SBD/March 11, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Two Sides Make No Progress As CBA Clock Winds Down



While there were "small-group talks between NFL and union representatives on the 15th day of mediation" Thursday in DC, "no one gave any indication that progress was made," according to With the NFL CBA set to expire at the end of the day Friday, the "loudest words" from Thursday's bargaining "came in the evening, sparked by comments" from NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, the league's chief negotiator. Pash said, "If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done. I don't know if both sides have an equal commitment. ... Obviously, we have the commitment." A league source said that owners "conducted a 90-minute conference call Thursday afternoon in which Pash debriefed them on what has happened since the owners met last Wednesday in Virginia." The source said that it was a "matter-of-fact conference call with owners in complete agreement about the direction they are headed." The source added the message to Pash and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the end of the call was, "Do what you have to do and we support you" (, 3/11). League and union sources both indicate that there was "moderate interaction between the sides, but those talks were on non-economic issues only." Sources said that "small groups of representatives from both sides participated, but there wasn't interaction between players and owners" (, 3/10).

Brees was involved in Thursday's
mediation session in DC
In Boston, Greg Bedard notes for the "first time since last Wednesday, there was a large contingent of owners present for the talks" on Thursday, but they "did not meet with the players, which continued to frustrate the NFLPA." The entire NFL owners labor committee -- minus the Patriots' Robert Kraft who is in Israel -- attended Thursday's mediation. The players, including Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees, were "likely to confront the ownership group on its lack of attendance in the negotiations (two days out of the 15 days of mediation)." While the owners "met among themselves" and with federal mediator George Cohen in the afternoon, NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and his contingent were "holed up a few blocks away." Union officials said that they were "supposed to be called back" after 4:00pm ET, but left at 6:30 "when no word came" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11). NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "It's up to George Cohen as to when the sides meet. He goes back and forth between the groups. When he thinks there's a reason to bring the sides together, he does so. We have to follow Mr. Cohen's lead" (, 3/11). Pash insisted the two sides met on several issues Thursday, with "substantial negotiations ... on important issues" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote, "Thursday’s inactivity may have sent the NFLPA over the edge. Throughout the day, the union (and the players there, in particular) were expecting to have face-to-face interaction with the many owners who showed up from the league’s executive committee" (, 3/10).

TAKING THE DISPUTE TO TWITTER: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes after mediation ended Thursday evening, there was a "remarkable exchange of digs and taunts on Twitter from both sides, revealing how much bile had built up in negotiations that have seemingly gone nowhere after the second extension was granted a week ago." At one point, NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said that if "owners continued to question the players’ commitment to negotiations, the union was prepared to make public all of its unanswered problems." In response, Aiello said, "That won't take long" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11). Later Thursday night, Atallah tweeted, “I would like to request an expense credit from the owners on the last 3 hours of my life.” After Atallah made that remark on Twitter, in addition to a similar one in an e-mail to the AP, Aiello responded, “While George is at it, ask him when is union going to respond to our 150 pages of draft CBA provisions that they received eight days ago. Waiting.” Longtime NFL agent Howard Shatsky responded to Aiello on Twitter by writing, “I have just 3 words for Jeff Pash, Greg Aiello and the NFL owners: JUDGE DAVID DOTY!” Shatsky added, “Ill respond for George, you can take your 150 pages of CBA revisions and shove em! Can you say treble damages, Doty is waiting!” Chiming in, Texans OT and player rep Eric Winston directed a Tweet at Aiello: “Where can the fans buy your jersey next year? You are becoming a star!” Observing the war of words, several NFL observers entered the fray. ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote, "During last labor showdown in 2006, NFL's @ and NFLPA's @ weren't on Twitter. Times, tones, timelines are different." 16W Marketing co-Founder Frank Vuono: "Isn't this special? Biggest sports negotiation ever being fought on something called 'twitter.'" The N.Y. Times' Battista added, "The media blackout seems to be going well" (THE DAILY). ESPN's George Smith said, "There is no question that there is bad blood between the two sides. That was clearly expressed late last night" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote, "Talks seem to have degraded to the level of a second-grade sandbox fight, and things do not look promising at all right now" (, 3/10).

TOO MANY CHEFS IN THE KITCHEN: ESPN's Schefter said several people on both sides who are "familiar with the case ... believe that there frankly are too many people involved." The NFL "has all the owners, lawyers, in addition to Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash," while the union has Smith, "lawyers and all the players involved." Schefter: "All of these minds in one room at various points in putting in their input have made this a very challenging process. ... This has become a large and out-of-control process whereby there are too many voices trying to impact and influence the process, and it is really crippled any progress the two sides made late last week" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/11). Meanwhile, ESPN's Andrew Brandt said the "lack of trust" between the two sides has become the "hallmark of this negotiation." The NFL has "never trusted the union" and thought "the plan all along" by the NFLPA was to decertify, while the NFLPA has "never trusted the NFL." Brandt: "Both sides have had this back-biting, sniping, and even up to the point last night where Jeff Pash, one of the most reasoned guys in the NFL, extremely adept lawyer, inflaming the situation more" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/11).

PLENTY OF TIME ON THE CLOCK: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman noted the "latest supposed deadline for the NFL labor talks is Friday, but the real deadline is not until late summer when the players are supposed to start getting paid and the networks have to start contemplating life without football." So if the NFL "endures a work stoppage here for a while as expected, few expect the league to actually miss any games, there is just too much of a gravy train to knock it off the tracks, and both sides know it" (, 3/10). SportsNet N.Y.'s Chris Carlin said as the summer progresses and the possibility of missing games, and players "not getting paid," becomes more of a reality, players are "going to start to run into a little bit of a revolt." Carlin: "I think those players are going to be itching to get back to work and start getting paid" ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 3/10). Meanwhile, former National Labor Relations Board Chair William Gould on Thursday said, "The bottom line is, there’s too much money involved for there not to be an agreement. But we just don’t know whether tomorrow or -- if they extend it another week, or two more weeks -- will yield anything. But I think it’s unlikely that we’ll lose the entire season. There’s just too much at stake" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/11).
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