SBD/March 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 3: Spanos, Other Owners React Strongly To Union's Actions



Spanos believes NFLPA's goal all along was to end up in court
In the wake of the NFLPA's decertification and the NFL subsequently locking the players out, several team owners and high-ranking execs spoke out on the developments. Chargers President & CEO Dean Spanos, a member of the league's 10-member labor negotiating committee, "believes the union's plan was always to end up in court." Spanos: "They elected to stop the process, not us. ... The last thing any of us want is to shut our businesses down. It does no one any good." He added, "It was very clear to me in the last 17 days, and now in retrospect going back two years, their ultimate goal was to litigate. There was never an intention to get a deal done." In San Diego, Kevin Acee noted the union in a statement Friday before it filed for decertification said the NFL "refused to provide any legitimate financial information to justify" the concessions it was looking for. Spanos: "I know we gave them what they asked for. ... I believe we've got a disconnected union leadership. The lawyers are running the show" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/13). Spanos in a release said, "I'm most disappointed in the actions of the Union's leadership that is supposed to be representing all of our players. They clearly were not negotiating in good faith right from the beginning. I believe their intention all along was to decertify and bring us to litigation" (Chargers).

ULTIMATE GOAL APPEARED TO BE LITIGATION: Bengals Owner Mike Brown, a member of the owners' negotiating committee, said, "We have a union that, unlike unions elsewhere, seems not to want to collectively bargain; rather it wants to go to court." Brown added, "In our opinion they have the intention of reconstituting at some point and that the decertification is a gambit to gain entry to the federal courts system with a lawsuit and leverage us with that threat" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/13). Steelers President Art Rooney II, who is also a member of the committee, said, "When we got the extension last week, I thought maybe we'd get something done. Unfortunately I think the players chose to throw everything into the lawyers' hands at this point, and unfortunately that's where we're going to be for some time period" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/12). Broncos President Joe Ellis said team Owner and committee member Pat Bowlen "certainly believes they had no real good intention of negotiating and their goal all along was to go down the path of litigation." Ellis: "It's extremely disappointing and it frustrates Pat. It makes him angry" (DENVER POST, 3/13). Chiefs Owner and committee member Clark Hunt: "It seemed to us the union was very eager to get to its litigation strategy" (K.C. STAR, 3/12). Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, who did not take part in the labor negotiations due to prior commitments in Israel, said, "The actions of the union to end the mediation process and walk away from Friday's offer clearly showed their true intentions to take this process to litigation all along" (Patriots). Giants President & CEO John Mara and Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch in a letter to fans wrote, "Where we are today serves no positive purpose for you, for our players and for the National Football League" (Giants).

Rooney says owners surprised that union
did not even consider their last proposal
: Rooney indicated that the owners' negotiating committee "didn't expect what ultimately happened: For the players to not even take the time to study the offer and walk away from the negotiating table." Rooney said, "What we offered them, there's no reason why they wouldn't take it and look at it. They could have said, 'That's not enough, we need more.' That wouldn't have been surprising. But, to not even take it, I'm not sure what purpose that served. ... If you look at the way labor unions conduct themselves, this is a very unusual way to conduct business. It's usually not encouraged by the courts. The idea is to encourage people to get to the table and bargain. That's not what this is." Rooney noted that the owners "offered -- albeit, grudgingly by some -- to take the proposed expansion to an 18-game schedule off the table for 2011 and '12 and institute it in the '13 season only if both sides agreed to the extra games." Rooney: "On our side, that was a fairly major concession. There were people on our side not happy about putting that offer on the table" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/14). Eagles President Joe Banner said that the owners offered "better benefits and a 16-game season for at least two years, giving ground on two significant sticking points." Banner: "You'd think that would be received as a pretty significant step on our part. When the league has been talking about the skepticism that the union was sincerely there to try to make a deal, this is why" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/12).
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