NFLPA Cancels Agent Meeting At Combine, Offering Sign Of Hope In Labor Talks
The NFLPA yesterday canceled a meeting it had scheduled with a group of player agents at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis due to the ongoing NFL CBA mediation, raising some hope in the industry that the league and union could work out a deal. The NFLPA has routinely held a small group meeting for powerful agents on the Thursday during Combine week in Indianapolis before the larger agent meeting Friday, which most of the about 800 NFLPA-certified agents attend. However, one powerful NFL player agent said of the cancellation, "It doesn't mean anything." The NFL and the NFLPA, at the request of federal mediator George Cohen, have kept a tight lid on the mediation and have committed to seven days. Thursday would mark the seventh day of talks under the auspices of Cohen, the Director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service. "If they are continuing to meet with George Cohen, that is a good sign," said Ian Pulver, former NHLPA associate counsel and current NHL player agent. "George Cohen is a folksy mediator, a very smart guy, who knows (NFL outside counsel) Bob Batterman; he knows (NFL Exec VP & General Counsel) Jeff Pash; he knows (NFLPA General Counsel) Richard Berthelsen. He knows the landscape of labor and management. If George Cohen can't bring the sides together, maybe no one can" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Judy Battista writes the cancellation of the agents meeting "may be the first widespread indication about the direction of talks in the last week and whether there is hope for a new deal to be reached before" the CBA expires March 4 (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23).
OWNERS ABSENT FROM MEETINGS: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman cited a source as saying that "no owner has been present in the room during the five days of negotiations" to date. Freeman: "In a way, it's a smart strategy. It keeps things from getting heated since owners tend to lose their minds in these types of negotiations. ... But it is extremely odd. In my 20 years of covering the sport and more than a few labor issues, when the union and league met in the past to resolve labor differences, owners were always present." A source reiterated that "progress has been made, albeit a small amount" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/22). SI.com's Peter King wrote "one of the most important things in negotiating a deal between contentious parties is the ability to talk frankly, without fear of words being twisted and taken out of context." Jets S and alternate player rep Jim Leonhard: "Everyone was starting to get frustrated with the banter going back and forth. ... It's better to let the negotiating process work its course" (SI.com, 2/22).