SBD/January 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Says Little Progress Has Been Made On Labor Talks

Goodell maintains league, NFLPA are not talking enough and need to start bargaining

The NFL briefed its owners on the status of the contentious labor negotiations yesterday in Atlanta, with the message that there has been little if no progress made in reaching a deal by the March 4 expiration of the CBA. “We need to have a shared commitment, we need to see a parallel commitment by our negotiating partner,” said NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, the league's chief negotiator. The NFLPA could not immediately be reached for comment, but last week said it was the league, not the union, that was turning down possible meeting dates. Pash replied to that, saying, “There is not a lot to be gained by pointing fingers, that is certainly not consistent with my understanding." He added, “I am not very hard to reach. I am like a high school kid, I am always ready for a date.” The NFL refuted the contention that it had not responded to a late November proposal from the NFLPA. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy, a key member of the owners' labor committee, when asked if the league has responded, replied affirmatively, though he declined further comment. The NFL has two more owners' meetings scheduled before the CBA expiration -- Feb. 15 in Philadelphia and March 1-3 in Ft. Lauderdale. The league is expected to resume face to face bargaining with the union later this week or early next (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "reiterated his complaint that the two sides weren't talking often enough," and stressed that a "deal needed to be reached at the bargaining table." Goodell: "There is not enough communication. ... This is not going to get resolved through litigation. It will get resolved through negotiation" (USA TODAY, 1/19).

OWNERS' FRUSTRATION GROWING: In Boston, Greg Bedard reports despite claims of the NFLPA "making some concessions on the split of revenue," several sources on the ownership side said that "there has been no movement on any major issue in several months." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft: "It's the same. I think there’s more litigation going on than negotiations, so that’s unfortunate. But I guess maybe that’s just the process." Pash said, "If our focus is going to be on litigating, decertification, on meetings in Washington, on media events, it will be hard to get an agreement done. The notion that NFL owners are looking to shut down the NFL is nonsensical. But they can’t make an agreement themselves. They’ve got to have a negotiating partner who is willing to work as hard at it as they are and who’s seriously interested in compromise and in the hard work that goes into collective bargaining. It is not a glamorous process, that’s for sure" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones contend that the owners are "trying to be stewards of the game and shepherd it through unsettling economic times." Richardson said, "The labor agreement does not work. Just think about the economics we’re living in now and the concept of wanting more money, more benefits and work less. Doesn’t that seem unusual?" Jones added, "Every place in the world, or in our country, are revisiting how they do business and revisiting their business models; everybody is doing it. It is the time to do it, it is almost irresponsible not to do it" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19).

LEAGUE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT COLLUSION CLAIM: In DC, Mark Maske reports NFL officials and franchise owners yesterday "dismissed the collusion claim filed against teams last week by the players' union, saying the case will have no bearing on the outcome of the ongoing labor negotiations between the owners and players." Pash: "It's something we expected. It's not something that we hadn't anticipated." Pash also acknowledged that the NFLPA "requested player injury information from teams as required by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration." He said that he "does not believe the union will find anything in that documentation it did not already know about player injuries" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/19).

TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPIN': NFL Network’s Steve Wyche noted the owners left yesterday’s meeting “saying there's serious work to be done to prevent a possible work stoppage” when the CBA expires on March 4, but “despite the impending deadline now just six weeks away, the tone remained optimistic.” However, meeting that deadline “won't happen unless talks with the players' association get ramped up immediately" (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 1/18). ESPN’s John Clayton noted the negotiations will heat up “closer to March than it is anything else.” Clayton: “They can get something done, but time is ticking and it does become very concerning. … Nothing gets done early and now you can see a little concern on the NFL's side and concern on the players' side. But the fact that they haven't met often is probably not unusual” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/18).

KEEP IT IN GOOD TASTE: NFL officials last week warned teams that "any threatening public comments would be taken into account if such remarks led to illegal play during a game that merited disciplinary action being taken by the league," and Goodell Tuesday added that he and other league execs "plan to continue to examine the issue in the offseason." Goodell said that there are "good-taste limits as to what the league should regard as allowable." He added, "I just want to see respect for the game. ... I respect the way that people approach the game. But there is also a line that you don't want to cross. And we just have to make sure that we don't cross that" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/18).

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