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In the end, NFL, union 'just don't trust one another'
Published March 11, 2011
Perhaps the most-pointed comment came from John Mara. The soft-spoken New York Giants co-owner, who is seen as a moderate, said, “This obviously is a very disappointing day for all of us. I’ve been here for the better part of two weeks now, and essentially during that two-week period the union’s position on the core economic issues has not changed one iota. Their position has quite literally been ‘take it or leave it,’ and in effect they have been at the same position since last September."
In response, DeMaurice Smith, head of the players’ group, told reporters about 30 minutes later that the union could not respond in full without access to fully audited financial statements.
“They said ‘Trust us,’ but when it came time for the verification, they told us it was none of our business,” he said.
Asked why the league’s offer of access to those audits through a third party was not sufficient, Smith walked over to this reporter and gripped his shoulder, and asked why would anyone invest $500 million a year with a business partner without such records. Smith said that despite the lack of information, the union had offered $550 million of concessions over four years.
The union has already filed an injunction in Minnesota federal court to block a potential NFL lockout of the players, something to which the league has not yet committed. If the league does not do so by midnight, free agency would begin, and the league would have to impose work rules.
While it is widely presumed the league will try to lock out the players, there have been scenarios within the league of not responding to decertification with a lockout, perhaps to undercut the union’s claims.
The union also has filed, as expected, an antitrust lawsuit against the league.
The league, meanwhile, also has a charge outstanding at the National Labor Relations Board contending that the union decertification is a sham. Jeff Pash, the league’s chief labor negotiator, said tonight he was unaware of the status of the charge. That charge was filed last month.
Quite clearly there had been some progress made between the sides since their federally mediated talks began last month. The original $1 billion of cost credit the league had requested was down to around half that and possibly less, and the league had offered to guarantee more than one year of player contracts, Pash said. The league also agreed not to implement an 18-game season without union consent, Pash said.
In the end, though, Smith perhaps summed it up best in speaking outside union headquarters to formally announce the decertification: The two sides, he said, just don’t trust one another.
“Jeff Pash lied,” said union outside counsel Jim Quinn. “Jeff Pash lied to the players, he lied to the fans.”
Quinn said the owners wanted to roll back financial compensation for players to 2007 levels.
Whether there will be games in 2011 is now in part in the court’s hands. If the league declares a lockout, a judge could grant the injunction to block it, though the league could appeal. If the lockout is held, then the league has indicated it would not bring the players back until the players have reformed as a union and dropped their legal actions.