willing to listen to what he had to say.


This is a relationship building technique that needs to be used with care. You cannot ‘buy’ long term relationships and might be seen as manipulating a negotiation participant when you do.

#2) Generate Options for Mutual Gains.
Kraft encouraged owners and players to negotiate some of the more complex issues in smaller negotiating sessions, without lawyers present. This allowed negotiators to be more effective at finding mutually agreeable and beneficial solutions to some of the intractable points in the contract.


I may have a bias, however, lawyers are not always the problem. A lawyer who is trained and able to provide negotiation support can be important to getting to a lasting and satisfying solution. Just getting the lawyers to ‘ paper’ an agreement can prove dangerous to the success of the negotiation.
I think that Kraft created relationships by having players and owners working in smaller groups ( those anonymity was harder to maintain) that make each person feel they are heard and connected to the others.

#3) Convince Your Side to Make Concessions at Key Moments.
One of the key issues in the negotiations was the rookie wage system. Kraft played a key role in convincing the owners to make a concession on this point, so that the negotiations could move forward, and agreement could be reached.


The story does not end at concessions – at least not if you want to understand what actually happened. Cooperation ad compromises do not lead to long term solutions and building relationships. I suspect there was an exchange of Interests that this summary fails to identify that would be a better explanation of what happened and why it happened.

#4) Negotiate for The Long Term.
The NFL contract negotiations were successful, not only because an agreement was signed, but because both sides were able to walk away feeling good about the final deal. At the press conference announcing the deal, Jeff Saturday, a center for the Indianapolis Colts and a representative of the NFL Players Association, made special mention of Robert Kraft’s role in the negotiations. He also expressed gratitude to Myra Kraft, who passed away last week, for supporting her husband’s work on these negotiations, even as she was in her “weakest moment.” In the face of his personal loss, both players and owners were even more appreciative of Robert Kraft’s hard work on finding a winning solution for all involved.


Technique 1 in action? Was this an example of reciprocation and an expression of relief?
The success of the NFL sports negotiations, and Robert Kraft’s vital role in that success, illustrates how negotiation strategies can be applied effectively within any industry or field. For more tips from sports negotiations, download the PON free report: Win-Win or Hardball: Learn Top Strategies from Sports Contract Negotiations.


Adapted from articles received from Harvard Law School Program for Negotiations.

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