SBD/December 15, 2010/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA's Smith Remains Pessimistic About Potential For CBA Deal

Smith Says Union Reviewing Agent Certification, Disciplinary Process

NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith told 30-40 NFL agents yesterday during a conference call that he still believes the NFL is planning to lock players out and said the union is reviewing its agent certification and disciplinary process, sources said. Smith updated agents on NFL CBA negotiations, saying that while the union continues to negotiate and has offered to extend the current deal to avoid the economic problems already being caused by the labor uncertainty, the NFL has refused. The NFL CBA expires on March 3. Smith "was not optimistic" about a deal being done, said one agent who was on the call. Smith also told agents that the union is reviewing its current process for certifying and disciplining agents. "He wants to make sure there is integrity all around," said the agent. Another source said a reason for the review of the certification process is to answer questions being raised about how Teague Egan, an undergrad at USC, was certified when the union requires most agents to have an advanced degree. The union's Committee on Agent Regulation & Discipline recently revoked Egan's certification after USC RB Dillon Baxter was declared ineligible for one game after Egan gave him a ride in a golf cart (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). The AP's Barry Wilner noted the call "came 11 days after agent Gary Wichard was suspended for nine months by the union for his role in a recruiting scandal involving" former Univ. of North Carolina DT Marvin Austin (AP, 12/14).

BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB: Smith took issue on the call yesterday with recent public comments by NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash about the union's demands that league open its books to justify players taking a pay cut when the NFL is profitable. Smith during the call said recent comments that Pash made in a Q&A in SportsBusiness Journal regarding the union’s demands that the league open its books to justify their proposal were false. In that interview, Pash was asked if the union during the negotiations had made an issue out of the league rejecting requests for the audited financial books of NFL teams. Pash said, “Not really with us. … We have said all along we are prepared to make disclosures that document and justify what our bargaining proposals are.” When asked in the interview if this is “not something that the NFLPA brings up in negotiations,” Pash replied, "We are not hearing, ‘If you don’t do this, we will not sign an agreement.’” According to sources on the call, Smith told agents yesterday, “If anyone is saying the NFL is opening the books to you, or that the NFL is inclined to open the books, or that we have ceased asking them to open the books, it's absolutely false." Smith added, "It boggles the mind how they could say that." NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello responded to Smith’s comments in an e-mail, saying, "We believe in accountability and transparency. No one is saying what is alleged. The facts are the union has access to all league revenue. They have complete information on the league's biggest cost -- player compensation and benefits -- and we have provided more information on stadium and other costs than we are required to give. But of course they will ask for more information. It's a negotiating tactic" (Mullen).

RISING OPTIMISM: In DC, Mark Maske notes both the NFL and the NFLPA "say they remain focused on" the CBA negotiations. There was a "glimmer of hope last week when the league and union agreed that the NFLPA could postpone filing a collusion accusation against the owners." Maske: "It wasn't a labor settlement, but it showed the two sides could agree on something" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/15). Meanwhile, Pro Football HOFer Dan Shula said, "I just don't believe that there is going to be a lockout" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 12/14).

GRASSROOTS LEVEL: In L.A., Jack Dolan reports the NFL is "lending its public relations muscle to a proposal that would require California student athletes who leave a game after a head injury to get written medical clearance before returning to the field or court." Parents also "would have to sign a 'concussion awareness fact sheet' before their kids could play in a sports program in any league covered by the California bill." The NFL in total is "backing legislation in 44 states this year" that deal with head injuries for young players (L.A. TIMES, 12/15).

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