SBD/April 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 34: Sides Meeting For First Mediation Since March 11

NFL and NFLPA reps resume mediation today in Minneapolis for the "first time since negotiations broke down March 11" in DC, according to Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith are "expected to be among the participants" at today's mediation, ordered by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson. It will be the "first contact" between Goodell and Smith "since talks collapsed last month." By waiting "at least several days to decide" about the players' motion for a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout, Nelson "seemed anxious to bring the sides together in mediation, although it's still no guarantee that the labor problems will be resolved" (NEWSDAY, 4/14). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes despite "all the headliners involved in the new round of mediation," sources on both sides yesterday said that they "continue to doubt the talks would produce a settlement to the antitrust lawsuit." Today's mediation "also will feature a group of retired players" led by Carl Eller that also has filed suit against the league (N.Y. POST, 4/14). NFL Network's Albert Breer reported that four owners will attend today's mediation: the Panthers' Jerry Richardson, Patriots' Robert Kraft, Chiefs' Clark Hunt and Steelers' Art Rooney II. Falcons President Rich McKay also is in attendance (TWITTER.com, 4/14). Giants President & CEO John Mara, one of the most active owners during the first round of mediation, confirmed yesterday that he still is serving jury duty "and will not be attending" today's session (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the hope is that this round of mediation "has some teeth that the last round of mediation in Washington, DC, that lasted three weeks did not have." Schefter: "Both sides are hopeful that something more will come out of it. The NFL repeatedly has said they wanted to get back to talking. Well, they now have their chance. ... Both sides have to want to do a deal, and that was not like the case the last time because most people feel like the NFL was determined to lockout the players and most people feel like the NFLPA was determined to go through litigation rather than negotiation" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 4/13). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote NFL owners are "in a much more precarious situation than ever before as the clock ticks toward Nelson having to render a decision." It is "strongly believed that the NFL is going to face having an injunction placed against its lockout." Then the league "will have to hope it can get help from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, first with a stay of the injunction and then with a reversal of Nelson’s decision." Another federal judge said, "Based on my understanding of the case, it would be prudent of the league to move forward aggressively in mediation." Cole noted "any attempt by the league to prolong the process and gain leverage over the players by simply not negotiating in good faith will be viewed dimly at all levels of the judicial system" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/13).

IN THE LINE OF FIRE: SI's Andrew Lawrence notes NFL Draft prospect LB Von Miller, a plaintiff in the Brady v. NFL antitrust case, is "standing for all prospective 2011 draft picks who, the lawsuit asserts, will be harmed by the lockout and by restrictions on rookie wages." Miller's MVP performance in January's Senior Bowl "got him on the NFLPA's radar." He said that he met with Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson at Super Bowl XLV, and Tomlinson "persuaded him to sign on to the suit when it was filed in March." Lawrence notes Miller "joining the legal action is less about taking a stand on principle than receiving a seal of approval from his future colleagues." Miller: "The PA could've picked any rookie coming out this year. It's a blessing that fell into my lap." Still, he "prefers to keep quiet about the suit and his role in it." He will not "articulate his position in the labor debate beyond stating his desire to play NFL football in 2011" (SI, 4/18 issue).

NFL wants to cut $300M from first-round
picks and divert to veterans' salaries, benefits
TIME TO EARN YOUR KEEP?
The AP's Barry Wilner reported the NFL "wants to cut almost 60% of guaranteed pay for first-round draft picks, lock them in for five years and divert the savings to veterans' salaries and benefits." NFL teams awarded more than $525M in guaranteed money to first-round picks in '10, and documents reveal that the league "wants to decrease that figure" by $300M. The NFL's offer "would free a total of more than $1.2 billion over four years through 2015 -- $37.5 million per team overall -- and slow the growth rate of guaranteed payments to first-rounders." During talks for a new CBA, the league also "proposed eliminating holdouts by reducing the maximum allowable salary if a rookie isn't signed when training camp begins." The NFL also suggested "eliminating holdouts for all veterans by prohibiting renegotiations of contracts if a player holds out in the preseason." The proposed compensation system "would not include a rookie wage scale and would allow for individual contract negotiations." The league said that contracts "would have a fixed length of four years for players chosen in the second through seventh rounds and would not affect salaries for those rounds" (AP, 4/13). In Chicago, Sean Jensen writes rookie compensation is one issue in CBA talks that "shouldn't take much discussion." The "system is broke, and the owners and players need to fix it." Jensen: "The NBA has an assortment of problems, but its rookie wage scale makes sense: Outstanding college players selected high are compensated handsomely, but they won’t cash monster paychecks until they prove themselves as professionals" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/14).

YOU'VE GOT QUESTIONS ... In Boston, Ian Rapoport notes Patriots OT Matt Light and SI's Peter King on April 26 will host a lockout-themed breakfast for charity at Boston's Liberty Hotel. The "Matt Light and Peter King Lockout Breakfast: Inside the CBA, Free Agency, and the 2011 NFL Draft" will include a few other NFL players and host 100 guests. The group will "discuss the lockout, free agency, the draft and anything else that comes to mind" during the two-hour breakfast. Admission is $250, and proceeds will go to the Matt Light Foundation. Light said, "I turned to people who’ve been doing this a long time, like Peter, who is a great resource and gracious enough to lend his time to help raise money for the foundation. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Raise some money and answer questions" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/14).
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