SBD/May 20, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 70: League Asks For Delay In Filing Antitrust Reply

The NFL asked a federal court in Minnesota Thursday to allow it to delay filing its reply to the antitrust lawsuit pending against the league until July 6 instead of Monday. However, the league disclosed in papers filed at the court Thursday that the counsel for the 10 players suing the league opposes the move. The league argues because the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will likely rule by early July on whether to overturn the Minnesota court’s decision enjoining the lockout, that decision will affect the reply, and may even cause the league to file a motion to dismiss. The 8th Circuit made clear in granting the stay to the NFL of the lower court’s ruling that it would likely overturn it, and strongly suggested that the dispute was a labor one not subject to antitrust laws. The players, facing the setback in not lifting the lockout, appear set on pursuing the core antitrust case, which seeks to declare the lockout and most free agency restrictions illegal. So the players would not want any delay in that process. The counsel for retired players suing the NFL, whose case was folded into the active players’ one, did not object to the date shift and the response to their suit is now July 6. Presumably the Minnesota court will have to decide Friday whether the league can delay its filing. The players' reply to the league’s contention the lockout should not be lifted by the courts is due today at the 8th Circuit (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

MARA WRITES ESSAY: NFL Giants President & CEO John Mara posted an essay about the state of the lockout Thursday on NFL.com and Giants.com. Mara wrote, "We need to resolve our differences with the players at the bargaining table, start the 2011 season on time, and set a positive course for the future of our great game. There was no reason for the situation to come to this." He noted the NFL's "business model needs to be fixed. Of that, there is no doubt. ... Players have readily acknowledged they 'got a great deal.' Then the economy went south, adding to the problem. A fair adjustment must be negotiated in a new CBA." Mara was part of the federal mediation in DC prior to the lockout beginning and noted the sides "made progress." Mara: "We closed the gap on economics, offering to commit almost $20 billion to player costs over the next four years with a 14 percent increase from 2011 to 2014. We addressed other important player concerns in our March 11 offer. ... Instead, the NFL Players Association walked away from mediation. It put a litigation strategy in play." He added, "The solution lies at the bargaining table. Everyone should realize what is at stake, especially in this economy. Right now, fans are caught in the middle listening to rhetoric and legalese they don't want to hear. That is why, as ownership and players, we must recognize our shared responsibility as stewards of the game to compromise and reach a fair agreement" (GIANTS.com, 5/19). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes a lot of Mara's essay "repeated some of the familiar themes the owners have been putting forth" since the lockout began (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/20). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano noted the league is "smart to put Mara out front on this." Graziano: "He's universally liked and respected. So when he's the one spouting the party line, people might be inclined to think that's not what they're getting" (ESPN.com, 5/19).

Johnson hopes judges' ruling will help
speed up negotiations on new CBA
HOPEFUL RULING LEADS TO SOMETHING
: In Newark, Jenny Vrentas reported Jets Owner Woody Johnson hopes the league's win in the 8th Circuit for the lockout to continue "will grease negotiations" for a new CBA. Johnson said, "Hopefully this will get us back to the negotiating table faster. The sooner we can get back and actually talk to the players. I miss the players. I like talking to them. So let's get a deal done." He added, "We want to get a deal done, but we're not going to get a deal done sitting in court somewhere" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/19). Meanwhile, PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the NFL "finally seems to be pushing a dollars-over-decimals message to the players." NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash Thursday on Sirius XM Radio said, "When you're doing your budget and paying your bills and things like that, you're not looking at a percentage, you're looking at how many dollars you have in your checking account." Florio noted the league is "aggressively pointing" that the players "receive 50 percent, and it's basically profit." Owners also receive 50% and "from it they pay all other costs associated with running a football team." Florio: "As these other costs grow, the amount that represents profit shrinks, in time dramatically" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/19).

JUST COME CLEAN: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in separate conference calls with Steelers and Lions season-ticket holders Thursday, saying on the Steelers call, "We can't continue to have the rising costs of operating the league and shifting it to our fans." In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook asks, "Does Goodell really think the fans are idiots?" Cook: "I have nothing against greed. I don't think anyone does. ... But couldn't Goodell at least be honest about it? Couldn't he have said the owners are tired of the cost of the players' salaries and benefits eating away at their enormous profits?" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/20).

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND? FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock wrote, "I get lockout hysteria. I just don't agree with it." The NFL "isn't too big to fail," and it may in fact "be a good thing if the NFL suffered a comeuppance, a retreat to a more appropriate place in the American fabric." Whitlock: "I can make do without it. And so can everyone else. We survived MLB, NBA and NHL work stoppages" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/19).
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