SBD/March 18, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday went "directly to the players in a bid to jump start negotiations aimed at" a new CBA by sending an e-mail letter to players and agents "outlining the league's "most recent contract proposal, and urging them to prod the union to return to the table," according to NEWSDAY. Goodell "outlined several points of the latest proposal, including: a salary cap of $141 million per team in 2011; free agency for players with four or more years' experience; reduced offseason program requirements; retraining a 16-game regular season for at least the next two years and not expanding to 18 games without the union's consent." Goodell wrote, "I hope you will encourage your union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement" (NEWSDAY, 3/18). Goodell added, "We want you to understand the offer that we made to the NFLPA. The proposal was made to avoid a work stoppage. Each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk" (LATIMES.com, 3/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes the league's aim in disclosing details of their latest offer is to "try to show the general public -- and specifically fans and players -- the union's leaders and its attorneys potentially sacrificed millions of dollars in player pay this season for a chance to sue the NFL when the two parties were, according to league officials, close on the economics of the deal." NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman: "If I was a player and I found out my union had cost me an entire season because of a disagreement over about 2.5% or 3% (of overall revenue), I'd be very angry." However, NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah "insisted the two sides weren't close." An NFLPA analysis indicated that the league's proposal "reduces player compensation by $448 million, compared with the expired agreement, in the first year and some $2.1 billion overall through the 2014 season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/18).
PLAYERS RESPOND: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted the letter is Goodell's "first direct communication with rank-and-file players since talks toward a new agreement broke off, the union decertified and the owners locked players out last Friday." Seahawks OT and player rep Chester Pitts said, "I told all my guys to set this letter on fire. We're not that stupid" (NYTIMES.com, 3/17). Titans LB Will Witherspoon in a text message said it was "very distasteful" for Goodell to send out the letter. Witherspoon: "If we were in court, I would compare to a lawyer trying to lead a witness. I duly object to the fact he has highlighted his highpoints but not given them any ground to stand on!" (AP, 3/17). Patriots CB Leigh Bodden tweeted, “Who gave Goodell my email address??” (TWITTER.com, 3/17).
HAVING HIS SAY: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes the letter "came to light just hours after" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "appeared to strike a promising note in the dispute in an interview with" WFAN-AM. Smith "revealed the players still are open to an 18-game regular season, and indicated his group is open to further negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 3/18). Smith on WFAN said that "'there's no reason' the league and the players can't talk or negotiate before the April 6 court hearing on the lockout injunction" (PROFOOTBALLWEEKLY.com, 3/17). But he added, "The NFL publicly projected by 2027, they want to have revenue numbers of approximately $25 billion. If we would have taken the worst deal in the history of sports, by the time they are making $25 billion off the backs, fingers, and legs of our players, our share of all revenue would be somewhere around 25%. My simple question to you as a fan of this sport for a long time: Does that sound fair?” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 3/17).
CONDUCT POLICY IN PLACE: NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy Thursday said that the league "plans to enforce its personal conduct policy even with players prohibited from reporting to team headquarters." FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez noted the policy, enacted in '07, "subjects players to fines and possible suspension at the discretion of" Goodell. McCarthy in an e-mail wrote, "While players won't be able to get the benefit of our evaluation and counseling program during the work stoppage, the personal conduct of players and employees is an integrity-of-the-game issue. Any misconduct that is detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL will certainly be addressed when play resumes." Atallah in response said, "The best amendment the NFL and the owners can make to any policy at this point is to end the lockout" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/17).
The NFL and the NFLPA during their unsuccessful collective-bargaining negotiations earlier this month significantly narrowed their differences on the highly publicized cost credit the league wanted, but a greater issue emerged that helped crater the labor talks: how much each side would capture of future revenue growth. The league for the first time since the '93 CBA proposed unlinking the salary cap from overall revenue. Instead, it would have set the cap at a fixed amount each year. “They were trying to make salary a fixed cost and, in the past, it had been a percentage of revenues,” said Pete Kendall, a former NFL player who is advising the NFLPA and was present at the majority of bargaining sessions held over the past two years. “In the past, if revenues went up, the salaries went up.” The league’s proposal was a problem for the union because it wanted to share, as it had in the past, in the benefits of future growth. The NFL’s position was twofold, sources said: The union in its own proposal offered no downside protection to the league if revenue declined; and if the players were unwilling to shoulder substantially more costs, then why should they be entitled to all the growth those costs helped generate (Liz Mullen & Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal)
DOLLARS & SENSE DON'T MATCH UP FOR PLAYERS: In Boston, Ron Borges cites sources familiar with the NFL's final CBA offer to the players last Friday as saying that the NFLPA's "projection was that the players would in four years have seen their share of total gross revenues tumble" from the present 57% to 38%. In addition, "each year would have seen that share reduced regardless of the size of the money pool." A source said, "In their model the better the league did the worse the players did. At the 11th hour they completely changed the context of the negotiation. ... It was their way of blowing up the deal." Retired NFLer Sean Morey, a member of the NFLPA Exec Committee, said, "Jerry Jones sat across from us and said he’s a professional optimist. Damn right he is. He understands the league now is more profitable than ever, and the amount of money they’re able to make down the road is something I believe they don’t want to share." Morey added, "Really what the NFL (hopes to do) is privatize its profit and socialize its costs" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/18). The players have asked the owners to "open their books to justify the money they are asking for." Morey said that in response to that request, the owners said, "Even if we provided that information, you wouldn’t be able to understand it." Morey added, "I think the perception that they’ve given us, that players have, is that the league is kind of using the economic distress of our country, where people are struggling to pay their mortgages and keep their jobs, to justify asking players to give back the most significant giveback in NFL history" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/18).
About 100 NFL players "girded for the possibility of a long work stoppage Thursday morning during meetings" in Marco Island, Fla., "trying to build a spirit of unity and carving out a tactical approach for the coming months," according to Amy Shipley of the WASHINGTON POST. Less than a week after the NFLPA "filed an anti-trust lawsuit against NFL owners in federal court and owners locked them out of team facilities, players closely examined the last proposal they received from owners during contract talks to ensure that everyone in Thursday’s closed-door session understood why it was turned down." Many players when talking with the media "steered clear of heavy criticism or personal attacks on the league’s ownership." Shipley notes they "struggled this week to clarify their posture on the April NFL draft." The players said that they "weren't urging collegians to 'boycott' the draft, but rather giving them the option of enjoying the draft with fellow players rather than league owners if they wished" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/18). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell noted while the meetings, which will extend for 10 days, are "well-attended, there are notable absences." Packers QB and player rep Aaron Rodgers and Patriots QB Tom Brady, "among the 10 plaintiffs named in the sweeping class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL," are not in attendance (USATODAY.com, 3/17).
PICK AND CHOOSE: With the NFLPA suggesting that top prospects skip next month's draft in N.Y., USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the NFL Draft "doesn't need the players for their predictable scripted cameos." In the "showdown between owners and players, having players boycott the draft might have the opposite effect of what the union wants." Hiestand: "It would show the show can go on with no problem" (USA TODAY, 3/18). But USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes, "An NFL draft without the players would make for terrible television. ... There's a reason the draft was a big draw in prime time in 2010: the players. They're the stars. Not NFL brass, coaches and general managers. And not TV analysts, as much as some of them want to be" (USA TODAY, 3/18). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the NFLPA is "totally out of line asking college prospects to boycott the draft." Jones: "This whole labor dispute is going to be settled eventually, probably before next season. To deny these kids, who have worked hard their whole lives for a chance to be in the spotlight along with their families at the draft, is selfish and arrogant on the part of the union" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/18). NFLPA President Kevin Mawae: "At the end of the day, every draftee has to decide how they want to handle that day. ... They can decide for themselves what they want to do. Our recommendation is for them to do what they think is in the best interest of themselves, but understand if they do choose to go to the NFL Draft, the man that's going to be shaking their hand is the guy that locked them out" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/17).
QUIT THE RHETORIC: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver wrote the NFL's "latest PR spin (that the union’s decision to decertify 'forced' the lockout) is a flat-out lie that would have made Leonid Brezhnev proud." NFL Network offered "a bad look last Friday when, after talks broke down between the two sides, it provided live coverage" of NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash "making a statement and conducting a lengthy news conference but later cut away from union lawyer Jim Quinn before he fielded a single question from reporters." But Silver added, "If this is the NFL’s version of a Cold War, the propaganda efforts have actually been pretty tame so far" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole writes the NFL and players "need to stop sniping at each other if they really want to get a deal done." This NFL-NFLPA dispute is "becoming one of the most irritating showdowns in the history of sports labor," with both sides "wrapped up in trying to win a PR battle." Cole: "It’s time for both sides to realize they need each other much more than they need a long, protracted fight. It’s time for them to be more upfront and, most important, completely honest" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/18). CNBC's Darren Rovell said, "I think both the players and the owners are doing their best job to try to mislead media members like me, to try to use us as part of the negotiations." Comcast SportsNet's Greg Papa: "We're just a pawn" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/17).