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SBD/January 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFLPA officials revealed Thursday that the union made two proposals for a new labor deal at its last formal bargaining session with the NFL -- one dealing with rookie compensation and the other involving a way to deal with revenues in the future. "The last meeting that we had ... it was somewhere right around the Thanksgiving holiday," said NFLPA President Kevin Mawae on a conference call. "The movement that was done there was us pushing two proposals across the table to them ... and waiting for a response." NFLPA General Counsel Richard Berthelsen indicated that the players are expecting a substantive response to the proposals after the owners meet Tuesday in Atlanta. Berthelsen said one of the players' proposals dealt with the rookie pay issue and the other involved "different ways that we can deal with revenues in the future and how, if at all, they would be handled differently." But NFLPA officials did not provide further details. The NFLPA held the impromptu conference call with the media Thursday to respond to public comments made by the NFL's outside labor counsel, Bob Batterman, who indicated the NFLPA wanted a lockout when the CBA expires at midnight on March 4. Mawae and Colts C and NFLPA Exec Committee member Jeff Saturday strongly denounced Batterman's comments. Saturday: "We want to keep playing and until the owners lock the doors and don't let us in, every one of my guys is going to show up and be ready." Mawae said that the players are willing to negotiate at any time, but he added, "Unless they have some meaningful information to give us and can justify why they're asking for a billion dollars back from the players at this moment there is not a lot to talk about." NFLPA officials also indicated on the call that decertifying the union was a possibility. If the NFLPA were to decertify or disband, it could sue the NFL under antitrust laws, as well as challenge an NFL lockout in court. "Just make sure it's very clear players want to play so we are not doing anything until we are locked out by the owners," said Saturday. "Whatever we'd have to do would be a reaction to owners not getting a deal done with us" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
HE SAID, HE SAID: Berthelsen said, "When the finger's pointed in the given direction, the impulse is always to point it in another direction. ... I can tell you one thing: The word 'lockout' was never even in the NFL's vocabulary until Mr. Batterman came aboard. After he came aboard, the continuing theme has been lockout. The continuing theme from our side of the table is that we want to play" (USA TODAY, 1/14). Batterman Wednesday said that the NFL "proposed nine possible bargaining dates to the union in December and the union took advantage of only one," but Berthelsen Thursday said that he was "not aware of the union rejecting any proposed negotiating sessions." Berthelsen added that "informal discussions have continued but declined to say if any progress had been made" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/14).
KRAFT OPTIMISTIC: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said he is "optimistic" a lockout can be avoided. Kraft: "The fans don't want to hear about a labor struggle between well-to-do owners and players. They just want football. If we can get business people at the table and have fewer lawyers involved, it would be a big plus. I think there's enough money there that everyone can make out." Meanwhile, Kraft said of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, "The task is almost thankless. He really has a board of 32 independent people, most of whom think they have the answers to everything. He's been terrific with the pressure. He's grown in a way that I think he's exceeded the expectations of those of us who supported his candidacy" (N.Y. POST, 1/14).
The MLB quarterly owners' meetings concluded Thursday in Paradise Valley, Ariz., with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig offering a highly upbeat prediction for the game's attendance economics in '11 after several years of economic uncertainty. He said, "I feel good about this season. I'm definitely optimistic. Ticket sales are trending very well, and as you know, the last six years have been the best six years we've ever had. This will fall right into that (trend), and maybe move up a bit." Selig was similarly hopeful with regard to labor negotiations, set to begin later this year. The current five-year labor accord with the MLBPA expires after the '11 season. Selig acknowledged he is more optimistic entering the final year of a labor deal than he ever has been. "There is a constructive relationship with the players," he said. "One thing that is really so shockingly different now is that in the '70s, '80s, '90s, even back in the late '60s, there was all this anger expressed. ... You don't see that now. We're on a very constructive path." GMs participated in the labor meetings again, as they have for the past year, and in part because of that involvement, Selig said management is now "very well prepared" for the upcoming talks. Selig, not surprisingly, said he is monitoring far darker labor situations in the other major U.S. team sports, but added "each one has its own indigenous problems" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Selig said that he is "ecstatic that baseball's labor situation has been so quiet in comparison" to other leagues. Selig: "There's no question that nobody could've believed -- starting with me -- that we'd have 16 years of labor peace in a sport that had eight work stoppages. That's really remarkable" (MLB.com, 1/13).
GIVE 'EM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: MLB.com's Tom Singer reported "possible future expansion of the postseason and of the use of instant replay were the main agenda items in Thursday's three-hour meeting" between Selig and his 14-member Special Committee for On-Field Matters. Three umpires also participated in the meeting, and Selig said prior to the gathering, "We have the umpires to give their thoughts on instant replay, and that's good. They should be involved. The committee asked for them to come, so they are here." Selig anticipated "significant progress on the committee's two foremost issues -- replay, and postseason expansion to include two additional Wild Card teams, which would introduce an additional layer to the playoffs." Alterations to both "theoretically are subject to collective bargaining" with the MLBPA and could enter into negotiations over the next CBA after the current agreement expires on Dec. 11 (MLB.com, 1/13). Selig stressed that "more work needs to be done ... on the idea of expanding the playoffs by adding another wild-card team in each league." He said, "I feel good about it. I think there's a lot of interest but we have some detail to work out. That's really the crucial question." Any changes to replay or the playoffs "will not be implemented until 2012, at the earliest" (AP, 1/13).
WRAPPING UP THE MEETINGS: Selig Thursday confirmed he has yet to decide whether to extend a job offer to former MLB manager Joe Torre to work in the front office in a senior exec role. Torre indicated Wednesday night he was "definitely interested" in such a role. "What he said was absolutely accurate. I thought he articulated all that well," Selig said. The pair was due to talk further on the subject later Thursday. Meanwhile, Selig, as he has for weeks, expressed no concern on an offseason free agent spending spree that thus far has surpassed $1B. "We talked about that, but there was no more emphasis on it than in any other year," he said. "Overall, I'm generally satisfied with how things are going there" (Fisher).
MSG Sports President Scott O'Neil Thursday joined UFC officials "to persuade Albany to legalize" MMA in New York, according to Carl Campanile of the N.Y. POST. A UFC analysis unveiled Thursday indicated that "sanctioning the fights would generate $23 million in economic activity for the state by holding two major UFC fight nights -- one at the Garden, another in Buffalo -- and several smaller events around the state." The study projected that the fights "would draw 145,000 fans, generate $12.9 million in ticket sales and create 212 new jobs." Former N.Y. Gov. David Paterson last year "pushed to legalize the bouts to generate $2 million in taxes for the state." A proposal "narrowly passed the state Senate, but was blocked in the Democratic-run Assembly." Forty-four states currently sanction MMA bouts (N.Y. POST, 1/14). ESPN.com's Franklin McNeil reported N.Y. State Assembly member Dean Murray "has already begun lobbying for the passing of mixed martial arts legislation in New York," and he has "even had a conversation" with new Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Early feedback from their conversation on MMA is "positive." Murray: "I'm not going to speak for the Governor, but I did have a conversation with him and he seems open. We've sent a letter and talked to him personally and requested that he include this in his budget proposal" (ESPN.com, 1/13). Murray: "In today's climate, we don't need to be raising taxes. We need a chance to raise revenue" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13). On Long Island, Mark LaMonica reports UFC "would host two events annually in the state, with a pay-per-view card at the Garden being the main draw" (NEWSDAY, 1/14). USA TODAY's Sergio Non notes New York state banned MMA in '97. UFC President Dana White: "There's absolutely no reason why it should not be in the state of New York. It makes absolutely no sense" (USA TODAY, 1/14).
MLS Commissioner Don Garber Thursday indicated that the league is "going to pocket its promise to look into shifting its season to the European fall-to-spring calendar," according to Brian Straus of FANHOUSE.com. Garber's statement in November that MLS might alter its summer schedule was a "promise made to curry favor with FIFA days before the governing body" voted to award the '22 World Cup to Qatar. Garber said, "We'll revisit the whole decision on moving our schedule. Right now I think the whole schedule thing is certainly up in the air. Right now FIFA is talking about a winter World Cup, so maybe the season we have is right." Meanwhile, MLS has yet to announce its new playoff format, something Garber hinted at while announcing an "expansion from eight to 10 clubs and the prospect of a 'play-in game' involving the lowest seeds in each conference." Garber Thursday said that an announcement is "coming soon, but that the stalled TV rights negotiation with Fox Soccer Channel was among the factors complicating the process." He added, "We believe that, although some of our fans don't agree with me, we believe that this (play-in) game is going to be exciting. ... We've got to be big enough to recognize that not every decision we're going to make immediately is going to be right. We have to have the courage to change it and make tough decisions if it means delays or going on hiatus, whether it's TV partners or whether it's competitive decisions we make" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/13). Garber on Thursday also indicated that MLS is "strongly considering a week-long round robin" between the Sounders, Whitecaps and Timbers to "further intensify the Pacific Northwest rivalry" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/13).
GOING OLD SCHOOL? N.Y. Cosmos Dir of Soccer Terry Byrne Thursday night said ongoing discussions with MLS about becoming the league's 20th franchise "have been progressing very well." Byrne said that the "conversations continue to progress, but MLS has not made a deadline as to when they will make a decision." He added '13 is "definitely the earliest we can play in the league." Byrne also "squelched any rumors" of Galaxy MF David Beckham "having a role in a Cosmos MLS team -- at the moment." He said, "There has been no genuine conversation with David about the Cosmos" (BIGAPPLESOCCER.com, 1/13).