NFL Lockout Watch, Day 10: NFLPA Wants More Ownership Participation
NFL players in their letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday cited a "lack of ownership participation in the mediation," according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. The letter read in part, "At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal. The NFL representatives at the mediation did not" (NFL.com, 3/19). While the NFL has accused the NFLPA of failing to bargain in good faith, players gathered at meetings of the now-decertified NFLPA accused the league of the same thing, adding that the NFL did not have decision makers at the federally mediated bargaining sessions, which resulted in the labor stalemate. Browns LB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Scott Fujita said, "I was there for a number of days and I was there to negotiate with people on the other side who could make decisions. And in my time spent there, it was almost like a staring contest with their representation. At no point did I feel they could pull the trigger on anything" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash agreed with a suggestion by Chiefs LB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Mike Vrabel that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "become more involved." Pash: "If Mike will let us know when and where he and his colleagues would like to meet, we will be there. We are ready" (NEWSDAY, 3/20).
WHERE'S ROBERT KRAFT? In Boston, Shalise Manza Young noted Kraft is "one of the 10 owners who serve on the league’s Labor Committee, and while his nine colleagues were in Washington in the days leading up to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, Kraft was on a trade mission to Israel and the United Kingdom with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and other business leaders." Patriots OT and player rep Matt Light on Saturday "expressed disappointment" about Kraft's absence. Light: "No doubt, 100 percent. I’m not going to lie to you. We had people in that room that could get a deal done at any point. Do I know how they’re structured within the league? No, I have no clue. But I can tell you one thing: (league negotiators) didn’t seem to have the ability to do any of that when they had to leave the room" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/20). In Boston, Ian Rapoport reports Kraft also is missing the owners meetings in New Orleans this week for what the team deemed a "private family medical matter." Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "His presence is certain to be missed for sure. He’s somebody, when he gets up to speak, people listen to him." But Mara added, "I don’t know that there are any critical matters being voted on." Kraft's son, Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, will have the team's vote at the meetings (BOSTON HERALD, 3/21).
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Texans LB DeMeco Ryans and OT Eric Winston "would like for Owner Bob McNair to become involved in negotiations." Winston, one of the team's alternate player reps, said, "Mr. McNair's a good businessman who's a voice of reason, and I'd love to see him get involved. He's a moderate voice. When we were negotiating, Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash couldn't make a deal. They'd have to leave the room and check with the owners" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/20). McNair on Friday said, “I think we’re going to get it resolved before too much damage is done. ... I’m disappointed that the players’ representatives walked away from the negotiating sessions. I thought it was a very fair proposal, very generous" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/19).
JERRY CLARIFIES REPORT: Jones on Friday night for the first time discussed a recent SI report that singled him out "as a symbol of the perceived disrespect of the owners by the players." Jones was "accused of trying to intimidate the players and walking out of a mediation session two weeks ago," and on Friday he did not "deny making gestures with his hands because that's how he talks nor walking away." But he said that the sources who told their account to SI for the report "had their timing wrong." Jones said that he "didn't up and walk away until at least 15 minutes after he finished talking," adding that he "never left the room" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 3/20).