SBD/January 24, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Dan Rooney Concerned About Lack Of Progress In NFL Labor Negotiations

Rooney says NFL owners are united in determination to scrap current CBA
Steelers Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney "isn't directly involved in negotiations between NFL owners and players, but he's concerned about the lack of progress and where that could lead," according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. Rooney, visiting the Steelers HQs during a break from his role as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, said, "We should have a deal. ... The games this year couldn't be better. The ratings are high. So why would you step back?" But Rooney said that owners are "united in their determination to scrap" the current CBA. Rooney: "Status quo is not an option." He added, "I just think the negotiators should get it together and start doing what they should do, and get a deal. If they sit down and work things out, I think they could have a deal rather quickly." When asked if the owners' lack of familiarity with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "has led to 'a distrust' that's complicating negotiations," Rooney said, "I don't know the personalities. There is maybe distrust. Maybe dislike is a better word. But that's beyond. You have a situation like this, you've got to get a deal. You've got to forget personalities." Meanwhile, Farmer noted "unlike many owners, the elder Rooney is staunchly against expanding the regular season to 18 games." Rooney said he "would rather not get the money" than expand the regular season. Rooney's comments were the "strongest-worded remarks on the issue from a team owner in months" (L.A. TIMES, 1/22). In N.Y., Judy Battista noted Rooney "differs sharply with the management position that an 18-game regular season is necessary and that the extra revenue it would generate would facilitate a deal." Rooney: "We play enough games. You have a system that works. Why add them?" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).

MISSING ROONEY'S PRESENCE: In Dallas, Rick Gosselin wrote Rooney "has long been a crafty middle man in NFL disputes -- someone who could work through problems behind the scenes and broker deals." But he said that he "has no intention of injecting himself into this dispute" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/22). Rooney is not part of the labor negotiations due to his diplomatic job, but SI.com's Peter King writes he wishes Rooney was involved. King: "The league needs more influential voices of reason to challenge the cockamamie idea of adding games in an era when concussions and injuries make it obvious that more games will dilute the quality of the product" (SI.com, 1/24). Meanwhile, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Rooney's comments "certainly did not make his fellow owners happy, or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell." With two No. 6 seeds advancing to the conference championship games, "one of the alternative solutions, according to the football front office people, that should be on the table ... is expand the playoffs to include at least a couple more teams and build some more revenue" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/23).

WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday responded to claims from the NFLPA's Smith that the union is “at war” with the league regarding the current labor situation. Goodell prior to yesterday’s Packers-Bears NFC Championship game said, "I don't look at it that way. This is a business dispute and negotiations. We've been partners and we should continue to be partners. … This is not anywhere near a war. This is a business dispute that we've got to get resolved." He added, “These things don't get resolved by making a lot of statements publicly. They get done by negotiating and meeting with one another understanding one another and having a real serious negotiation and a commitment to getting something done" ("NFL Gameday Morning," NFL Network, 1/23). More Goodell: "I really believe this is a business dispute -- a negotiation -- and it's an opportunity for us to improve the game for the players and the clubs and for our fans" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/24). In N.Y., Sridhar Pappu profiled Smith, who last week at a meeting of nearly 20 recently elected player reps yelled, "We are at war!" Smith added, "Nobody gets strong without fighting. Nobody stays strong without fighting. Nobody negotiates their way to strength. Nobody talks their way to a good deal. Nobody sits down and just has miraculous things happen." Smith said the owners "always ask me, 'What can you sell to the players?' Sell to them? I work for them!" He added, "How condescending of a world is it where every time we sit down with these guys they say to us, 'What do you think you can sell?'" Pappu noted Smith "has sought the counsel of traditional labor powers" like United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. Smith: "The NFL at every step has done everything to drive this union out of business. So when we get in times of labor fights, you quickly look around to who your friends are, and organized labor has always been there for those who've gotten their fingers dirty and broken their nose doing their job. Disparity never enters the picture" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "Things right now are bleak, they're not looking encouraging and it looks like we're going to get a lockout in early March. It doesn't seem like the two sides are making progress. ... But keep in mind there will be a lot of rhetoric -- a lot of rhetoric -- until there is a new collective bargaining agreement at some point" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/24).

PLAYING HARD BALL? In Boston, Greg Bedard noted SI's King last week reported that there "may be a few hard-line owners so dead-set on having the new collective bargaining agreement revert to its pre-2006 status that they wouldn't mind losing a season." But several owners at last week's owners' meeting in Atlanta "disputed that." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft: "One nice thing that came out of here is I've never in 17 years seen the ownership as unified and supportive of what the management team is doing in the labor negotiations. We're really together. All teams, small teams, large teams. It's the most supportive I've ever seen, which is really good. I hope we get this deal done. There's enough there and we need people who want to negotiate on both sides. Good business people and less lawyers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/23). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote, "There hasn't been a serious sports labor confrontation in the past 30 years that didn't include reports that unnamed owners were willing to scorch the earth to get their way. That's in Chapter One of the management collective bargaining playbook" (Baltimore SUN, 1/22). Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said, "I think there will be football in 2011. We continue to work as hard as we can. We had an owner's meeting here in Atlanta on Tuesday of (last) week. I had a smaller meeting, a dinner with the commissioner on Monday night, with other owners as he arranged small owner meetings as he continues to pull the ownership together. ... We want a healthy league. A healthy league for all of the stakeholders." Blank said he is "hoping" talks "will accelerate." Blank: "We need to get the NFLPA to step up with the same sense of urgency to make that happen" (AJC.com, 1/24). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson: "It is baffling we are not making more progress. The fact is we are just not making more progress" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/24 issue).
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