SBJ/Jan. 24-30, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

New player reps get tour of issues, Congress

Arizona Cardinals running back Jason Wright, the NFL Players Association alternate player representative for his team, went to the union’s offices in Washington, D.C., last week with a lot of questions and some skepticism about what was going on with the NFL labor situation.

Wright described himself as “a skeptical guy” in a telephone interview after spending a day in union meetings with 24 other new player representatives who were elected in NFLPA team meetings last fall. But he said he came away with a lot of answers for his teammates as well as an understanding of “why we are doing what we are doing and why it is pretty legitimate.”

Jason Wright (left) in D.C. with Ben Watson. “The biggest thing for us is we are so willing to deal,” Wright says.
Wright and the other representatives went to Washington to meet with Congress as well as get a daylong orientation on their responsibilities to their teammates and an update on CBA negotiations. The collective-bargaining agreement expires after March 3, after which the owners can lock out the players.

Wright said he has hopes of getting a resolution to the labor dispute before the CBA expires because, “in general, life without hope is pretty terrible.” He added that there is reason to believe a deal can be done if the owners are willing to open their books. 

“The biggest thing for us is we are so willing to deal,” Wright said. “The biggest misconception about us is that we are sticking our feet in the mud.”

But Wright noted that NFL players can’t agree to the league’s proposal to shave 18 percent off the revenue used to calculate the salary cap without financial transparency.

“The big issue for us is we don’t know why they are asking for what they are asking for,” Wright said. “Honestly, there are very few sacred cows. We would be willing to discuss anything and everything if we knew why.”

Among the Cardinals, the two biggest things players are asking about is the status of CBA talks and the elimination of health care if no deal is reached by the deadline, Wright said.

The latter is an issue Wright is feeling on a personal level. His wife is pregnant and due in May.

The NFL has notified players that the league will no longer pay for their health care if there is a lockout. NFL players would then be eligible for federal COBRA benefits, which they would have to pay for themselves. Wright said it’s on players’ minds because it would be the most immediate impact on players if there is a lockout.

Cleveland Browns tight end and alternate player representative Ben Watson agreed.
“I think health care is the biggest issue guys ask about,” Watson said. “There are a lot of players who have wives that are pregnant. You are looking at 50-some guys. Any year you are going to have [about] 18 women giving birth.”

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