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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL's lockout of its referees "could go all the way into the regular season," according to ESPN's John Clayton. Refs have been locked out out since June 3, and there is a feeling they are "going to miss preseason games." ESPN’s Adam Schefter said, "This is a deadline league. You saw last year when the players were locked out that a deal got done when it had to, and I think that you’re looking at a similar situation here with the officials. The bottom line is right now is, though, the two sides are not getting along." Talks between the two sides are planned for this week, but the NFL is already "preparing the replacement officials as if they will be in place for that regular-season opener." The league has "already given out officiating uniforms" and literature to the replacement refs. Clayton noted if replacement refs are used, "it could be extremely dangerous" in terms of player safety (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 7/24). SI's Peter King reports the main "sticking points are money and the retirement program." The NFL is proposing to "gradually raise the average pay for officials from $149,000 in 2011 to $189,000 in '18," though the officials want more. The league also would like to "move from a defined retirement plan to a 401(k); the officials want to keep the current system." Refs were last locked out in '01, and a source said, "What's alarming is there's so much more animosity between the two sides than there was the last time there was a stoppage." King notes major college officials filled in 11 years ago, but that "won't happen this time." It will be difficult for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has "spoken repeatedly about the integrity of the game this off-season, to justify not having the best officials on the field -- particularly when the replacements would be patchwork crews from far down the ranks of the game" (SI, 7/30 issue).

LOCKOUT LIKELY TO AFFECT THE GAME: Former NFL VP/Officiating Mike Pereira, who now serves as Fox Sports' NFL and college football rules analyst, said of the lockout, "If they don’t reach an agreement, I think it will affect the game enormously. We’re constantly hearing from the league about player safety and the integrity of the game, but they both will be compromised. They’re replacing the best in the world with some guys who do high school games? They’re going to see speed like they’ve never seen before. ... We’ll see more mistakes, more injuries, if it goes on any length of time." He added, "There’s more animosity now and it involves pensions. ... The league wants to do what industries in peril do, switch to a 401(k). But I think we all find it difficult to look at it and say the NFL is in peril" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/25). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said it is "not going to be good for the league" to use replacement refs. Paige: "We’re already dependent on too many instant replays. These guys are not going to make the same calls." SB Nation’s Bomani Jones asked, "Do you remember the disaster piece that was replacement officiating in basketball?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/24).

LET THE OFFSEASON END ALREADY: SI's King notes the NFL in the past six months "has had to confront so many vexing problems that you wonder, Is anybody happy out there?" In addition to the ongoing referee lockout, the Saints' bounty issue "isn't going away" and the police blotter "has been filled with NFL names," as 29 players have been arrested since Super Bowl XLVI. Also, nearly 3,000 former players and family members are "suing the NFL, claiming it knew about the dangers of head trauma and concussions and failed to disclose the risks," and former NFLer Junior Seau's suicide in May "raised further questions about the well-being of retired players." NFL Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "I'm a little surprised and a little disappointed at the number of issues we're facing." King notes none of the issues are "going to break the league," but the "bigger the game gets, the bigger the potential pitfalls it faces" (SI, 7/30 issue).

Today, THE DAILY looks back at the media coverage, spin and treatment of the NFL and NFLPA when they ended their 132-day labor dispute on July 25, 2011 by agreeing to a new 10-year CBA. Below is a collection of notable coverage from one year ago:

ENJOYED THE RIDE? Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel wrote the labor dispute was "a low stress, even enjoyable at times, soap opera for fans," proving that the NFL "even does labor disputes better than other leagues." The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan wrote it was "the perfect pro sports lockout, beginning when last season ended and ending with the loss of just one extraneous game, the Hall of Fame affair.” The Detroit Free-Press' Mitch Albom wrote, "Now that's my kind of labor stoppage. Honestly. It was darn near perfect. ... It pretty much looks like any other year. What labor stoppage?" Meanwhile, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill Jr. wrote, "Tell me what was accomplished in the past month that couldn't have occurred in March.”

Foxworth was among three key players that attended every meeting on behalf of NFLPA
WINNERS & LOSERS: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Andrew Carter wrote, "Both sides should be happy with the new deal." The players "will be receiving long-term health benefits ... and the 18-game schedule idea has been scrapped." On the other side, the owners "should be happy with their split of revenue."'s Lester Munson wrote the "losers" in the CBA were "rookies and their agents." Rookie bonuses and contracts "will be significantly reduced with a four-year salary program and a team option on a fifth year." Meanwhile, the winners were the "retired players." A $1B legacy fund in the agreement was "new, although both the league and the players have been moving toward benefits for retired players over the past couple of years." The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch wrote the owners won on the deal as a whole, rookie salaries and judicial oversight. The players won on the salary cap and player safety, and it was a "split decision" on total revenue. The AP's Howard Fendrich noted one of the "final issues -- if not THE final issue -- was the players' wish to add an opt-out clause," but they ultimately "were willing to drop that demand." A source said that the opt-out clause was the "only issue he worried might be able to stand in the way of a deal being closed." 

CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE: NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said, "I'm not sure any two people have ever come together in a more compressed, public, interesting time than [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] and I, but I'm proud to say that our relationship has grown." Chargers President & CEO Dean Spanos said NFLPA Exec Committee President Domonique Foxworth, and Exec Committee members Jeff Saturday and Kevin Mawae "were the three key players that were there at all the meetings." Spanos: "To their credit, they represented the players as well as anybody possibly could. They listened to everything we were saying and wanted to understand what we were saying. ... They were very professional in the way they handled themselves and represented the players. And likewise for the five owners that were in there, same thing."

Smith looks on as Kraft (c) and Saturday (r) share an embrace
KRAFT WAS KEY: NFL and NFLPA officials involved with the negotiations lauded Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "for his behind-the-scenes help in producing the breakthrough.” Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "We needed him in this process because when he gets up in the room, people listen to him. ... He had a tremendous influence over this whole process. I don’t really think we would have been standing out in front of the union headquarters announcing this deal if he had not been involved." Foxworth said of Kraft, "I’d say that he was the single biggest player on their side. Without him, someone else would have needed to step up and I don’t know that someone would have."

ROGER THAT: The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh wrote Goodell "will be known forever as the commissioner who delivered labor peace after the NFL's longest work stoppage, the leader who consistently acted with professional elegance no matter how inflammatory his counterpart's remarks." Negotiating the new CBA "will enhance Smith's career more than his legacy." 

REACHING OUT: Kraft, Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie and Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson were among team owners who wrote thank you letters to fans. Richardson's letter read in part, "The last 12 months have been very difficult for Panthers fans. ... You are passionate about the game and have stuck with our organization through the highs and lows that come with an NFL franchise. ... I have learned timetables can be tricky, but I can promise we will continue to make a total commitment to building the championship team you deserve."

CBS Sports' McManus said it was business as usual for the net during the labor dispute
NET GAINS: After the deal, CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that the network would hit the ground running. McManus: “We didn't do anything differently this year than we've done in previous years. The sales force kept selling, the production team kept making production plans. We assumed all along there would be football Week One. That may have been an optimistic appraisal, but it turned out to be an accurate one." Meanwhile, Fox ran a full-page ad in the N.Y. Times and Wall Street Journal that featured Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in uniform and the copy, "We're Back! America's Favorite Network For NFL Is Open For Business." 

BUSINESS BOOM: After the deal, StubHub said that tickets for '11 NFL regular season games were doubling typical sales patterns, both in terms of unit sales and gross dollar volume, as a result of the end of the lockout.