NFL Lockout Watch, Day 7: Players Meet In Florida To Discuss Labor Situation
About 100 NFL players "girded for the possibility of a long work stoppage Thursday morning during meetings" in Marco Island, Fla., "trying to build a spirit of unity and carving out a tactical approach for the coming months," according to Amy Shipley of the WASHINGTON POST. Less than a week after the NFLPA "filed an anti-trust lawsuit against NFL owners in federal court and owners locked them out of team facilities, players closely examined the last proposal they received from owners during contract talks to ensure that everyone in Thursday’s closed-door session understood why it was turned down." Many players when talking with the media "steered clear of heavy criticism or personal attacks on the league’s ownership." Shipley notes they "struggled this week to clarify their posture on the April NFL draft." The players said that they "weren't urging collegians to 'boycott' the draft, but rather giving them the option of enjoying the draft with fellow players rather than league owners if they wished" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/18). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell noted while the meetings, which will extend for 10 days, are "well-attended, there are notable absences." Packers QB and player rep Aaron Rodgers and Patriots QB Tom Brady, "among the 10 plaintiffs named in the sweeping class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL," are not in attendance (USATODAY.com, 3/17).
PICK AND CHOOSE: With the NFLPA suggesting that top prospects skip next month's draft in N.Y., USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the NFL Draft "doesn't need the players for their predictable scripted cameos." In the "showdown between owners and players, having players boycott the draft might have the opposite effect of what the union wants." Hiestand: "It would show the show can go on with no problem" (USA TODAY, 3/18). But USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes, "An NFL draft without the players would make for terrible television. ... There's a reason the draft was a big draw in prime time in 2010: the players. They're the stars. Not NFL brass, coaches and general managers. And not TV analysts, as much as some of them want to be" (USA TODAY, 3/18). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the NFLPA is "totally out of line asking college prospects to boycott the draft." Jones: "This whole labor dispute is going to be settled eventually, probably before next season. To deny these kids, who have worked hard their whole lives for a chance to be in the spotlight along with their families at the draft, is selfish and arrogant on the part of the union" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/18). NFLPA President Kevin Mawae: "At the end of the day, every draftee has to decide how they want to handle that day. ... They can decide for themselves what they want to do. Our recommendation is for them to do what they think is in the best interest of themselves, but understand if they do choose to go to the NFL Draft, the man that's going to be shaking their hand is the guy that locked them out" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/17).
QUIT THE RHETORIC: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver wrote the NFL's "latest PR spin (that the union’s decision to decertify 'forced' the lockout) is a flat-out lie that would have made Leonid Brezhnev proud." NFL Network offered "a bad look last Friday when, after talks broke down between the two sides, it provided live coverage" of NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash "making a statement and conducting a lengthy news conference but later cut away from union lawyer Jim Quinn before he fielded a single question from reporters." But Silver added, "If this is the NFL’s version of a Cold War, the propaganda efforts have actually been pretty tame so far" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole writes the NFL and players "need to stop sniping at each other if they really want to get a deal done." This NFL-NFLPA dispute is "becoming one of the most irritating showdowns in the history of sports labor," with both sides "wrapped up in trying to win a PR battle." Cole: "It’s time for both sides to realize they need each other much more than they need a long, protracted fight. It’s time for them to be more upfront and, most important, completely honest" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/18). CNBC's Darren Rovell said, "I think both the players and the owners are doing their best job to try to mislead media members like me, to try to use us as part of the negotiations." Comcast SportsNet's Greg Papa: "We're just a pawn" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/17).