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Volume 24 No. 156
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NFL Lockout Watch, Day 5: Roger Goodell Calls For A Return To Mediation

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league and the decertified NFLPA “need to get back” to mediation in order to agree to a new CBA, and that issues are “resolved at the negotiating table” instead of rhetoric coming from both sides. Goodell, appearing on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” last night, said, “I couldn't get off this show fast enough to get to mediation. We didn't push away from the table. We were still at the table when they walked out on mediation. So for us to go back to mediation, you call me, I'll be there. It's a decision the mediator has to make, but we would certainly be there and I expect we will be there." Goodell added everyone did a “very professional job" despite allegations by the former NFLPA that they were "disrespected." He said, “The players and the owners and the negotiators in representing their parties, their interests and listening to one another -- I think that's why we made some progress over the last couple of weeks. The proposal that was made on Friday was, frankly, a culmination of not only the period of time we were in mediation, but discussions that happened outside that process over the last several months. … The owners put together a very thorough, fair proposal that the players should really take serious consideration over." Goodell did say both sides need to “get away from rhetoric.” He said, “I don't think because you disagree with somebody it's appropriate to call anyone a liar. We all made an agreement that we were going to work through the mediation process because we thought it was the fastest and fairest way to get to a collective bargaining agreement” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/15). Goodell noted he was unsure when the two parties would return to negotiations. He said, “Uncertainty is not good for anybody, and that's what we're in. We're in a period of uncertainty. We need to get issues resolved" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/15).

OWNERS VOICE OPTIMISM, DETERMINATION: Giants President & CEO John Mara yesterday said that he is "optimistic that a deal can still be reached between the NFL's owners and players without affecting" the '11 season, but he also has "made preparations in case he's wrong." During an interview on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., Mara said, "We are well prepared for it. It is certainly not going to be easy. And it is certainly not the preferred route. But if we have to go that way, I think most of the clubs are going to be able to deal with it." He also "reiterated his statements from last week, when he said that he thought the players were intent on decertifying their union during negotiations in Washington and were therefore not fully committed to the process." But Mara said that he "does believe that it will get done." Mara: "I still am trying to retain an optimistic view about this, because as I have said repeatedly so far, there is a fair deal out there to be negotiated" (NEWSDAY, 3/16). Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy yesterday said that the owners "want to continue negotiations" for a new CBA "while the sides wait for an April 6 hearing on an antitrust suit filed by a group of players." Murphy said, "The proposal we made was not a full collective bargaining agreement. It was the basis for future discussions." He added that the league is "willing to do whatever is necessary to assure players it won’t bring up continued negotiations in any hearings on the claim that decertification is a sham" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/16).

PLAYERS GETTING FRUSTRATED: Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark is "upset that the owners have accused the NFL Players Association of deliberately walking away from the negotiating table and having a premeditated plan to decertify." Clark sarcastically said, "That's exactly what we wanted to do -- not have a union. C'mon, that's ridiculous. It's kind of hypocritical for owners to say that when you have a plan with the TV networks for when the games aren't even played. If that doesn't show that was your plan all along, I don't know what does." He added, "Decertification was a reactionary measure, something you have to be forced into doing. If that's what we wanted to do, if that was our first choice, why haven't we done it all along? I think that's the owners just trying to form public perception" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/16). Bengals OT and player rep Andrew Whitworth said, "So many people on both sides are pointing fingers right now that I don’t get the point. The fans don’t like any of us at the moment. Eventually both sides are going to have to negotiate again. We all want that and have to work together" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/16).

DOESN'T CHANGE ANYTHING: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports the NFL players' group, decertified as a union or not, "might still be subject to action by the National Labor Relations Board, stemming from a charge by the NFL of unfair labor practices." As the former NFLPA "disclaimed its interest as a collective bargaining agent when labor talks collapsed Friday, effectively becoming a trade association, the NFL amended its previous charge by filing with the NLRB's Region 2 office in New York." Bell notes the "gist of the NFL's charge is that the NFLPA has unfairly used decertification as a negotiating strategy for securing a better labor deal." Players' group leader Kevin Mawae: "We're not a union anymore. So any case before the NLRB is trumped by our decertification. So it doesn't matter." But NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland said, "It doesn't change what (allegedly) happened. The charge is still being investigated." Cleeland said that there was "no definitive timeline for completing an investigation of the charge, originally filed Feb. 14" (USA TODAY, 3/16).

WHO TO BLAME? In Michigan, Tom Kowalski wrote, "It's really tough to blame either side for this mess because of their philosophical stand. ... The players don't trust that the owners are delivering the right numbers and the owners don't trust what the players would do with the information if they got it" (, 3/15). In Miami, Armando Salguero writes, "Dismiss them both. Be disgusted by both. Disagree with both. In a tug-of-war over -- what else? -- money, I say fans should collapse the middle of the rope and make them both pay" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/16). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes, "What right do owners have to padlock stadiums that taxpayers helped pay for?" If the fans "don’t get a fair return on the public funds and favor lavished on owners, here’s what they should do: sue." Attorneys general in "every state that houses an NFL team should draw up suits to force the league to play, or repay what they owe us." Jenkins: "Where is it written that owners are entitled to the lion's share of revenues from structures we help build and support?" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/16).