SBD/February 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL, NFLPA Expected To Resume Labor Talks This Week As Scheduled

Smith has maintained contact with Goodell since NFL canceled last week's meeting
Dialogue between the NFL and NFLPA has continued "through smaller working groups as well as communication" between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith since a canceled meeting last week, and one player source said that "it is expected both sides will meet this week, as previously scheduled," according to Mortensen & Schefter of ESPN.com. A management source "did not refute that suggestion." But there is a "growing discord and mistrust between the two sides." League brass were "irritated by Smith's decision to release the owners' counterproposal on a rookie wage scale to players and player agents, as opposed to offering a response directly to management." Sources indicated that last week's negotiations "broke off when the union characterized its documents as an 'illustration' that NFL officials believed represented a proposal for revenue sharing between owners and players." One source said that "when the NFLPA characterized documents labeled 'NFLPA Proposal' as something other than a collective bargaining proposal, the NFL ended the session." The source added that league reps "then met outside the room, and returned only to abort the negotiations -- without immediately rescheduling any talks." Mortensen & Schefter report the day after negotiations broke down, Goodell "convened a conference call with the owners of the 32 NFL teams and reported the developments of the previous day." A source indicated that "there was complete unanimity among the owners" (ESPN.com, 2/14).

GROWING RIFT: YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole cited league sources as saying that Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson "mocked" Colts QB Peyton Manning and Saints QB Drew Brees during a Feb. 5 negotiating session with the NFLPA, a "sign of disrespect that the union hopes solidifies its members in the pending labor battle with the NFL." One source said Richardson was "extremely condescending to them, especially toward Peyton. (Richardson) was the only person on either side who was contentious." He was said to be "particularly sarcastic when Manning started to talk about players’ safety." Richardson reportedly said, "What do you know about player safety?" The source added, "If he’s willing to talk to (Manning) and (Brees) that way, what do you think it says about what he and the other owners think about the rest of the players?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13). Cardinals K Jay Feely last week appeared on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y.'s "The Michael Kay Show" and said, "Jerry Richardson, the lead negotiator for the owners, he's going to criticize Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and their intelligence in our meeting Saturday? And sit there and say dismissively of Manning 'Do I need to help you read a revenue chart, son? Do I need to help break that down for you because I don't know if you understand how to read that?'" BIZOFFOOTBALL.com's Maury Brown writes when "history looks back on the NFL labor battle of 2010-11 ... Richardson is likely the man that will be remembered as its great villain, or at least that's how the players are likely to view him" (BIZOFFOOTBALL.com, 2/14).

NO NEED TO PANIC ... YET: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote while things "did not go well in the first formal negotiating session Wednesday," fans should not "get too alarmed yet." Bedard: "If anybody can recall a time when two sides in a labor fight got right into a room and got along from the get-go, we’d love to hear about it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/13). SI.com's Peter King writes, "Sports negotiations are deadline deals filled with both sides shooting at each other. The March 3 deadline is fairly meaningless, when you think about it. What happens in March that's vital to the regular season? ... Is free agency vital to a season? No" (SI.com, 2/14). Free agent CB Eric King said, "I don't think it'll be something that'll be done within the upcoming months as far as March or April. I think we're far enough apart whereas something has to be worked out, and it will take a little bit of time. Both sides are still trying to figure out what they want and how they want it in. It'll take some time to get it worked out, but I'm pretty confident there'll still be football in 2011" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/12). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman writes, "Most people in the media are predicting a long lockout that will last into the start of the season, but I don't agree. I believe that at least half the owners have big debt with mortgages on their franchises and building and remodeling stadiums, and that those owners can't afford a lost season" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/14). A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted last week reveals that 49% of fans who are aware of the NFL labor dispute "expect a new labor deal to be reached" before a work stoppage. Only 23% of the 822 respondents "expect a work stoppage," while 29% are undecided. Of those polled, 21% "side with the players" and 18% with the owners (AP, 2/12).

Litna, seen here with client Joe Flacco, is not
expecting an extension to March 4 deadline
OUTLOOK NOT GOOD
: In Denver, Dave Krieger wrote there is "not much reason for optimism after the owners walked out of the negotiations they had demanded" last week. Krieger: "The conventional wisdom is it's a battle between billionaire owners and millionaire players, with the public unlikely to have much sympathy for either. In fact, it's beginning to look more like billionaire owners against the world -- players, related businesses poised to suffer collateral damage and pretty much anyone who balks at a $9 beer" (DENVER POST, 2/12). NFLPA President Kevin Mawae said, "I am convinced the owners are willing to take this to a lockout. ... I just think the tone of negotiations is one that is not promising that a deal is in sight any time soon." He added, "You're telling me you're losing money but you won't show me how much you're losing. You're telling me it costs too much but you're not willing to show me the cost. ... I was at the Super Bowl -- I saw Daniel Snyder's plane on the runway. He wasn't flying first class on American Airlines" (N.Y. POST, 2/13).

AGENTS ARE NOT OPTIMISTIC: The AP's Barry Wilner noted some NFL player agents said that they "aren't expecting much progress in negotiations between the NFL and the players' union before the collective bargaining agreement expires." Agent Joe Linta said, "Sure, an extension could be coming. If I still believe in Santa Claus, I still have hope." Linta is "among many agents who believe every other issue will get resolved quickly enough once the owners and union agree on how to split" league revenues. He said, "It's all about money, as it always is, and everything will flow from there once there's a macro agreement." Agent Ralph Cindrich said it is "too early to panic" but added, "It's fair to call it a mess." Wilner noted agents "get their information on negotiations from the NFLPA and its player representatives," and they contend that the "lines of communication have been good thus far." Linta said of Smith, "Technically, he has no obligation to us. We are piano players, nobodies in the process. But he is keeping us informed and making it timely" (AP, 2/11).

EVEN MORE TO COME: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino noted the NFL's labor troubles "won’t be over even if it gets a new collective bargaining agreement with the players." Assistant coaches "have their issues, but they have decided to put them on the back burner while the owners deal with the players." If the league "doesn’t eventually address their issues, the assistant coaches would consider forming a union" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/13).
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