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The NFL has released an official statement on the lockout and the current status of the labor dispute with the NFLPA. If the NFLPA releases a statement, we’ll also post it in this StoryStream™.
The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union notified our office at 4pm ET on Friday that it had “decertified” and walked away from mediation and collective bargaining to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.
The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).
The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.
At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.
The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.
Since June of 2009, 21 months ago, the NFL clubs have made numerous comprehensive, detailed proposals and counter-proposals; negotiated in dozens of formal sessions and smaller group meetings; and engaged in a series of intensive negotiating sessions over the past three weeks under the auspices of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. We have reaffirmed to Director Cohen our commitment to the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached.
The goals of the NFL clubs have been clear from the start. The current CBA is flawed in numerous respects, and the system must be improved to ensure continued growth and innovation and a better future for the NFL, the players, and the fans.
The clubs are willing to make many changes proposed by the union, and they have modified their economic proposals in numerous respects. We need an agreement that – when looking back two, four or 10 years from now – both sides will recognize as fair, smart, good for the game, and good for all involved, including players, fans, and clubs.
Regrettably, the union’s leadership has walked out and is refusing to participate in collective bargaining. The union has insisted on a continuation of an unsustainable status quo rather than agreeing to reasonable adjustments that reflect new economic realities we all have experienced. The status quo would also mean no improvements for retired players, too much money to a handful of rookies, and no changes to improve our drug programs.
The union’s abandonment of bargaining has forced the clubs to take action they very much wanted to avoid. At the recommendation of the Management Council Executive Committee under the authority it has been delegated by the clubs, the league has informed the union that it is taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor law to impose a lockout of the union. The clubs are committed to continuing to negotiate until an agreement is reached, and will gladly continue to work with the FMCS.
The clubs believe that this step is the most effective way to accelerate efforts to reach a new agreement without disruption to the 2011 season. The clubs want to continue negotiating intensively to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible. Our goal is finding common ground and resolving the issues with the union. That is why we ask the union to resume negotiations with the federal mediator. The negative consequences for the players and clubs will continue to escalate the longer it takes to reach an agreement.
Our message to the fans is this: We know that you are not interested in any disruption to your enjoyment of the NFL. We know that you want football. You will have football. This will be resolved. Our mission is to do so as soon as possible and put in place with the players an improved collective bargaining agreement that builds on our past success and makes the future of football and the NFL even better – for the teams, players, and fans.
We have great respect for the fans. We have great respect for our players. We have great respect for the game and the tradition of the NFL. We will do everything that we reasonably can to ensure that everyone’s attention returns to the football field as soon as possible.
This morning, in the wake of the lockout of players by the NFL, Chicago Bears team president and CEO Ted Phillips released this statement on the situation:
“We’re disappointed in the need to take this step, but it is necessary for the long- term health of our league. Ultimately we believe an agreement will be reached at the bargaining table. As an individual club, our team focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season and we want Bears fans to know we are going to continue to do everything we can within the League rules to prepare for a championship season. Our immediate focus is on preparing for the draft. We also continue to evaluate our team and will be ready to take advantage of all avenues to improve our team once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
“Some aspects of this offseason may look different, but our commitment to winning remains the same. We need to build off the success we had in 2010. We are committed to our fan base and appreciate their patience throughout this process. We will do our best to create opportunities for Bears fans to ask questions and keep them informed of what is happening with their team and the labor discussions. We still plan to host fan events this offseason starting with our “Ultimate Weekend” which includes our Draft Party and Bears Expo at Soldier Field.
“A deal will get done and we expect to play football in 2011. Our goal remains the same as we prepare to play, bringing a Super Bowl title back to Chicago.”
“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.“No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time.”
That was the statement yesterday from George Cohen, the federal mediator who was President Obama's choice to work with the NFL and NFLPA. The players association decertified on Friday, and the league instituted a lockout at midnight Saturday morning.
With the two parties no longer bound by the federal mediator's request for a media blackout, both sides immediately made public statements, blaming the other for the impasse. As the fight moves from boardroom to courtroom, it's safe to expect the accusations to continue to fly, as players and owners attempt to compete for the goodwill of the public.
As soon as the decertifcation was made official, a group of players including Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady filed an anti-trust suit against the league in Judge David Doty's district court.
The first NFL work stoppage since 1987 is one giant step closer to becoming a reality after the NFLPA decertified today. After 16 days of negotiations, and two postponements of the deadline, the collective bargaining agreement will expire at the end of the day, today. The union decertification brings an end to the federally mediated negotiations, and is expected to result in the announcement of a lockout, beginning today.
The union effectively becomes a trade association, and individual players can file suit against the league, for restraint of trade. The players can also litigate to reverse the lockout. It signals the end of free agency and trades, as well as health insurance for players.
The league will hold its annual draft, but will not be allowed to negotiate or communicate with draftees for the duration.
Players maintain that they have not asked for more money during the negotiations.
SB Nation Chicago will continue to follow this story and provide details when they emerge.
After a nine and one-half hour of negotiations yesterday, the longest session to date, the NFL and NFLPA today clashed over the nature of financial disclosure offered by the league.
The NFL offered a five year aggregate of profitability on a league level, while the Players Association insisted on a breakdown for all 32 teams in the league. The NFL has been compelled to cooperate more with the NFLPA following last week’s decision by Judge David Doty in U.S. Circuit Court, that the league’s four billion dollar ‘war chest’ in broadcasting revenues was illegally obtained.
Doty is viewed as being ‘sympathetic’ to the players union, and the league has softened their hard-line stance, due to the expectation that if negotiations break down the union will decertify, and file anti-trust claims in Judge Doty’s court.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Friday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The parties are expected to meet every day, up until the deadline.
An NFL lockout has been averted, at least for one more week. The owners and the palyers association have agreed to continue negotiations for another week. This news has fueled speculation that the sides feel they are making real progress, and that perhaps a deal will be struck before a lockout takes place.
With this extension comes a 'tolling agreement' that prevents teams from renegotiating existing contracts or signing free agents from other teams.
Meanwhile, teams from the Canadian Football League have been putting out feelers to NFL players' agents. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, among other teams, would welcome any locked-out NFL players who need to keep their incomes flowing. With the federal mediator requesting a media blackout, we haven't heard much from ownership lately, but do the Canucks know something we don't?
Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack spent 14 years working in the NFL, and his sources don't paint a very rosy picture, “I’ve talked to the NFL office, and everybody’s telling me it looks like there’s going to be a lockout for sure and maybe lasting all the way until September,” Mack said Thursday.
So NFL fans, if your team won't be competing to go to the Super Bowl this year, you can always root for the Rough Riders to take the Grey Cup.
The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to a 24 hour extension on their current collective bargaining agreement, so that negotiations may continue for at least one more day.
Recent events, recounted here, have made the owners position somewhat less tenable, and with public opinion beginning to turn against both parties.
Both the league and the NFLPA have largely adhered to the federal mediator’s request to cease making public statements regarding the negotiations, although Washington Redskins player rep Von Holliday suggested today, that the two sides were still “far apart”.
While the NFL owners and the players association negotiate into the 11th hour, President Obama urges the sides to come to terms, “I’m a big football fan, but I also think that for an industry that’s making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way, and be true to their fans, who are the ones who, obviously, allow for all the money that they’re making.”
The president statement echoed the sentiments of many other fans around the U.S. to who it seems extraordinary that the amounts of money being discussed could be inadequate for anyone.
For those hoping that Obama would take an active role in the negotiations, as Bill Clinton did during the Major League Baseball strike, it doesn’t appear if this administration wants to become involved, My expectation and hope is that they’ll resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do," Obama said.
We will continue to monitor the activities of the NFL owners and the NFLPA, and will keep you apprised if all news as it becomes available.
A federal judge made a decision Tuesday, that may have an impact on whether or not there’s a lockout tomorrow for NFL players. U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled that the four billion dollars in broadcasting revenues the owners have attempted to put aside as a ‘war chest’ was secured unfairly and illegally.
The language is so dense that there’s no way for a layperson to fully comprehend all the moves that have been employed here, let alone summarize it here, but essentially the judge ruled that a portion of this money, would also belong to the players.
While NFL ownership maintains this does not change their strategy, it seems clear that they now have less capital to help them ‘ride out’ a lengthy negotiation. The judge agreed with the players union lawyers, who maintained the league violated existing agreements, when it negotiated a contract with broadcasters that didn’t work in the best of interests of players.
The league is expected to appeal the ruling, which if upheld, may amke them subject to fines and re-payments.
As the deadline approaches, keep your eye on this space, and we’ll bring you news and updates.
After four days of negotiations under the watch of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, little news has been available to the public. Both the NFL and the NFLPA have adhered to Cohen’s request to avoid making public comments.
“Any time you talk,” Batch said, “you have to feel better.”
Just after our last update, which said there probably wouldn’t be any more information from the NFL due to the “extreme sensitivity” of the negotiations, this article appeared on NFL.com, giving more information:
The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to seven consecutive days of negotiations, a league source told NFL Network insider Albert Breer on Thursday, and the sides also will allow mediation in their labor dispute.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent U.S. government agency, will oversee negotiations in Washington D.C., beginning Friday, two weeks before the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union expires.
While negotiations could last seven days, they might go just a few days, sources on both sides cautioned, according to NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.
The fact that a schedule has been carved out is a positive sign, but the arc of these kinds of talks generally is up and down, and deals are usually struck at the last possible minute.
Translated: they might talk for a week. Or they might not. And they might make a deal, but they might not. And if they do make a deal, it could come at the very end of this period. Or not.
Clear as mud, we know. We’ll post further updates as they become available. (Or not.)
Perhaps the two sides in the NFL labor dispute are really getting serious about wanting to make a deal, with only two weeks left until the collective bargaining agreement expires. The Washington Post reports that the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to federal mediation to help solve their dispute:
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced Thursday that the league and union had agreed to allow the agency to be involved in the negotiations.
The two sides are scheduled to meet Friday in D.C. with George H. Cohen, the agency’s director.
This is good news, though no guarantee of success, because mediators can only try to help conciliate the two sides in a labor dispute; it’s not like arbitration where an arbitrator hears the two sides and comes out with a decision that is binding on both of them. In this case, the mediator will help them conciliate and perhaps come up with a deal that’s good for both owners and players.
One thing is for sure — we won’t be getting much news out of the mediation service itself:
“Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS’s long-standing practice, the Agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of those negotiations until further notice.”
That won’t stop everyone from speculating, of course. There are billions of dollars at stake, and the two sides have been quite far apart in what they are asking for from a new labor agreement. We, as always, await developments.
In an op-ed piece titled 'The Time Has Come To Make A Deal' , released in full on NFLLabor.com, Roger Goodell makes his case against the "status quo", immediately after praising it's results last season. He makes his case for a rookie salary cap, and the need for new stadiums in several cities, including Los Angeles. Goodell also once again packages the owners demands for an 18 game schedule, as fan-friendly.
Although the fans have indeed balked at paying full price for meaningless pre-season scrimmages, a recent poll suggests that only about 27% of NFL fans are receptive to the notion of an 18 game schedule.
The staus quo that Goodell makes such a provocative case against, is actually an astoundingly lucrative package for everyone involved. In an economy that is in a shambles in virtually every other medium, the NFL maintains it's handsome profits. Much of it is from broadcast contracts, but a considerable amount is garnered from a fan base, whose economic fortunes, generally speaking, have not been as sturdy.
Make no mistake, Roger Goodell and the NFL ownership is ultimately asking for more of your money and mine. It's absolutely true that rookie pay scales are problematic, but they don't come anywhere near the one billion dollars more ownership is demanding off the top.
Over the last decade or so, several American businesses failed as a result of increasing profits at an unsustainable rate. The drive to show shareholders they were operating at a profit, made several companies cut the quality of their goods and services. They moved manufacturing bases to greener pastures, and cut operating costs by cutting support staff.
The people who lost those manufacturing and support jobs, are the people who the NFL are counting on now, to elevate them past the 'staus quo'. I daresay many of us long for the times when we were taking in more money than we were spending, without having to make any significant sacrifice.
The NFL, and to perhaps a lesser degree the NLPA, have been very quick to attempt to curry favor with a fan base that is already hard-pressed to rationalize its expenditure on the luxury item they provide. The tone-deaf nature of the current conversation suggests that both parties don't think we understand a couple of key elements.
NFL players and NFL ownership have never made more money than they do now. We, the fans are currently trying to overcome one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history.
As it stands now, neither side is offering us anything in return, for the loyalty they're taking very much for granted.
Well, this is a switch. Usually in a labor/management dispute, it’s the labor union that files unfair labor practice charges against the company. Not this time — today, the NFL filed such a charge against the NFLPA:
The NFL is claiming that the NFLPA is planning to decertify – dissolving and ostensibly becoming a trade association – that would then make a lockout of the players illegal. According to Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, the “NFL charges NFLPA engaged in surface bargaining and asks NLRB to force union to engage.”
Naturally, the players association fired right back:
The NFLPA responded in a statement saying, “The players didn’t walk out, and the players can’t lockout. Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised. This claim has absolutely no merit.”
As the article goes on to point out, decertifying is a risky move on the part of the players association. They did so in 1987 — and wound up seeing themselves replaced by “replacement players”, who played three games and messed up the standings, even for the Bears, whose replacements went 2-1. The Bears wound up 11-4, but lost a first-round playoff game to the Redskins.
The two sides seem to have dug in even harder with these statements; no new talks are scheduled and we are now at 17 days before the labor agreement expires. Many commentators have put the chances of a lockout at 95%. I’d say it’s closer to 100%.
Yesterday, at the site of Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, where the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers meet Sunday, in what could be the only NFL game of 2011, DeMaurice Smith called for transparency. Smith is the chief negotiator for the NFLPA, and in an unprecedented move, he took the podium during the association's annual 'State of the Union' address. Usually that duty would fall to NFLPA preident Kevin Mawae, whose job includes hosting this press conference every year during Super Bowl week.
But this year is not like any other year, with the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire on March 3, and the threat of a lockout, rumored since October, has begun to look like a certainty.
So Mawae let his chief negotiator carry the ball, and he stood to the side, microphone in hand, occasionally punctuating Smith's points and answering reporters questions. And DeMaurice Smith ran with it, his opening comments were well written; he used a time-worn politicians maneuver by telling the story of how he 'spoke to a bar owner in Green Bay, who said he'd lose his bar, if there was no football next season.' And as hoary a meme as that type of anecdote is, it only scratches the surface of showing who the real victims of a lockout would be.
If the owners do stage a lockout on March 4, the players and owners will already begin to lose money, but for the most part, they can afford it. The players and their families would also stand to lose their health insurance. A hot button issue in these times, but they also have a very good union that could provide some sort of stop-gap coverage should the need arise.
Then there's 'the bar owner in Green Bay', and even he might be alright for awhile, if he plans carefully. But what about his employees? The bartenders and bussers, living mostly on tips? Losing their insurance isn't even a concern for them, chances are they don't have any now. Their income is all going to food and shelter.
Or how about the guy who delivers the beer to that bar? No customers in Green Bay, means less deliveries. And in turn, less need for trucks out of Milwaukee.
Then there are the thousands of other people who depend on the small amount of money they make selling concessions, foam fingers, directing you to your seat or your parking spot. Cleaning your hotel room, if you're taking in a road game.
This is not just a conflict between angry millionaires and greedy billionaires. It's also very much about the 32 communities that will suffer financially from the tens of thousands of jobs lost.
And it's also about protecting your investment. That's right. Your investment.
Because chances are, your money has gone into one of those NFL stadiums. They've been built with public funds, and the owners given sweetheart deals to conduct their business in them. And we do that to keep the concessionaires, the ushers, and the security guards, and all those other people working, contributing to the local economy.
If a lockout occurs as they fight over a larger piece of the pie, they will starve thousands of people. Or at the very least put them on the streets. It's no exaggeration; as we now know, even Green Bay has homeless people.
DeMaurice Smith told reporters that the NFLPA just wants the owners to provide transparency, to 'open up the books'. Maybe that's a good idea. Maybe we should all get a chance a to see how much money there is in play. It's not just money that we've spent on NFL goods and games, it's also money we put in so they'd have a place to play.
How real is the possibility of a lockout? Well the NFL did hire Bob Batterman as a negotiator. That's the same Bob Batterman who brought you the hockey strike of 2004/05. His experience in 'negotiating' is stopping play. The owners' moves up to this point, all seem to indicate it's going to happen.
What can you and I do about it?
For starters, you can join the Sports Fans Coalition, a group who are dedicated to representing the fans of professional sports. When it comes to making speeches on camera, both owners and players love to proselytize about how important the fans are, how dedicated they are to the fans, etc.
Well, the Sports Fans Coalition actually is dedicated to the fans, and it works directly in our interests. Look at their web site, and find out who they are, and what they're doing to help you during the labor negotiations. While you're there, sign the petition at Save Next Season.
Get your voice out there. Your money is already in the pot.
We knew it was coming. The NFL and the players' union have been making moves, both public and private, in anticipation of a labor dispute. Their current Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire on March 3. The owners are threatening a lockout. The NFLPA has voted to decertify; this is a move that allows them a more advantageous position in litigation.
Of course at the same time, both parties have publicly stated they don't want a work stoppage to shorten or cancel the 2011 season. And at least for now, the parties very much care what you think.
The NFLPA will hold a press conference this week in Dallas where the Super Bowl will be played. This is an annual part of Super Bowl week, however, this year's 'state of the players union' promises to be anything but routine. NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell and union executive director DeMaurice Smith met Monday to negotiate a schedule for the parties to meet before the March 3 deadline. They agreed to a meeting between both negotiating teams to take place Saturday, one day before the Super Bowl. This is a very public relations oriented decision, as the Super Bowl is one of the most widely covered sporting events in the world. At least 100 million of us will watch the game Sunday.
While both the NFL and the NFLPA will be trying desperately to win the hearts and minds of the league's considerable fan base, we the fans would do well to remember one thing: there are three groups who are affected by this dispute, not merely two. There are three sides to this negotiation, the NFL owners on one side of the room, the players and their union on the other side of the room...
And the fans, the source of all their income, on the outside of the room. As the consumers of this product, we alone have a legitimate grievance in the event of a work stoppage. Both the league and its players, along with the usual host of lawyers and other behind-the-scenes pencil pushers, have become inordinately wealthy from our loyalty to their product.
And no matter how these negotiations play out, their incomes will still allow them all lifestyles more opulent than most humans could ever imagine.
Our reward will almost certainly be higher ticket prices, increases in the price of merchandise and concessions, and more commercial breaks per game. The real issue isn't whether players are demanding too much money from owners, or whether owners are hoarding all the revenues for themselves.
The real issue is how deep OUR pockets are, and how much more we can be asked to provide the NFL for goods and services. Of course, it's in their best interests to settle this and keep the golden goose happy. Financially at least, they're the ones who suffer the most in the event of lockout.
But if the NFL and its players, and all their lawyers and paid negotiators were really working in the best interests of their enterprise, they'd be trying to think of ways to give something back to you and me -- the people who buy the licensed clothing, the 'personal seat licenses', the 'NFL Red Zone' and $12 beers.
It's a tough economy, and everybody is feeling the pinch. Well, not everybody. The average value of an NFL franchise is one billion dollars. In 2009, the average player salary was $770,000. Both of those numbers are expected to rise.
One of the points of contention in the labor dispute is the number of games played in a season. The owners want to increase the number to eighteen from sixteen. They expect the players to endure the rigors of two more games, perhaps shortening the number of years they're healthy enough to play. They expect us to fill the stadiums, buy the nachos, pay the parking, or watch the beer and pick-up truck commercials. In other words, they'd like us to provide the revenue.
We also provide the revenue that owners use to gamble on high salaries for top draft picks. Because we don't have any say in their accounting procedures, ownership routinely throws multimillion dollar contracts at very young men, who may or may not ever contribute to the success of their respective teams.
The point is that both the players union and the league have already begun posturing to appear as the party most sympathetic to the desires of the fans. And, ironically, they will spend millions doing so. The NFLPA has produced a commercial called 'Let Them Play'. They tried to purchase premium advertising time from CBS. But CBS has refused to air it, because of course their financial interests are interwoven with the league's. Since you won't see it on CBS's air, watch it here:
in this one small salvo, how much money have both sides spent? However much it is, it's money we gave them. They've asked us to buy (and buy, and buy, and buy) into their sport, and their league. We've done so, at varying levels of financial commitment, happily and without asking for receipts.
In our country today, our leaders are cutting benefits for our soldiers. They're asking us to work longer before retiring, and to tighten our belts in 100 different ways. Americans are resilient people, we'll do what we need to do, and we'll get by. We rely on entertainments like the NFL to take our minds off of our problems. They're mostly harmless little escapes, something to feel good about.
If the two parties do allow a work stoppage, I hope they understand that they're putting our loyalties at risk. While we, as a society are tightening our belts, they're both looking for a way to get a bigger piece of the pie we provide. What are they offering us in return?
SB Nation Chicago will provide continued coverage of the NFL labor negotiations. Please check back here for updates.
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