SBD/July 26, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL Goes Back To Work: New CBA Widely Proclaimed A Draw

Hardwick says deal is "very fair;" hails length of agreement
Though "no one likes a tie," as a "means to ending the longest work stoppage in NFL history without missing a game, it apparently was the best possible outcome," according to Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said yesterday, "We didn't get everything that either side wanted ... but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced." CBS NFL analyst Charley Casserly: "Both sides got things that were important to them, and no games were missed. I'm not gonna say there was a winner or loser" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/26). In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes, "Let's call it a draw." After "getting fleeced by the union in the last labor negotiation in 2006, the owners came into this one looking for payback." They "did get some concessions in the new deal, most notably a reduction in the players' share of league revenue from 50 percent to around 48 percent." But "neither the revenue concession nor the rookie salary concession was nearly as significant as the owners had wanted," and Smith and the players "scored significant victories in health and safety issues" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/26). Chargers C and player rep Nick Hardwick said, "The important thing is the deal is very fair, and we won't have to go through this again for a long time. This was all part of the process. I'll shake (Chargers president Dean Spanos') hand and congratulate him, because for both of us the deal was fair" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/26). Free agent LB Ben Leber, one of the 10 plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust case, said, "Both parties were trying to stand their ground -- and rightfully so. In the end, against all the negativity that was out there publicly, they took their time and hammered out what I think is going to turn out to be one of the best deals in the history of sports" (ESPN.com, 7/25).

EVERYONE'S A WINNER: In Ft. Lauderdale, Andrew Carter writes "both sides should be happy with the new deal." The players "will be receiving long-term health benefits ... and the 18-game schedule idea has been scrapped." On the other side, the owners "should be happy with their split of revenue" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/26). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the players "won this time because they didn't lose the thing that is most valuable to all of them." Lupica: "It means they didn't lose a Sunday." The owners "win, too, because they always do." They are "like the house in Vegas, and always win." Meanwhile, the fans also "won" yesterday, because "even after four months of what must have looked like pillow-fighting to the average fan, the fans got what they wanted all along: They got the season opening on time on the night of Sept. 8" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/26). In Boston, Charles Pierce writes, "We might as well accept the fact that management 'won' this thing at the start by kicking the previous CBA to the curb and locking the players out." But the players "managed to fend off the idiocy of the 18-game season and won a change in free agency, which isn't bad considering they were playing the whole hand with a low pair" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/26). In California, Mark Whicker writes, "The life of an NFL player is better today than yesterday. If it took a lockout to create that, it was worth it" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 7/26).

GETTING SPECIFIC: ESPN.com's Lester Munson writes the "losers" in the new CBA are "rookies and their agents." Rookie bonuses and contracts "will be significantly reduced with a four-year salary program and a team option on a fifth year." Meanwhile, the "winners are retired players." A $1B legacy fund in the agreement is "new, although both the league and the players have been moving toward benefits for retired players over the past couple of years." Munson: "And all players are winners in the new program that will provide lifetime health insurance when their playing days end" (ESPN.com, 7/26). In Newark, Zach Berman writes the league won on revenue, the players won on player safety and the "enhanced season," and the two sides were even on the salary cap and rookie wages (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/26). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch writes the owners won on the deal as a whole, rookie salaries and judicial oversight. The players won on the salary cap and player safety, and it was a "split decision" on total revenue (N.Y. POST, 7/26). In Cleveland, Tony Grossi writes the owners were winners because they "keep the salary cap -- the envy of all professional sports leagues -- along with franchise and transition tags to limit free agency to two players." The players were losers because they "somehow agreed to a cap number in 2011 of $120.3 million, which is down about $8 million from the 2009 figure." However, the "trade-off is a salary floor this year and next" of 99% of the cap (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/26). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes the "most remarkable thing about the new agreement may be how similar it is to the old one." Tulane Univ. Dir of Sports Law Gabe Feldman: "There were never going to be any losers in this fight. They're dividing up $9.5 billion and they're basically splitting it" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/26).

FANS DESERVE SOMETHING: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez writes the NFL "owes its fans some form of compensation" for the lockout. Bengals OT and player rep Andrew Whitworth said, "You've seen some of these things happen (in other sports) and fans walk away like with major league baseball. You saw the hurt (during the 1994 players strike)." Marvez offers some ideas for compensation, including holding "special autograph signings and pep rallies." There also could be "limited-time discounts on soda, food and merchandise," and the '12 NFL Draft could be held "in Canton rather than New York City" after the HOF Game, scheduled for Aug. 7, had to be canceled this year (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/26). Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said, "Free parking first weekend for your team. Free parking, how about it? Reduced rate for sodas, hot dogs, something. Just to say, ‘We get it. We apologize’" (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 7/26). In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd writes if the owners and players "really cared about the fans, they would have never subjected them to this unseemly billionaires-versus-millionaires money grab in the middle of a national recession." The Ravens were among the teams that moved their training camp to team HQs as a result of the lockout, and Cowherd writes the owners and players "let the negotiations drag on so long that they wiped out training camps that were open to the public, an annual summer ritual fans love." Cowherd: "Hey, NFL, you want to really do something for the fans? Let's start with this: cut ticket prices. ... And while we're at it, stop making fans pay full price for those ridiculous preseason games." Some owners reportedly "might give fans a break on tickets and other expenses for this year's preseason games, mainly because they realize how ragged these games will be." Cowherd: "I hope that's true. Now they ought to slash ticket prices for these stupid games permanently" (Baltimore SUN, 7/26). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote under the header, "The Winner Of Lockout? Not Fans." The owners and players "won the lockout ... at the expense of the Average Joes," who are the "ones who mattered most" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/25).

THANKS FOR STICKING AROUND: The NFLPA has released a video thanking the fans for their support throughout the lockout. The video features a total of 13 players, many of whom are player reps to the NFLPA (THE DAILY). SBNATION's Jeremiah Oshan wrote, "It might not be the most original idea, but they certainly deserve credit for being self-aware enough to make the gesture" (SBNATION.com, 7/25).

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