Posted on: April 7, 2011 1:53 pm
Edited on: April 7, 2011 2:22 pm

Source: Players send NFL letter asking to mediate

Posted by Will Brinson

UPDATE (2:00 PM EST): CBSSports.com has obtained a copy of the players' letter to Judge Nelson and the NFL's counsel requesting mediation.

During yesterday's lockout hearing, Judge Susan Nelson urged both sides on the Brady v. NFL case to proceed with settlement talks -- in the manner of federal-court monitored mediation -- while she took a few weeks to make her ruling.

Predictably, the NFL wasn't particularly gung-ho about the idea of engaging in binding mediation with Judge Nelson presiding (though the players, obviously, were).

Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reported that the players were expected to send a letter to the NFL asking to begin federal mediation.

We've confirmed, via sources close to the situation, that the players are indeed sending such a letter to the NFL on Wednesday afternoon.

It probably won't matter much, as the NFL -- even with the formal request -- is unlikely to acquiesce and enter into such mediation.
NFL Labor

In fact, Mullen's also reported that the NFL will send their own letter to the players in Brady, requesting that the two sides resume mediation under the watch of George Cohen of the Federal Mediation and Counseling Services in Washington, D.C.

Again, no surprise there. What makes the NFL's case here a bit problematic is that the federal judge watching over the antitrust case didn't request that the two sides begin mediation with Cohen.

And though she'd probably be okay with any talk of settlement, it's unlikely to happen. As we detailed yesterday, there's a serious issue of semantics at hand when it comes to the way can even begin to settle.

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Posted on: April 6, 2011 6:08 pm

NFL, NFLPA can't even agree on how to negotiate

Posted by Will Brinson

When the NFL and the NFLPA spent several weeks mediating in Washington, D.C., things didn't go perfectly. That's why they went to court on Wednesday. But NFLPA lead counsel Jim Quinn said on Wednesday afternoon that mediation, between now and Judge Susan Nelson's ruling on Wednesday's hearing, is "certainly something we'll consider."

Of course, the caveat there is that the mediation Quinn's referring to is binding mediation governed by Judge Nelson, not the "voluntary" style of mediation that took place at the Federal Mediation and Counseling Services building under the guidance of George H. Cohen.

"That's certainly something we'll consider," Quinn said. "Because any way to get the players back on the field and playing … makes sense."

When asked if he'd be consider "More likely it will be here in federal court having to do with settlement of litigation, not collective bargaining," Quinn said.

Naturally, the NFL disagrees with this notion.

"Our basic position, as it has been, is that these kind of matters ought to be settled at the collective bargaining table, and not at a federal court," David Boies, attorney for the NFL, said. "We've asked the court to deny the injunction that the players' association has asked for."
NFL Labor

Boies also emphasized the importance of utilizing the FMCS, rather than entering into mediation under the guidance of Judge Nelson.

"We've said from the beginning that we're prepared to resume collective bargaining," Boies said. "The [FMCS] has a lot of experience, they're ready to go -- all it takes is for the players' association, formerly known as a union, as Prince would say, to decide that they are prepared to come back and bargain."

Look, the difference here -- which relates on how to start trying to settle the case -- is pretty stark. And problematic. And if you're a fan, pretty annoying.

But it shouldn't be surprising.

That's because the NFL, for semantical reasons, doesn't want to get involved in "legal settlements" -- by doing so, they risk admitting that the union has, in fact, dissolved. Additionally, that mediation would be under the Judge Nelson's watch and, judging by the court proceedings today, they're not too interested in that.

For the players, they'd clearly prefer to get involved in binding settlement talks handled by Judge Nelson and not move away from the venue in which they hold the most power: court.

All of which is to say, don't hold your breath waiting for one side to cave and saunter into the other side's venue to cheerfully negotiate this matter.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 4:12 pm

NFLPA to pay players with lockout fund on 4/15

Posted by Will Brinson

Times are tight for NFL players -- even though it's perceived that they make piles of money (and many of them do), many players live check-to-check. Which is why the NFLPA established a "lockout fund" with which to begin paying players.

And, according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, the players will begin receiving those payments on April 15. LaCanfora cites an NFLPA source as well as an email that was sent to the players recently.

"We are e-mailing you to inform you that the NFLPA Board of Player Directors approved the payout from the Lockout Fund to begin on April 15, in six installments or until the lockout ends. In order to start receiving your payments, please fill out the attached direct deposit enrollment form and return it to us with a voided check from your checking account or bank letter verifying the account information. We will e-mail you at the address that you provide on the form when payments are sent to your bank account.

"Please note that any other future payments that you may receive from the NFLPA or NFL PLAYERS Inc (for example player marketing deals or royalty payments) will be deposited into this account and you will be notified via email of the deposit."

The maximum total payment made to a player -- over the course of the six installments -- would reportedly be $60,000, utilizing funds that were compiled during the 2009 and 2010 seasons via players' dues and rights' fees.

A player who was on a 53-man roster for the full length of those seasons would reportedly be eligible to receive the maximum sum of $60,000.

The payments to the players really establishes two things about the current state of NFL negotiations.

One, this lockout wasn't unexpected. But we already knew that -- both sides are doing a dance that they've been rehearsing for quite some time.

And two, DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA did a hell of a job planning ahead for this scenario. $60,000 is quite a step down for many players, but it's still money coming in, which is critical because it offsets money going out.

And that means the players will continue to have some leverage in being able to avoid work and, most importantly paychecks.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 1:08 pm

Does retired players case offer legal loophole?

Posted by Will Brinson

As if having every single current NFL player suing the league wasn't awkward enough, a group of retired players have also filed a class-action complaint against the NFL and its 32 clubs, with the express purpose of pushing the Brady v. NFL bandwagon even further down the tracks.

But this lawsuit is actually worse for the NFL than it would seem based on the named plaintiffs -- Carl Eller, Priest Holmes, Obafemi Ayanbadejo and Ryan Collins -- listed on the lawsuit, a copy of which we've seen.

That's because the class involved in this class action is comprised of not just retired players but also "... (b) potential rookie professional football players who, as of March 11, 2011 to the date of final judgment in this action and the determination of any appeal therefrom, have not previously commenced negotiation with any NFL club concerning employment and have not been selected in any NFL College Draft."

Or, in non-fancy parlance: rookies.
NFL Labor

Of course, that may not seem to matter all that much, as you'd think that the rookies are already involved in the Brady v. NFL lawsuit. But not so fast, my friend. According to the attorney representing the players in this matter, Michael Hausfeld, this case could circumvent the NFL's claim that the decertification of the union is a "sham."

"The owners say the union has unlawfully decertified and the union should be ordered to reconstitute and forced to sit at the bargaining table," Hausfeld told Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. "If you look at the last CBA, it represents the rookies that have been drafted and the rookies who have begun negotiating with teams."

It's a loophole, and there's absolutely no guarantee it'll work, but Hausfeld, as Wetzel notes, seems pretty convinced.

"The owners have shut down their potential employees through a concerted boycott," Hausfeld said. "[The suit is] going to avoid the main thrust of the owners’ defense and their argument that the matter should be settled by the [National Labor Relations Board] not in the courts."

The NFL has yet to comment on the "retired players lawsuit," but it stands to reason that they won't immediately decide to fold up camp and just cave to the NFLPA's desire to life the lockout.

Because, after all, the NFL's already pretty vested in their current position. It's way past highly unlikely they'll reverse course at this point.

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Posted on: March 28, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2011 10:33 pm

April 27th the deadline for lockout ruling?

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday, Tom Brady, et al, (i.e. all the players suing the NFL) filed a reply with the Minnesota district court related to their Motion for Preliminary Injunction against the NFL.

A hearing will take place on April 6, but the question everyone wants to know is, "When will the court make a ruling?" (You may not know it, but you want the answer to this -- it could decide the fate of NFL football in 2011.)

Well, it warrants mentioning then that the Plaintiffs (the players) and the Defendants (the NFL and its clubs) have agreed to an extension of time with which the Defendants can answer the Plaintiffs' complaint. (Or, to put it more simply: the NFL gets 30 days to respond to the players' lawsuit; both sides have agreed to add more time to that.)

CBSSports.com has obtained an Order on Stipulation for Extension of Time whereby Jeanne J. Graham, the United States Magistrate Judge for Minnesota, gives the NFL until April 27 to respond to the players' complaint.
NFL Labor

Why does this matter? Well, the NFL will have its legal response ready before then; but it stands to reason that if both sides -- and the court -- have agreed to extend the time period with which the NFL can answer until April 27, that we'll have a ruling on the Injunction by then.

That's because if the Plaintiffs' motion is granted, the lockout will be declared illegal. The NFL will then likely appeal the ruling. (Same for the players, in the event that the lockout is declared legal.)

But, most importantly, the ruling that stems from the hearing on April 6 will dramatically affect the case and it's timeline moving forward -- though there's no guarantee that we know anything by April 27 (which just so happens to be right before the draft), there's a very good chance that we do.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:31 pm

Report: De Smith to cut salary to $0

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash recently announced that they'd be cutting their respective salaries to $1 until a new CBA is reached. Not to be outdone, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has undercut them and will reportedly set his salary at $0.

That's according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who cites sources that indicate Smith's moving to his salary to that of a volunteer.

The news isn't too shocking, of course, because Smith previously stated he'd take a big salary cut if there'd been a deal before the Super Bowl. (At the time, he offered "68 cents.") Additionally, a salary "cut" by either side is wholly symbolic. While they won't make the same money until there are games played, they've still got cash in the bank and they'll still likely have bonus money waiting once the NFL resumes play.

It's also worth noting that Goodell and Pash also previously announced their salary cuts in the event of a work stoppage.

So, yeah, it's a public relations maneuver by both sides, with the point being to show everyone that they care so much about the negotiations that they're willing to make personal sacrifices.

All of which is to say that salary cuts for the people in charge of two clearly embattled sides do nothing to actually advance any discussion about a new deal designed to get football to the folks with salaries who really matter: the fans.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 11:32 pm

Did Jerry Jones' speech to NFLPA spur a lockout?

Posted by Will Brinson

It's pretty obvious, regardless of what the two sides may say, that there's no love lost between the owners and the players in this labor dispute.

Still, a story that Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated relayed from the Wednesday mediation session, paints quite the ugly picture of Jerry Jones' behavior during what was supposed to be a time of sincere negotiating.

To set the scene: mediator George Cohen invited each owner, sitting across the table from the union's executive committee, to speak. Eventually, things came around to Jones.

"I don't think we've got your attention," Jones said to the players, per Trotter, who says several of them recounted the incident. "You clearly don't understand what we're saying, and we're not hearing what you're saying. So I guess we're going to have to show you to get your attention."

Jones then proceeded to "tap his fists together for emphasis," stand up and walk out of the room (Jerry Richardson started to leave with him, but Robert Kraft apparently kept the Panthers owner from bolting).

This went over -- as you might expect -- really, really well.

"I think everybody in the room thought it was overly dramatic, almost hilarious," one player told Trotter. "It was like a Jerry Maguire moment. You know, 'I'm leaving. Who's coming with me?' I know it didn't scare any of us."

And it subsequently led to a standoff-ish 48-hour period where it seemed like there wasn't any reason to be optimistic towards the labor talks (Thursday night was the worst of things, the actual lockout itself notwithstanding).

That non-negotiating attitude from each side, of course, led to a lawsuit and a lockout and the pretty depressing possibility that their might not be football in 2011.

Does the Jones' story shift all the blame to the owners? No. But it's pretty clear that they -- just like the players -- were prepared for this scenario and willing to go through with it if they didn't get what they want out of mediation.

That's especially problematic because it means that there won't be a solution to America's professional football issue until both sides hash out their personal problems.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:22 am

Report: Owners have cash to last through season

Posted by Will Brinson

The ruling where Judge David Doty shut down the NFL owners' ability to use more than $4 billion in television contracts during any work stoppage quickly rid the world of any notion that the billionaires could last two years without football.

I mean, they could, but not without hemorrhaging cash. However, a report Monday in the Wall St. Journal indicates that the gentlemen who run the 32 NFL franchises could in fact last one full season without football.

The WSJ report notes that the league would only need that money "if the labor strife drags on into the 2012 season" because "owners have already set aside enough money to cover them in case the 2011 season is cancelled."

That the NFL has a contingency plan for not being able to use the $4 billion isn't shocking, because Greg Aiello mentioned as much almost immediately following Doty's ruling. Also, the gentlemen in question are billionaire; they didn't gain that status without knowing a) to always have a backup plan and b) how to save money.

And they can almost certainly weather the financial storm of an NFL-less world than most of the players in the league. But that doesn't mean that not making a pile of money during the 2011 season is something that the owners want to see happen.

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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