SBD/March 2, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Entire Labor Negotiating Committee At Latest Mediation Session

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John Mara was the first NFL owner to take part in mediation with union
The 10-owner labor negotiating committee attended this morning’s federally overseen mediation between the NFL and NFLPA, the ninth day of those talks but the first with such a large ownership presence. Giants President & CEO John Mara participated in the talks yesterday, becoming the first owner to do so, but today he was joined by the nine other members of the ownership committee. The CBA expires at the end of the day tomorrow, and the owners at the mediation session will be departing after just a few hours to attend a full ownership meeting in Chantilly, Va., at 3:00pm ET. “The CEC is coming here today to speak directly with the players, to hear directly from the mediator and to report to the rest of the ownership later this afternoon,” said Jeff Pash, the league’s chief labor negotiator, shortly before entering the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service building in DC. The CEC is the name of the owners’ labor committee. Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, the committee’s co-Chair, also spoke to reporters before entering the building, and described himself as optimistic a deal at some point will get done. “So far obviously we haven’t been successful but we are optimistic in due time we will,” he said. Pash said the decision last night by Judge David Doty to stop the league from using $4B in media fees during a lockout would have no affect on the league. “It doesn’t change the dynamic for us at all,” he said. “We have been very clear that the television money was a loan -- it’s not a payment, it’s not anything we were counting on. The decision frankly was not unexpected and so it doesn’t alter our planning one iota.”

LEAGUE OPEN TO FURTHER MEDIATION: Pash also said the league would be open to further federal mediation even after the CBA ended “if these mediators, if they are willing, can continue to be a constructive part of that process.” Pash noted an extension of the CBA deadline is still on the table. The owners will assess later today where things stand and make a decision, but Pash added nothing is off the table. The owners on the Management Council Exec Committee (CEC) are Richardson, Mara, co-Chair Pat Bowlen (Broncos), Mike Brown (Bengals), Clark Hunt (Chiefs), Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Robert Kraft (Patriots), Mark Murphy (Packers), Art Rooney II (Steelers) and Dean Spanos (Chargers) (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). Newsday reporter Bob Glauber said of the committee members attending today's session, “This was a very impressive display. Now was it a show? We’re about to see. ... It could be a positive development" ("ESPN First Take," ESPN2, 3/2). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, “I don’t think anybody is expecting an agreement will happen today or even this week. This only question that remains is whether or not both sides would agree to an extension.” But he added, “It doesn’t seem like an extension is even in the realm of possibility at this point. So it is a bleak set of circumstances” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/2).

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: NEWSDAY's Glauber notes Mara has "been a voice of moderation, similar to the role his late father, Wellington, once played in labor negotiations." But it is "uncertain whether Mara can turn the tide of the talks, because little substantive progress has been made, even with Cohen prodding the sides to come to an agreement on the pivotal issues" (NEWSDAY, 3/2). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes if the NFL was "ever in need of the Mara family once again exerting its influence and steering the league away from dangerous times, this was the time to bring the Giants co-owner to the negotiating table." Seahawks G and player rep Chester Pitts said he was "absolutely" encouraged to see Mara at yesterday's mediation. Myers: "All hell is about to break loose in the NFL if there is not a major breakthrough in the next two days, either leading to a new collective bargaining agreement or enough progress to convince the sides to stop the clock. ... John Mara needs to help pull things together like his old man did, back when the NFL began to assert itself as the most popular and profitable sport in the country" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/2). 

NO NEED TO RUSH: Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara last night said that the NFLPA "shouldn't rush into" a new labor agreement, "because any deal struck in the next two days wouldn't be good." O'Hara: "At this point I almost hope we don’t (agree), because I think it’ll be a bad deal for us. ... At this point any deal that we get done in the next 48 hours would probably be a bad deal for us. Let’s get what’s right for us, too." In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano reported for O'Hara, the "biggest concern is post-retirement health insurance, which he believes won’t be adequately addressed if the union rushes into an agreement" before the CBA expires at the end of tomorrow (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 3/1). Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark said, "There's not going to be a big push by anyone to take less than what they want at this point. There's time to negotiate and get what's fair. Both sides will continue to work toward what they feel is a fair goal for them" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/2).

HOW LATE IS TOO LATE? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes November appears to be the "point of no return -- the moment when the NFL has to cancel the entire 2011 season." CBS NFL analyst Charley Casserly indicated that it is "hard to imagine the league staging anything less than an eight-game season." Futterman notes pushing the playoffs "back a ways won't be a problem," because February is "perhaps the sleepiest month of the year on the national sports calendar, especially when there's no Olympics." He adds, "Assuming the teams would need a three week pre-season to prepare, D-Day for the world's richest sports league appears to fall in mid-November" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/2). Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts said, "The deal will probably get done in late August or early September. That's really when the deadline is." Tulane Univ. Sports Law Program Dir Gabe Feldman said, "There has to be some pressure on both sides to make a deal. The pressure point right now is this March 3 expiration. That doesn't seem to have been effective at getting them to make a deal" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/2). But ESPN's Andrew Brandt said, "Everything is subject to negotiation at this point, everything is on the table. So they can say (the deadline is) not going to be March 4, it’s going to be March 10, March 15, March 20, and continue negotiations. The reason that would happen is if the mediator says to the parties, ‘We’re making a little progress here. Let’s stop the clock. Let’s put everything on hold.’ And that could happen” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 3/1).

CAN YOU FEEL THE DRAFT? In San Diego, Kevin Acee notes a lockout "could be bad news for teams (and their fans) hoping for rookies to make an immediate impact in 2011, maybe even changing their new team’s fortunes with a breakout debut season." One GM who "downplayed the significance when asked about it in an on-the-record group session was candid in an off-the-record conversation at his hotel." His assessment is that a "severely shortened offseason would limit most rookies’ impacts in 2011." Acee: "No minicamp? No offseason coaching sessions? No playbooks in their hands until summer? A shortened training camp? One or all of those scenarios could lead to this being something of a lost rookie class" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/2).
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