SBD/March 15, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 4: Players Refute Assertion They Walked Away From Talks

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Mawae says 18-game schedule "never will be" accepted by players
NFL Players trade association leader Kevin Mawae yesterday during a conference call "called the assertion that the players walked away from negotiations 'a complete fabrication and a lie,'" according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. Mawae said that "during Tuesday and Wednesday last week, over the course of 16 hours spent in mediation," the owners and the players "met face to face at the negotiating table for a total of 30 minutes." Mawae said of the owners, "When you say you've done everything you can, and then you ask for a caucus that lasts 3 1/2 hours and then you take off for dinner at the end of the day? That's not negotiating, and that's not the NFL players walking away from the deal" (L.A. TIMES, 3/15). Mawae said that "of all the misrepresented statements by the NFL, the worst was the claim that the players walked away from the negotiations." YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar noted George Atallah, spokesperson for the players' group, "tag-teamed on this as well, saying that the NFL's timeline view was ridiculous, and he half-sarcastically wondered if he should present time-stamped photos of the fax machine used to send the decertification papers so that people would know what happened when" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14).

TOO LATE IN THE GAME: Colts C Jeff Saturday said of the CBA proposal offered by NFL owners on Friday, "It just seems odd you would wait until Friday to put out a 20-point proposal, when each point has a number of different details in it." Atallah said of the talks, "The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is we really, really weren't." Atallah said that "because the NFLPA says it no longer is a union, but rather a trade association," any decision to "return to negotiations would be up to the lawyers representing the players" instead of DeMaurice Smith, head of the players' group (ESPN.com, 3/14). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes Mawae, Saturday, Saints QB Drew Brees and former NFLer Sean Morey during the conference call "remained staunch in their demand that owners provide more financial data and characterized the NFL's last-ditch offer Friday as a public-relations move." Brees: "A lot of it, I think, was all a front, all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, except to say they made a proposal." The players said that talks "might not have broken off ... had owners presented their proposal earlier in the week" (USA TODAY, 3/15).

NEVER WILL ACCEPT 18 GAMES: Mawae during the call also said that the 18-game regular-season schedule "heavily pushed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as part of a new collective bargaining agreement 'never will be' accepted by his group." Mawae: "Eighteen games is not going to happen through NFL player negotiations. We can't justify that for the health and safety of our players." FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez notes the NFL's Friday proposal "called for a 16-game regular season in 2011 and 2012, with the subject being revisited between the two sides" in '13 (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/15). Meanwhile, Brees, who is one of 10 plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against the league, said he is "one of the lead plaintiffs because it's important to me." Brees: "I represent not only the 1,900 players in the league now, but guys that played before us whose shoulders we're standing on. They're the ones who created what we have in this league. We represent the guys that are coming to (play) after us." He added, "I feel very strongly about our case, and the facts and the law" (NEWSDAY, 3/15).

Irsay says he and Manning are close
friends despite labor divide
IT'S JUST BUSINESS
: In Indianapolis, Mike Chappell notes Colts Owner Jim Irsay and Saturday and QB Peyton Manning, who also is one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, are "in opposing camps." But Irsay said Manning and Saturday are "very close friends of mine and this isn't about us against them." Irsay: "We always knew this was going to be tough. But you get something done, you shake hands and that's the way you move forward. Not with resentments, but with unity" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/15). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson added that "one of the hardest parts of the collective-bargaining negotiations is that it has created distance with two Panthers players he's closest to," K John Kasay and WR Steve Smith. Kasay is the team's player rep, while Smith is one of the team's alternate player reps. However, Richardson said he expects a deal will come "in due course." Richardson: "I've been optimistic from the beginning. ... We're going to have a labor agreement that's best for our players, best for our teams and best for our fans" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/15).

OWNERS CLAIM DEAL WAS THERE TO BE DONE: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday sent a letter to the team's season-ticket holders discussing the current labor situation. Kraft wrote, "The league and the owners presented the players' union with a comprehensive proposal that we believe was fair and benefited both parties. We hoped it would serve as a basis to continue negotiating in good faith toward a final agreement. This proposal gave the players many benefits and off-season scheduling changes that they had been seeking. It also offered a 14% increase in compensation, representing a total of $19-20 billion over the next four seasons. Unfortunately, the players' union walked away from mediation and the ongoing negotiations last Friday, without responding to this proposal. Rather than working collaboratively, they chose to initiate litigation against the clubs" (BOSTON.com, 3/14).

POINTING FINGERS
: In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes under the header, "NFL Players Join The PR Game Of Spinners And Losers." Domowitch: "If the NFL owners and players had put as much effort into negotiating a labor deal as they seem to be in trying to win the hearts and minds of America's football fans, everything would be sweetness and light and I'd be writing about which free agents the Eagles might be interested in signing rather than fun stuff like decertifications and lockouts and preliminary injunctions" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/15). A Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW editorial states it is "difficult to have much sympathy for the mess that the National Football League finds itself in." The editorial: "Actually, it's difficult to have any sympathy." If the dispute results in a "no-game or fewer-game season with replacements, the backlash could be severe" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/15). However, SI.com's Peter King wrote he believes the players and owners are "closer to a deal than anyone thought Friday night." King noted when he "left the Westend Bistro on the edge of Georgetown just before midnight Thursday," Saturday and Goodell were "deep in discussion in the bar." Also, when Goodell and Smith "spoke Friday night after negotiations broke down, neither strafed the other with the kind of verbiage that would be hard to take back" (SI.com, 3/14).

RETIRED PLAYERS' LEADER FRUSTRATED: NFL Alumni Association Exec Dir George Martin yesterday said retired players are "still treated as if we're second-class citizens or an afterthought" by the players' leadership. Martin said that he has been "trying to arrange a meeting with Smith." He was "invited to the union's meeting in Marco Island, Fla., this week, but wasn't promised a meeting with Smith," and he also "first had to fill out a lengthy and 'insulting' questionnaire detailing his relationship and dealings with the NFL." Martin said that he "believes the NFLPA thinks his association is a 'pawn of the league'" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/15).
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