SBD/March 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Smith Enjoying More Latitude Than Goodell In CBA Negotiations

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Smith helped ready class-action lawsuit featuring prominent players as plaintiffs
The players are "fully behind" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith in CBA negotiations, but it is "apparent that the owners aren't behind commissioner Roger Goodell to the same extent," according to Jason Cole of YAHOO SPORTS. The "best the sides can hope when they reconvene Friday is another extension" to the CBA deadline beyond the 24-hour extension into Friday, but Goodell "didn't have the authority from his constituency to request" a further extension Thursday. An NFLPA source said, "Every time we deal with Roger, he doesn't have the power to say yes or no to anything. He always has to go back and check with his people if something is OK. We're negotiating, but we're not negotiating with somebody who can make the call. It's frustrating." However, Cole reported it is "becoming apparent that Smith is a guy who can make the call," as the union Thursday was "ready to drop a series of hammers." The "most important" of these is a "class-action lawsuit that features the names" of Colts QB Peyton Manning, Saints QB Drew Brees and Patriots QB Tom Brady. The lawsuit is "ready to go as soon as the clock strikes midnight on the CBA," and the fact that Manning, Brees and Brady are "among nine players who will be named plaintiffs in the case can't be understated." Cole wrote Smith in less than two years has "created a powerful following among the players." Cole: "Twenty years ago, the idea of getting the three biggest quarterbacks in the league to back the union was unheard of. Players of that stature didn't want to take the risks associated with taking on the NFL" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/3).

READY TO FILE: The NFLPA plans on filing the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL endorsed by Manning, Brees and Brady if there is no agreement to extend the deadline for the CBA, sources said. If there is no extension, the NFLPA plans to decertify or disband the union. The union can do this by sending a letter to the NFL. After the decertification letter is sent, the NFLPA can file an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. If the NFLPA agrees to extend the CBA deadline, it would only do so if its rights to file an antitrust lawsuit were also extended, sources have previously told SportsBusiness Journal. It is not clear exactly what claims the union would make in the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs are expected to include Manning, Brees and Brady, as well as a lot of other NFL players that "people would not expect," one source said. Attempts to reach Tom Condon, who represents Manning and Brees, Brady’s agent Don Yee and NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah were unsuccessful (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
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