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Tag:Gene Upshaw
Posted on: July 25, 2011 3:06 pm
Edited on: July 25, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Labor peace won by strength of resolve

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

How about this sight for those who were desperate for football to be over? NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the podium outside the NFLPA headquarters on Monday.

Smith said some nice things about Goodell, and Goodell was about to say some nice things about Smith. And after Smith introduced Goodell to the assembled media, the two shook hands and smiled. It was a beautiful sight.

Four months earlier, Goodell and Smith stood near each other in Washington and gave separate pressers, and we didn’t know when we’d have football again. But all that’s forgiven now (though not necessarily forgotten). We have football -- 10 years of labor peace -- and after a summer of misery, we finally have a payoff.

“Football is back, and that’s great news,” Goodell said. “Having a 10-year agreement is extraordinary. Everybody worked hard, everybody had a passion. This agreement is going to make our game better.”

And if you’ve paid attention at all in the past few months, you know those are sweet words. But it wasn’t an easy process. We got to watch how the sausage is made, and it was not a pleasant experience.

NFL Labor

All along, we heard people talk about how the relationship between former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the late union leader Gene Upshaw made the game strong and, for the most part, kept the labor peace while they were in charge of their respective sides. We wondered about the relationship between Smith and Goodell and whether it was strong enough to hold. We wondered if Smith was in over his head. We wondered how unified the players really were. We wondered if the NFL owners were content to blow up the game just to show the players that they were the bosses.

Goodell and Smith wouldn’t let that happen, though. Their relationship apparently is strong enough to keep the two sides from spinning away from each other into lockout infinity.

“If we don’t have a good relationship, it hurts the game and the business of football,” Smith said. “I’m proud to say our relationship has grown. Even up until the last minute, it required us to come together and get the job done. That will be our relationship going forward.
J. Saturday embraced New England owner Robet Kraft (AP).
Said Goodell: “We have trust that we’re both in there to do the best we can for football. You can’t reach a 10-year deal without that. He’s a great leader for his players. He never lost his passion. We listen to one another, which is important. We have respect for our various consituents. The players, under his leadership, have done an extraordinary job.”

But the one who was embraced the most Monday was the man who’s suffering the terrible loss of his wife, Myra, to cancer. Patriots owner Robert Kraft -- one of the most well-respected owners in the game -- was engulfed by love. Not just from his owner colleagues and his commissioner, but by the other side as well.

“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Smith told him. “We took a day off on Friday to remember a great woman and a great family. I’m thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston and especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football.”

Colts C Jeff Saturday took it a step further. After paying a nice tribute to Myra Kraft, who allowed her husband to help save football even when she was dying, Saturday stepped away from mic and embraced Kraft in a big hug.

Smith and Goodell had shook hands and smiled for the cameras. But Saturday and Kraft showed their love for each other.

It was, simply put, a touching moment on an exciting day for a man who’s lost so much in the past week. And while fans and players can be excited that they’ve got back their game -- and while Smith and Goodell provided their own beautiful moment -- Kraft’s resiliency in finishing the bargain while he was experiencing so much pain provided the true inspiration of the day.

Even during one of the most trying times of his life, he was helping to restore the game you love. And everybody should be thankful for that.

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Posted on: June 13, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Upshaw still causes rift between Alumni, NFLPA

Jerry Kramer blames late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw for many of the problems today (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

As the NFLPA and the NFL Alumni continue to bicker with each other – Alumni president George Martin said he STILL hasn’t sat down with trade association executive director DeMaurice Smith to discuss his group’s concerns – legendary Packers OL Jerry Kramer gave a clue to the possible reason both groups don’t get along.

And he blames late executive director Gene Upshaw for the problem.

“The problem is we are not on the same page,” Kramer, who made five All-Pro teams during his 11-year career, told Packer Chatters. “The alumni and the players need to have one voice and to be part of one organization, so you could focus on your objectives. The problem with that is that Gene Upshaw screwed the older players for so long, and so badly, that the guys can’t get over it. There is still a lot of bad taste in our mouths from the Upshaw days. DeMaurice Smith is looked at with a jaundiced eye and we look at him with a show me attitude. A lot of guys are still sitting on the fence and waiting to see what happens.”

The NFL, on the other hand, has been more helpful, Kramer says.

“The NFL is playing their games too, and muddying the water by helping the alumni,” he said. “The NFL has loaned the alumni association money, for instance. Roger Goodell has really been doing a hell of a job up to this point, but I’m not sure how much further it will go. Goodell has made the 88 fund available, which is a dementia fund. He has also helped with the Mackey fund, in which players that take early retirement would be eligible for disability, which they weren’t before. Goodell has really made some strides for the older players. It really comes down to this new collective bargaining agreement and if they can do something to improve the pension situation. Most older players are getting less than $500 dollars a month for their pension. That includes 180 Hall of Famers, I believe.”

Look, we know Smith is extremely busy, but Martin has claimed that he’s not even responding to requests to sit down and chat. And yes, Smith works for the current players and not for the old-timers. But somebody inside the NFLPA -- a player, an administrator, anybody -- needs to know that one day in the future, today’s players are going to be the old-timers suffering from dementia and hobbled by injuries.

To ignore the NFL Alumni is not only inhumane. It’s short-sighted and stupid.

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Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Will the NFLPA choose not to recertify?

SmithPosted by Josh Katzowitz

You know how we’ve talked over and over again about how the owners think the NFLPA’s decertification is a sham because everybody just kind of assumes that the trade union will recertify after this labor fight ends?

Well, the NFLPA might not recertify after all. In fact, Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Silver is reporting that executive director DeMaurice Smith said he’s come “full circle” – from the ultimate union man to a man who thinks a union-free existence might be the way to go.

“When I went into this, my attitude was that the only way you have power is collectively, and I believed in unions as vehicles for employees asserting their rights,” Smith told Silver. “But looking back on what Gene (Upshaw, former NFLPA executive director) experienced and understanding this particular situation, I’ve now come to appreciate the value of decertification in our particular circumstance. And I don’t see why we’d want to go back to being a union.”

If the players don’t reform – and Upshaw apparently didn’t want to reform in the early 1990s after the association decertified the first time and won unrestricted free agency (he was coerced into doing it by the owners) - that potentially could be a big problem.

As Silver explains, “Absent a union, players would be free to assert their legal rights under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and accepted institutions such as the NFL draft and rules governing free agency would be vulnerable to courtroom challenges. It’s also possible that a non-unionized workforce could gain legal protection from a lockout, as the players did in April in successfully obtaining an injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson.”

According to Smith, NFLPA lawyers in 1993 “met with Gene for five hours and tried to talk (recertifying) through with him, but he wouldn’t budge. So they went back to the owners and told them: ‘Gene won’t do it.’ That’s when they came up with the idea of writing up the affidavit that was included in that CBA [and all future CBAs] saying that if he ever wanted to decertify again they wouldn’t challenge it. That was the only way they could get Gene to agree to recertify.

“So given that history, and where we are now, let me ask you a question: What could they possibly tell me that could get me to agree that recertifying is a good idea?”

It’s a good question with no clear answer. In fact the answer is so unclear that a Georgetown law professor interviewed by Silver described the possibilities of a union-free NFL as “very messy.”

Still, you can bet on this: if the NFLPA doesn’t recertify and it challenges the NFL again in court, this labor strife might be here to stay for years to come. Then you might see a sport changed forever. And not necessarily in a good way.

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Posted on: May 26, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 6:44 pm
 

Brees on Upshaw death: Owners saw blood in water

Posted by Andy Benoit

As executive director of the NFL Players Association, Gene Upshaw developed what many felt was an extremely cozy relationship with the NFL league office and the owners. His unexpected death in 2008 had a significant impact on the labor negotiations.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees thinks the owners used it as an oD. Brees (US Presswire)pportunity to gain leverage on the players.

"Ever since Gene Upshaw passed away -- I'm just going to lay it all out there -- the owners saw blood in the water," Brees told Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter. "They felt like, 'This is our opportunity to take a significant piece of the [financial] pie back at all costs, a piece that we will never have to give back again. This is our chance, while they don't have leadership, while they're scrambling to find a new executive director. This is our time.'

"I can point to about five different things to prove to you that they were ready to lock us out. They opted out of the last year of the [CBA] deal; they hired Bob Batterman [who oversaw a lockout of NHL players]. They tried to take the American Needle case to the Supreme Court to basically give them an antitrust exemption or single-entity status but were defeated 9-0; they established new TV deals to pay them in the event of a lockout, but we were able to put a freeze on that money because they did not negotiate in good faith and broke the law. And they had an internal NFL document that was leaked -- a decision tree -- that said smack dab in the middle of it 'financial needs in a lockout.' That was in 2008, OK? So you're telling me that they had no plans to lock us out and really wanted to get a deal done? I don't think so."

He went on.

"Their philosophy was, We're going to give you a very subpar deal, a slap-in-the-face deal, and hope that you'll accept it because hopefully we've intimidated you enough into thinking that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and you're just going to succumb to the pressure," he said. "Well, guess what. We're a lot more informed and educated than in the past, and we're much better businessmen than you think and we're going to stand up for what is right and what is fair. Fifty-fifty is fair. It's been fair for the last 20 years and I think the game has done pretty well over the last 20 years. I think franchise values have gone up at a pretty good rate over the last 20 years. So you can't sit here and tell me that the system is broken."

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