SBD/February 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell Spends Majority Of Address Discussing March 4 CBA Expiration

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Goodell says window of opportunity for agreement is next few weeks
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spent the majority of his annual State of the League address Friday answering questions about the league's CBA, which is set to expire on March 4. Goodell said, "I believe the window of opportunity is in the next few weeks to get an agreement that works for everybody. ... We want to get this deal done in the next few weeks. That's where our focus is on." Goodell added, "I have frequently said -- and I will be as clear as I can on this -- this will get resolved at the negotiating table. All of the other public relations, litigation strategies, Congressional strategies, this is about a negotiation. ... We need to have intensive, round-the-clock negotiations. ... I have that sense of urgency." More Goodell: "If we're unsuccessful in getting an agreement by March 4, I expect that the uncertainty will continue which will be bad for our partners, it'll be bad for the players, it'll be bad for the clubs. That uncertainty will lead to, potentially, a reduction in revenue and when that revenue decreases, there will be less for us to share and that'll just make it harder to get an agreement. What we have to do is remove the uncertainty." He added, "I frequently said I think March 4 is a very critical date because a lot of different strategies will take place if we're not successful in getting an agreement by that time" (NFL Network, 2/4). Goodell said that NFL owners "have not made a final decision about whether they will lock out players if the league and union don't agree to an extension of their labor agreement by the time the current deal expires." Goodell: "We have not made any determinations of what will happen on March 4. The ownership is completely focused on getting an agreement that works and is fair to the players and the clubs" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/4).

FAMILIAR TALKING POINTS: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted Goodell Friday "reiterated the familiar talking points from the last 18 months, defending management's push for an 18-game regular season and saying the revenue split with players had swung too far in the union's favor." He also "reiterated that he believed it would be more difficult to complete a new deal if the deadline passes" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/5). Goodell "implored officials from the players' union to get serious about negotiations" (NEWSDAY, 2/5). Goodell said of the proposed 18-game regular season, "We're still staying within our 20-game format. We're not playing 22 games, which is permitted in the current (CBA), by the way." In Houston, John McClain noted Goodell "has been praised for focusing on player safety but criticized for wanting to add two regular-season games, which would increase the players' chances of suffering injuries." Goodell: "You always have to keep safety as a priority, under any format" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/5). When asked about the 18-game season, Goodell said there are no "deal-breakers." But he "repeated support for changing the current format of four exhibitions and 16 regular-season games." Goodell: "The status quo is not acceptable. We have to address these issues going forward." Meanwhile, in Dallas, Gerry Fraley reported the NFL "will look for ways to improve the Rooney Rule, which calls for diversity candidates to be interviewed for major job openings." But Goodell said that he is "pleased with what it has accomplished" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/5).

FULLY PREPARED: NFL Network's Michael Lombardi said Goodell Friday was "so well prepared on every single subject," and "nothing caught him by surprise." Lombardi added, "The key element of the direct questioning that he received is March 4 is a serious date ... and he needed to put some power in that date because the only way negotiations occur is when there is a drop dead deadline and I think that was his intent [Friday] to make March 4 a critical, critical day." NFL Network's Jason La Canfora said Goodell's overall comments "seemed to me a sort of end to the rhetoric." La Canfora noted Goodell referred to the NFLPA's efforts to get owners to open their books as a "negotiating ploy," and he said that comment was "pretty strong." La Canfora: "That caught me by surprise, but I kind of felt that was the final shot across the bow" (NFL Network, 2/4). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro wrote there was a "sense of urgency in the voice" of Goodell on Friday (N.Y. POST, 2/5). In Ft. Worth, Charean Williams noted 18 of the 33 questions asked of Goodell were "related to the March 4 expiration" of the CBA (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/5).
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