SBD/January 20, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Current, Former NFLers Visit Capitol Hill To State Their Case In Labor Dispute

Several current and former NFL players call on Shuler, one of two former players in Congress
More than a dozen former and current NFL players "donned pinstripe suits Wednesday and took their talking points to Capitol Hill, where they told lawmakers their side of an increasingly acrimonious labor dispute," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The "wide gap" between players and owners "has prompted league officials and players to increase their visits to the Capitol." But the visits may be "mostly window-dressing." The players said that they "would call on, among others," U.S. Reps Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), the "only two former NFL players in Congress." But lawmakers "say they are reluctant to get involved." U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, "The owners and players are both literally and figuratively big boys and do not need Congress to referee every dispute for them." But former NFLer Pete Kendall said, "I know that this Congress in particular is concerned with jobs, jobs, jobs, so those are the three things that many of the newly elected members ran on" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20). Smith said, "When it comes to their negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, that is a business dispute." NFLPA officials contend that "rather than asking Congress to mediate the labor dispute, they are being more aggressive to keep up with NFL lobbying." USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes NFL player groups within the last two years "have made at least five trips to Capitol Hill." Yesterday's trip, which took place the "day after union reps underwent orientation" at NFLPA HQs, "began with a group photo on the steps of the Capitol" (USA TODAY, 1/20).

A LOT ON THE LINE
: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez writes the NFL and the NFLPA are "engaged in a Cold War-style standoff," and Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith are the "Kennedy and Khrushchev in this impasse." Each "has his finger on the proverbial red button," and "should either side press it, the prospects of a 24th consecutive season without a work stoppage will become enveloped in a mushroom cloud." The fallout from a business standpoint "could be just as devastating," as the NFL is "riding a wave of unprecedented popularity and financial success." Marvez: "Common sense tells you common ground can be reached between the league and its players union before the CBA expires on March 4. There is no other reason for optimism" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/20). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes the NFL "has had a terrific year as a product," as the league "actually increased in viewership this season." Attendance is "holding fairly steady, as well." Purdy: "Yup, sounds like the perfect time to go in and risk horrible damage to the most-followed and well-liked sports league in North America" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/20).

WHERE'S THE SENSE OF URGENCY?
In Detroit, John Niyo notes Goodell and Smith "reportedly got together" yesterday in N.Y. Niyo: "Everyone hears the clock ticking, but what's alarming is the apparent lack of urgency. And that only fuels speculation, as I've felt all along, that while we won't lose the 2011 season ... we probably will lose a good chunk of the offseason" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/20). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette noted the "public relations war between the players and owners ratcheted up Tuesday." But fans "don't really care who wins or loses in the next CBA." Frenette: "It's up to the players and owners to negotiate an agreement, but don't give us the tedious blow-by-blow details" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/19).
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