SBD/March 1, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL, Players' Union Begin Eighth Day Of Federally Mediated Negotiations

The eighth day of federally overseen mediation between the NFL and NFLPA commences today at 1:00pm ET in DC just 59 hours before the expiration of the CBA. The mediation is expected to continue tomorrow morning, before NFL execs depart for nearby Chantilly, Va., for an owners meeting. George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, will again oversee the talks. While the two sides met for over 40 hours over seven consecutive days ending last Thursday, it does not appear to have bridged the gap. Hovering over today's talks are reports the union plans to decertify before the CBA expires, and a possible decision from a federal court on the so-called lockout insurance case. The union is trying to prevent the league from cashing in media fees during a lockout. So far, owners have not participated in the talks, so if one or more attends today’s session that will be sure to garner attention. Barring a breakthrough or an extension of the deadline, the CBA expires at 11:59pm Thursday. It is unclear if the owners meeting that begins at 3:00pm tomorrow will stretch that far into the next day (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

SLIM CHANCE OF SETTLEMENT
: In N.Y., Gary Myers writes the "chances of a settlement in the next three days are extremely remote." If there is "any sign of progress Tuesday, the sides can agree to stop the clock and continue to negotiate," but that "appears to be the best-case scenario" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/1). Also in N.Y., Judy Battista writes "not much movement is expected ... because seven days of mediated sessions produced no significant progress on the critical issues." But "neither side can afford to look as if it is not trying to get a deal done." There is a "chance the owners and the union could agree to push back the deadline for the expiration of the deal to give themselves more time to negotiate." The "real question is what happens if the union decertifies." The threat of decertification is "leverage for players," as owners "will have to decide whether to lock out anyway, which could expose them to antitrust lawsuits and damages." But the fans' hope that the owners "would impose work rules that would allow the games to go on while the issues are resolved in court over years -- as has happened in previous labor disputes -- may be dashed." Sources said that owners "did not want to pay players while players are suing them," which means NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "could take a hard line and tell players that if they decertify, the league will simply shut down -- no games, no paychecks -- unless players withdraw any lawsuits alleging antitrust violations." League officials "have said repeatedly they will not use replacement players" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1).

UNDERNEATH IT ALL: A Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW editorial stated, "Owners' equal sharing of TV revenue underpins on-field competitive balance. It's the real secret of the NFL's business success, attracting huge TV audiences that networks and advertisers pay so much to reach. Large-market teams' far greater ability to generate non-TV revenue, which isn't shared, threatens that balance and success." That is "increasingly tilting the NFL's level playing field against small-market teams," and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and his "large-market buddies would like to tilt it ever more in their favor." The editorial: "The real issue isn't players' slice of the NFL pie. It's whether owners will stick with the recipe that makes that pie so massive" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/28).

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?  On Long Island, John Jeansonne reports experts "seriously doubt there will be a work stoppage lasting into September, and they generally put the odds of an NBA blackout in 2011-12 near 50-50, at the worst." Business is "too good in America's two most successful pro leagues -- for both owners and players." Former Eagles VP Susan Tose Spencer, who worked for the team during the '82 strike, said she is among those who believe NFL owners are "not stupid enough to eliminate the season." Spencer: "I don't think they're going to lose any games. With the games we lost (in '82), everybody lost." Univ. of Chicago economics professor Allen Sanderson: "The NBA has a lot to learn from watching the NFL line up this putt. How much fan backlash is there if things go south? ... I know I'd rather be going second in this situation" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). CNN.com's Chris Isidore reported a Standard & Poor's note issued yesterday indicates that some NFL teams "may be able to survive two years without any games being played." The "continued flow of money from television networks, sponsors and some customers during a possible lockout puts the owners in good position to weather a potential canceled season" (CNNMONEY.com, 2/28). But in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote it is "hard to imagine owners and players being so stupid as to not resolve their differences." Frenette: "Nobody is going to feel sorry for an NFL that chokes on its own greed" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 2/28).
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