SBD/March 21, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 10: NFLPA Exec Committee Sends Letter To Goodell

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NFL players contend Goodell's letter was aimed at dividing the decertified NFLPA
Locked-out NFL players penned a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday, responding to an e-mail he sent last week to all players and telling him, "Your statements are false," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. In a four-page letter, the 11-member NFLPA Exec Committee told Goodell that during CBA negotiations the owners did not justify "their demands for a massive giveback which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for players in major pro sports." In the letter, the players "went through various parts of the last NFL offer, including saying that the league's salary-cap proposals 'were based on unrealistically low revenue projections.'" Browns LB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Scott Fujita said, "The letter gives a true testament to what went on, what the offer was, and what it meant to the players." In the final paragraph, the Exec Committee wrote, "We no longer have the authority to collectively bargain on behalf of the NFL players." In response, NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash said, "Debating the merits of the offer in this fashion is what collective bargaining is all about. ... This letter again proves that the most sensible step for everyone is to get back to bargaining" (AP, 3/19). In N.Y., Gary Myers noted the letter outlines 14 points of contention and said the owners' last proposal contained "an economic framework that was unjustified and unfair." The Exec Committee wrote in part, "Your proposal would have resulted in a league-wide giveback by the players of 576M in 2011 increasing to 1.2 BILLION in 2014, for a total of more than 3.6 BILLION for just the first four years. Even if revenues increased at a slower rate of only 5%, the players would still have lost over 2 BILLION over the next four years" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).

TENSION GROWS: When asked if Goodell's letter last week was sent in good faith, NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said, "No." He later added, "They know the proper way to engage in the discussion" (NFL.com, 3/18). “Let’s not kid ourselves,” Smith said. “Jeff Pash was one of the lawyers who worked in the league in 1993. He knows that class counsel can always engage in discussions with class counsel for the National Football League relating to a settlement. He knows what letter should have been sent.” Meanwhile players expressed anger at public comments and statements from the NFL calling the NFLPA a union and calling for collective bargaining to resume. Some said they saw it as an effort to divide players across the league, or to trick the group into acting like a union to help the NFL prove its argument that the decertification was a sham. "It's all bait and we're smarter than that," said Fujita. "Bait to play that game we're not going to play. We're not stupid. Spelled s-t-o-o-p-i-d." Chiefs LB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Mike Vrabel said, "Any negotiations from this point forward will be with the class and with our representatives. What they don’t need to do is they don’t need to send a letter to every current player urging them to ask their 'union' -- to use Roger Goodell’s language. … Until he refers to us as a class and as an association, it’s going to be tough for us to move forward.” Cowboys LB and player rep Bradie James said he saw the purpose of Goodell’s letter as a way to divide players. Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark said he saw it as a way to create confusion and dissension among the 1,900 players. Clark said the letter listed all the things that the NFL would give to the players under their proposal, but it did not say "it was the worst deal in the history of sports" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

DIVIDE & CONQUER? Asked what he thought the purpose of Goodell's letter was, James said, "To divide us. It's that simple" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 3/19). Colts WR and player rep Anthony Gonzalez said, "To say there are half-truths in that letter is ambitious. They're like quarter-to-less truths. We're trying to fill in the gaps." He added, "Honestly, Roger Goodell has a huge voice. I don't have that platform. We have to be more personal where he can be more public and get the message out." Redskins DE and player rep Vonnie Holliday: "When you just look at the email itself, it's really a joke" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/18). Lions DE and player rep Kyle Vanden Bosch: "I didn’t expect it. I think it was the first email I got from Mr. Goodell. It was shocking and there was just a lot of things in that email that didn’t seem to be accurate with the things we had been talking about in our meetings and the information that we received. It seems likes there’s a lot of misinformation out there and I think it’s just important that the players, especially, understand the facts" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/19).

LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD: NFL.com's Albert Breer cited NFLPA sources as saying that Smith told players on Friday that he "will cut his salary to $0 until the labor dispute" over a new CBA is settled. This move comes after Goodell and Pash cut their salaries to $1 each during the work stoppage. Goodell and Pash earn about $10M and $5.5M per year, respectively, while Smith is said to earn about $1.8M from the NFLPA (NFL.com, 3/18).
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