SBD/February 1, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell, Smith Agree To Formal Bargaining Session Saturday

Goodell (l), Smith agree to series of meetings over the next few weeks
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith met yesterday in N.Y. to discuss the league's current labor situation, and both parties agreed to hold a formal bargaining session with both negotiating teams on Saturday in Dallas. They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions and smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March (NFL/NFLPA). In DC, Mark Maske noted the two sides have said that the "last full bargaining session came before Thanksgiving, although they have remained in contact through less formal channels" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/31). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes the "threat of a lockout, which would send the NFL into chaos, has almost become bigger news than Super Bowl XLV," so it "makes sense that the league and the NFLPA get serious about at least making an attempt at reaching an agreement." Goodell, Smith and NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash are "all holding informal media sessions this week." Smith "holds his formal news conference Thursday and Goodell gives his annual state of the league address Friday." With "all these meetings planned, it will be interesting to see if they eliminate the shots they've been taking at each other publicly to avoid creating more friction than already exists" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/1). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the planned bargaining session is "obviously good news, although it remains to be seen how much work is really done." Both sides are "trying to put a good face on the situation during the biggest week of the NFL year." It also "remains to be seen what rhetoric will be later in the week" (BOSTON.com, 1/31). N.Y. Daily News reporter Frank Isola said, "Smart PR move by Roger Goodell and the players' association, make it look like they're making progress at the Super Bowl. This way people don't talk about a strike or a lockout" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 1/31).

LET'S MAKE A DEAL
: NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported the league and the union will "hammer away incrementally" at a new CBA through these meetings. La Canfora: "That's how a deal gets done: Getting people together regularly, weekly, hopefully eventually hourly, daily, over a period of time to get the deal. But you have to get to the table first repeatedly. Now we're going to have that" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 1/31). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the two sides "have about a 30-day clock that will run, and they'll try to continue to set more schedules, more sessions, to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement. ... They'll also have small working groups work on the peripheral issues and try to get it so they can piecemeal this thing together and beat the deadline. If they make progress, they can always extend that deadline on March 3" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/31).

THE TIME IS NOW: SI.com’s Peter King reported Goodell is “adamant that he doesn’t want to wait until September for a deal.” Goodell: “The damage will start occurring and escalating by March. … Will fans put money down for season tickets? Will sponsors set aside money to advertise on games they’re not sure will be played? My fear is that players think there won’t be any damage done until we miss games. Not true” (SI.com, 1/31). King later said Goodell is "going to put on a full-court press with DeMaurice Smith and the players' association to try to get this thing solved before there's a lockout. I don't believe he's going to be able to do that." King: "The NFL has traditionally been a deadline league to get deals done in labor, so I believe this is going to go into the late summer or early fall" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/31). In Austin, Cedric Golden writes, "This dispute will stretch through the summer and into September, costing the league more money and hurting its image with the fans. It wouldn't surprise me to see the first three weeks of the regular season come and go before they get this fixed" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 2/1).

TAGLIABUE, UPSHAW SAW THIS COMING?
SI.com’s King reported former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has indicated that late NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw “had a clear understanding that the deal would be shortened, with the implication being that Upshaw understood the owners would need some relief from the deal if it became too one-sided for the players.” Tagliabue said, “We knew it’d be terminated at the earliest possible date. We knew it wasn’t sustainable long-term.” King wrote he had “never heard it said that Upshaw had such an understanding.” NFLPA General Counsel Richard Berthelsen said, “I don’t recall Gene ever saying this was going to be a deal that was destined to be reopened. Paul was not saying that to Gene either, before we reached the settlement or in the wake of it, to my knowledge” (SI.com, 1/31).

KICK IT UP A NOTCH
: YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote CBS "took things up a notch by refusing to air" the NFLPA's "Let Us Play" ad. Farrar: "Essentially, CBS is acting as a bad-faith defendant, refusing to air an ad from an entity with whom it currently holds a dispute. And if that isn't a conflict-of-interest claim waiting to happen, I don't know what is. Another possible angle is that the network doesn't want to risk displeasing the league and losing that sweet TV deal down the road." Farrar added, "In refusing the ad and neglecting to give a specific reason beyond a vague claim that it doesn't want to be involved in labor negotiations (too late for that!), CBS brings up a topic that the owners would rather not see discussed -- once again, the NFL's antitrust exemption should (and will) be called into question, especially if the NFLPA decertifies in the face of a lockout, allowing an antitrust suit to be filed. ... It's not the same impact that would be felt if such an ad was rejected for the Super Bowl, but these 'little things' are how larger disputes tend to begin" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/31).
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