Posted on: March 11, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 5:31 pm

The unspoken common sense of lockout drama

Posted by Andy Benoit

Something to keep in mind amidst all the teD. Smith (US Presswire)nse labor negotiations between “millionaires” and “billionaires” is that these millionaires didn’t become millionaires by being flexible and willing to settle for less, and these billionaires for darn sure didn’t become billionaires by doing that.

Throughout their entire lives, these players and owners have grown accustom to not just winning, but winning with authority. We’re talking about alpha male athletes vs. alpha male businessmen, with a few alpha male lawyers sprinkled in.

Yet people remain surprised that these two sides continue to bicker. How is it these rich guys can even risk letting their greed kill the golden goose? Because it’s their innate “greed” that created the golden goose in the first place. What most people see as greed, the individuals see as justice.

The biggest myth from all the CBA talk is that fans aren’t interested in this fight between millionaires and billionaires. Hogwash. Fans ARE interested. Fans might prefer to have games played, but at this point in March, the drama of labor strife has made for great entertainment.

NFL Labor

During combine week in Indy, Peter King and a handful of other NFL writers hosted what amounted to a town hall meeting where fans could ask any football question to the room. For the first 50 minutes, every question was about labor issues. Every question. It helped the NFLPA spokesman George Atallah and NFLPA executive committee members Chester Pitts and Fabian Washington were in the room. But even after they left, the interest in the subject remained palpable. Several times the conversation was jerked to football, only to naturally drift back to labor.

The NFL is as much a reality TV show as it is a professional sports league. Labor unrest is scary to think about from a long-term perspective, but the deadlines, rhetoric and doomsday threats make it compelling entertainment in the short-term.

If you don’t believe it, you weren’t following the events live as Friday’s 5 p.m. EST approached.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:07 pm

NFLPA files decertification paperwork

Posted by Will Brinson

At 4:45 p.m., DeMaurice Smith announced to reporters the NFLPA had rejected the owners' most recent offer on a new CBA and the union was demanding 10 years of audited team financial statements by 5 p.m. Friday in order to agree to an extension of the CBA.

The league apparently didn't blink, and Smith and the union followed through with their plan to apply for decertification, having faxed the paperwork to Judge David Doty's office in Minnesota.

"The NFL Players Association it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the interest of protecting the current and former professional football players."

The union also faxed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell , informing him of the decision. In addition, NFLPlayers.com and NFLPA.org were shut down, their home pages set to "404 Error" messages that featured a new URL -- www.nfllockout.com.

This is relatively interesting, as the NFL hasn't actually decided to lock out the players yet, though they purportedly need to make a decision before midnight to either impose the last set of rules or lock the players out, the former which might result in free agency beginning right away .

Either way, mediation, for now, has ended.

"The parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues," mediator George Cohen said. "No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."

This means the NFLPA is no longer a union, but rather a trade association made up of many individuals. And it also means there's a strong likelihood the players will file an antitrust suit against the league. In fact, reports are beginning to leak out that the players have already filed suit against the NFL, and included some pretty big names as plaintiffs.

The NFL carried some pretty hefty public relation's spin in a lengthy statement of its own .

NFL Labor

No one is happy where we are now," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said. "I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate all along."

A league statement added: "The union left a very good deal on the table."

It said the offer included splitting the difference in the dispute over how much money owners should be given off the top of the league's revenues. Under the expiring CBA, the owners immediately got about $1 billion before dividing the remainder with the players; the owners originally were asking to roughly double that by getting an additional $1 billion up front.

Also in the NFL's offer, according to the league:
  • Maintaining the 16 regular-season games and four preseason games for at least two years, with any changes negotiable. 
  • Instituting a rookie wage scale through which money saved would be paid to veterans and retired players.
  • Creating new year-round health and safety rules.  
  • Establishing a fund for retired players, with $82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years.  
  • Financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
As you can see, the NFL didn't pull any punches when it came to laying its full proposal (or purported proposal, at least) on the table for the media and the fans. Purported is important, too, because shortly after Pash addressed the media and said many of the same thing, a players' lawyer called him a "liar." 

Pash also said, surprisingly, that there has been no decision made on whether the league will lock the players out yet or not.

That's interesting from the perspective that no lockout would dramatically change the landscape of what we expect to see come down the pipe, but it also seems unlikely that the owners wouldn't take that stance.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 4:50 pm

NFLPA wants 10 years of financials for extension

Posted by Will Brinson

At 4:45 PM EST Friday, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith addressed the media and informed them of what the union was requiring from the owners in order to agree to an extension of the CBA: 10 years of audited financial documents.

"We met with the owners until about 4:00 today. We discussed a proposal that they had presented," Smith said. "At this time, significant differences continue to remain. We informed the owners that significant differences remain.

If there was going to be a request for an extension, we asked for 10 years of audited financial documents to accompany any extension and we told them to please let us know by 5:00 PM today."

With that, Smith might as well have slammed the mic and walked off, because the gauntlet was firmly thrown down and the ball placed in the owners' court.

But once again, it all comes down to whether the owners are willing to provide financial documents now or risk the possibility that such documents would be produced in legal discovery anyway. And they have about 10 minutes to make that call before the NFL as we know it disappears for a while.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 4:36 pm

Did union flip-flop on decertification Friday?

Posted by Will Brinson

In fairly surprising news, the NFL-owned NFL Network reported at 4:02 PM EST Friday that the NFLPA had decertified at the "four-o-clock hour" ... and then a few seconds later, reported that the union had NOT decertified.

Kara Henderson -- who nailed the report of the extension last week -- was in the midst of reporting the decertification and discussing the ramifications with Jason LaCanfora when she looked down at her phone, looked back to the camera with an almost terrified look, and backed out of the report.

It was a very bizarre moment, and particularly odd to see on the NFL Network, considering that such a report seems to favor the players (and not, you know, the league) in terms of leverage.

Of course, it also all but guarantees a reasonably large ratings spike for the NFL Network for the hours leading up to the end of business, so perhaps, if you want to indulge in a conspiracy theory, it's not such a bad thing after all.

For now, though, it appears the owners and players are continuing to meet, and the chance that a new deal or extension could be reached is still in play. And that's at least some kind of good news.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 3:23 pm

Report: Smith tells players plan is to decertify

Posted by Will Brinson

An update was expected from NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith at 2:00 PM EST Friday, but as it turns out, that update was only for the players.

And, on a conference call Friday afternoon, Smith has reportedly informed players that "the plan is to decertify," according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

As we mentioned earlier, the NFL reportedly presented a "revised" deal to the union on Friday.

And, most likely, that deal would either cause the players to decertify today (if it didn't provide enough concessions) or hammer out an extension (if it did).

Ergo, it seems likely that the NFL's proposal didn't meet what the union was looking for in terms of concessions on the "core issues."

Well, either that or the players do truly believe that decertification, and the resulting antitrust case that will result -- gives them the greatest opportunity to land the best deal out of the labor negotiations.
NFL Labor

They may be right. Or they may be crazy. And there might even still be time left before it actually matters -- as more and more reports of the decertification plan leak out, there's also a very guarded sense of optimism that things could still change between now (3:00-ish EST) and the deadline for decertification.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 11:49 am

Labor 'resolution' coming in an 'hour or two'?

Posted by Will Brinson

It's the final day of mediation on the current CBA deadline and things don't look good for the immediate future of the NFL.

There was reasonable cause for optimism up to Thursday afternoon that a deal could get done, but then yesterday evening, things took a turn for the worst and various peers from the two sides began sniping at each other in the media.

Now it appears as if there could be a resolution by lunchtime, provided the words from Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner, can be taken at face value.

"Hopefully we'll have something for you in an hour or two," Jones said Friday morning while entering the Federal Mediation and Counseling Services building.

Resolution, there, doesn't necessarily mean anything good. Just that mediation might be over without an extension and without a new collective bargaining agreement, which means we're headed for the nuclear option.

That is to say, the players are going to demand some additional financial transparency from the owners in order to agree to an additional mediation, the owners will refuse, and the players will go about decertifying and filing an antitrust lawsuit.

Proof of this likelihood came via some strong tweet-language from Drew Brees, Saints quarterback and one of the big players in the negotiations.

"To our fans - I give you my word that we as players are doing everything we can to negotiate with the NFL towards a fair deal," Brees tweeted. "The NFL brought this fight to us - they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request.

"They refuse to give that information to us. They think we should just trust them. Would you? We have a responsibility to our players - past, present, and future, to advance this league forward, not take 3 steps back."

Whether or not Brees' words are a precursor to a legal nightmare we won't know for a few hours. But regardless, it's the worst possible solution for everyone involved. However, if the owners are indeed unwilling to share their financial documents, there's nothing to do but brace and see how this legal nightmare pans out.

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 6:44 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 8:10 pm

NFL, NFLPA no face-to-face meetings Thursday

Posted by Andy Benoit

UPDATE 7:20 p.m. EST: ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the union is poised to decertify on Friday. He quotes one person saying "Get ready for this to blowup (Friday)."


We’ll paint the scene for Thursday night in the ongoing labor negotiations.  it’s around dinnertime in Washington DC and the NFLPA has just left the building.
D. Smith (US Presswire)
There have been no face-to-face talks between NFL players and owners over the past 24 hours. The owners have been on a conference call throughout the early part of the evening. (All 10 members of the NFL labor committee sans Robert Kraft, who is in Israel, are said to be in on the call.)

At around 6:30, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah tells reporters, "We're not going to sit and wait in the building for them to figure out what they want to do."

Bob Glauber of the New York Post reports shortly after that, that NFLPA officials expected to hear back from the NFL by 5 p.m., but so far there has been no word. So, union leader DeMaurice Smith sent his reps home. But those reps will return for negotiations if asked.

However, minutes later, Atallah tweets that the NFLPA has learned that the owners broke for dinner, and that there will be no negotiating tonight.

Finally, to cap it all off, NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash suggests to reporters that the NFLPA is not fully committed to working out a new CBA. He does, however, indicate that another extension could be possible.

NFL Labor

What does it all mean? Impossible to say without being in the room. But on the surface, it appears little progress was made Thursday. (But that's only on the surface.) 

P.S. after the building cleared out, multiple news outlets reported that Smiths’ 2 p.m. update to players on Friday will not contain any earth-shattering news, but rather, just a standard update. Given that the CBA extension expires at 5 p.m. EST Friday, no earth-shattering news by 2 p.m. might in and of itself be earth-shattering news.

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 5:24 pm

De Smith to update players by 2 PM Friday

Posted by Andy Benoit

The drop-dead time for the NFL and NFLPA ongoing labor negotiations is 5:00 p.m. EST Friday, March 11. But it sounds like we’ll have some news sometime around 2:00 p.m.

DeMaurice Smith tweeted early Thursday evening, “Players stay strong! Stay informed, update by 2pm tomorrow.”
NFL Labor

We're waiting with bated breath. (Seriously.)

2 PM, three hours before the CBA extension expires, would not be such an odd time if Smith were only updating the players. But by tweeting this news, Smith knows he’s not talking to just the players. Is an early update a sign that minimal progress is being made? Is it a sign of significant progress?

This is why we’re waiting with bated breath.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com