Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Giants CEO John Mara has written an essay for giants.com describing for fans why a player victory in this labor dispute would be bad for the game of football – and most importantly, for its fans.
The headline of the story is “Time to get back to football,” which strikes me as an odd title for a story penned by the NFL's side (since, um, the owners are the ones locking out the players, preventing football from, you know, being practiced right now).
Anyway, here are a couple portions of his essay, without commentary by me (the owners have their side of the story, I figure, and they should be allowed to tell it).
There was no reason for the situation to come to this. The NFL's business model needs to be fixed. Of that, there is no doubt. The 2006 collective bargaining agreement was not balanced. Players have readily acknowledged they "got a great deal." Then the economy went south, adding to the problem. A fair adjustment must be negotiated in a new CBA.
I participated in two of three weeks of federal mediation in Washington. We made progress. We closed the gap on economics, offering to commit almost $20 billion to player costs over the next four years with a 14 percent increase from 2011 to 2014. We addressed other important player concerns in our March 11 offer. It was made in an effort to continue negotiations and reach agreement.
Instead, the NFL Players Association walked away from mediation. It put a litigation strategy in play and filed a lawsuit declaring virtually all league rules relating to player employment as being violations of antitrust law. The union said many times it had no plans to dismantle the core elements of the collectively bargained system that has been in place since 1993.
The NFLPA lawyers want to wipe away fundamental elements of the NFL's appeal to fans, including the draft, "the Salary Cap, ‘franchise player' designation, ‘transition player' designation, and/or other player restrictions," according to their lawsuit.
This strategy is no doubt designed to gain economic leverage in negotiations. But it has delayed the process of reaching an agreement and, more importantly, it threatens players, teams, and fans with very negative consequences. Without a CBA, we could be forced, as Mr. Kessler says, to come up with our own system that we think complies with antitrust law, knowing that each and every aspect of it is potentially the subject of years of litigation and uncertainty.
The likely changes would be great for NFLPA lawyers, but not for players, teams, or, most importantly, fans. For example, there could be no league-wide minimum player salaries, with many players making less than they do today, or no minimum team player costs, with many clubs cutting payrolls the way some teams do in other sports. Other bedrock components of the NFL's competitiveness, such as the draft, would be called into question and assailed as antitrust violations. A steroid testing program is a must, so we would have to consider an independent administrator such as WADA. There could be varying player benefit plans from team to team, and limits on the ability to enforce other league-wide rules that benefit players, especially rank-and-file players that do not go to the Pro Bowl.
Even a settlement of the Brady lawsuit, in which the plaintiffs agree to certain rules, could be challenged by other players – now or in the future. The league and individual clubs would likely be hit with a barrage of lawsuits. We could end up with an unregulated system in which a disproportionate amount of money goes to "stars" and where teams in small markets struggle for survival. The very concept of a league with 32 competitive teams would be rendered virtually inoperable.
Mara goes on to write the owners’ standard line about how the only solution is at the negotiating table, and to be fair, Mara used to work for a law firm that represented unions in labor disputes. And he seemingly is one of the more moderate guys representing the NFL right now.
But CBSSports.com’s own Mike Freeman took issue with the essay (I said I wouldn’t make commentary on the letter; I didn’t say I wouldn’t allow my colleagues to do so).
On his Twitter page, through numerous status updates, he wrote the following
“John Mara is a good dude, but his letter to fans is highly disingenuous … One of the highlights of it is how the economy hurt revenue. Problem is, NFL has made record profits. … The NFL has been immune to the economy... This fight is about revenue sharing. Not the economy. Not any of this other stuff owners are claiming. IT's...ABOUT...REVENUE SHARING! … The owners want the players to give back more money to fix the owners' revenue sharing problems... That's it. You can believe the players are greedy. Or whatever you want to believe. The truth, the truth, is revenue sharing. … The owners want the players to fix their revenue sharing problems. The players don't want to do it. So here we are... I don't blame the players for not wanting to fix the owners' problems. … Again, John Mara...honorable man. Good man. Just flat out misrepresenting what this is about.”
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