SBD/Issue 51/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Player Reps Did Not Get A Preview Of Union's 18-Game Counter

Light Not Taking The NFLPA's Counterproposal
Very Seriously Because Player Reps Didn't See It

Some NFL players are "grumbling that there wasn’t any discussion with them" before the NFLPA formulated a counterproposal to the league's plan for an 18-game regular season, according to Greg Bedard of the BOSTON GLOBE. While the union's counter "came to light last week, it didn’t register much on the radar" of player reps, including Patriots OT Matt Light. Light said that he "hadn’t been presented with anything along the lines of a proposal and that player reps would be included in any significant discussions." As a result, he "wasn’t taking this proposal very seriously." Light said, "I haven’t heard any of it. At some point, we’ll sit down and go through all that stuff, but at this point none of that has happened. I’m not sure where it came from, either. It’s not even worth discussing because there’s nothing out there that’s substantial or that you can substantiate." He added, "Obviously, they want to go to 18 games. Right now, there’s nothing constructive about the process. I don’t think we’re going anywhere" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/21). NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said he has "not heard" the NFL's 18-game proposal "is a panacea," as some have suggested. Smith said, "They put a proposal on the table and we countered. We raised some issues with roster size, offseason workouts, training camp, injured reserve, bye weeks and vesting for health care." The NFL CBA expires in 100 days, and Smith said the NFLPA has "seen no justification for a rollback" for player salaries. Smith: "Players can't make more money without the revenue going up. And the reality is we are receiving about 49 percent of all revenue, not 60" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/22 issue). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said of an 18-game regular season: “Football people don’t like it. The players don’t like it, but I think even the players' union understands that the foundation of the next CBA is going to be with an 18-game season. So I’m saying it’s going to happen” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 11/21).

WHAT ABOUT BOB? In DC, Mark Maske noted attorney Bob Batterman is a "critical behind-the-scenes figure in a set of NFL labor negotiations that could produce the sport's first work stoppage since strikes by the players in 1982 and '87." Some associated with the NFLPA "portray the hiring of Batterman by the NFL's franchise owners three years ago as one of the signals that the league was more likely to seek a labor confrontation with the players next year than to participate in a peaceful round of bargaining." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Relations George Atallah said, "The players are acutely aware of his history and they know why the owners hired him." But Batterman, who works for law firm Proskauer Rose, "calls that portrayal inaccurate." He said, "I've been with this firm for 44 years. I've been in the labor practice for 43 of those 44 years. ... We have to work with and live with unions, not bust unions. ... I have been a negotiator of hundreds of collective bargaining agreements over the 40 years. Of those hundreds, I could count on one hand, I think, the number of strikes." Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who works for the NFLPA, called Batterman a "very worthy adversary in labor negotiations" and said, "We always enjoy a good battle with Bob." Former NHLPA Associate Counsel Ian Pulver said, "He's a master at his trade. I am not saying he is always right or always gets what he wants. I am just saying the other side better be ready." Batterman contends that the NFL hired him in part "because he guided the NHL through its negotiations and lockout without legal complications." But he insists that it "doesn't mean the NFL is seeking a lockout." Batterman: "That's hype. No employer wants to shut down a business." He said it is "absolutely" possible a new CBA could be negotiated before the current one expires in March (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).

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