SBD/March 29, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 18: Matt Hasselbeck Discusses CBA Talks

Hasselbeck says union tried its hardest to get deal done before decertifying
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, who was slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the past season, was one of about 100 elected NFL team reps who gathered in Marco Island, Fla., starting March 17 for the NFLPA's annual meeting. For the last two decades, the NFLPA had held its annual meeting in Hawaii. The move to the mainland -- intended to cut costs and attract more players -- made this year’s meeting unique in its geography, but notably, it also was the first meeting since the NFLPA decertified as a union and began operating as a trade association. Team player reps, now known as directors of the players board, were briefed at the meeting by members of the association’s Exec Committee who had attended the federal mediation sessions in DC that were intended to bring about a new CBA but ultimately failed to do so. Hasselbeck sat down with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Liz Mullen to talk about what he learned at the meeting and what might happen to the association going forward.

Q: What happened in the CBA talks? What is the bottom line?
Hasselbeck: I don’t know if I had a bottom line, but there are some things that are clear. We tried our very hardest to get a deal done. You can’t get a deal done if there is no one there to get a deal done with. I can’t buy a car if the guy who can sell me the car isn’t at the dealership.

Q: I understand that the players’ position is that you want your class counsel in the Brady v. NFL case to have discussions to settle the lawsuit and that those talks could result, ultimately, in a deal getting done. Is that right?
Hasselbeck: We are totally open to settlement discussions. No doubt. Absolutely. That has been talked about every single day here. ... If they want to have serious settlement discussions with people that can agree to a settlement, sure, let’s do it. But to have “pretend” talks is a waste of everybody’s time.

Q: Where were you on the last day of the federally mediated settlement talks? Did you get on the conference call the NFLPA had before it decertified? Did you think there was any chance of an extension or were you resigned that the NFLPA was going to decertify and the NFL was going to lock out?
Hasselbeck: No, no. I fully expected to get a deal. I called into that last conference call. I was at a charity event in California and stopped everything to get on this conference call.

Q: What was the mood on the conference call?
Hasselbeck: There was a little bit of anger and frustration, like, "Why don’t we have a deal?" The players that were there [at the mediation] ... were like, “Guys, they won’t open their books.” All we have asked for is show us financials.

Q: Was that the big issue on the conference call that day?
Hasselbeck: My take away from the call was, “If you need another extension, we need the financials,” and that is what we essentially voted on. We said, “Listen, if they basically blow us off again ... we are wasting our time. They are messing with us. We have been asking for two years. Another 24 hours isn’t going to change anything.”

Q: Why were you hopeful?
Hasselbeck: I was hopeful that we would come to an agreement, either to extend or maybe the owners show up and you get like a John Mara or a Rooney or ... someone who can help get a deal done. And they are like, “Guys, we got a good thing going here. Let’s work it out,” and they work it out.

Q: Some of the players have expressed anger at the letter Commissioner Roger Goodell sent to all players explaining what the league offered to players and urging your “union” to start up negotiations. How do players feel about that?
Hasselbeck: Are the guys angry about that? Oh, I mean, the guys that were in DC thought that letter was the biggest joke. The guys that were there. ... And you know, I know Roger; he’s a good guy. I like Roger; he’s a good person. But you hear his side of the story and you are like … ? (shrugs)

Q: What do you think about the owners changing their proposal on the last day?
Hasselbeck: It’s classic technique. It’s similar if you are a quarterback: You are sitting there under center, and the safeties start disguising coverages. They start trying to mess with you. Maybe a rookie quarterback would be like, “Oh no, the safety’s coming down.” But if you know what’s up, like if you know why they are doing it, you’re like, “Whatever.”

Q: That’s how you view the negotiations and what’s been going on?
Hasselbeck: Well, not the negotiations. See, it doesn’t matter. It matters where that safety is at the snap of the ball. Where are you really going to be? What is the truth? I am not upset about it. We will come to an agreement. We will come to a settlement agreement or we will come to an agreement and we will be back in this together.
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