SBD/January 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Awaits Response To Proposals Made At Last Bargaining Session

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).

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