NFL CBA Negotiations: Judge Nelson Hears Arguments On Lockout Injunction

The NFL and NFLPA face a monumental task this spring trying to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. Failure to do so could lead to the first NFL labor stoppage since 1987. We're here to provide frequent updates on the progress of this labor battle.

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2011 NFL Lockout: Judge Susan Nelson Hears NFL, NFLPA Arguments

After months of PR battles in the media, the battle moved into the courtroom today. Judge Susan Nelson, a district court judge in Minnesota heard arguments from the NFL and NFL Trade Association lawyers in regards to an injunction sought by the players.

After mediated negotiations failed in mid-March, the NFL owners locked out the players and the NFL Players Association decertified and became a trade association. This response to the owners provided the players the opportunity to file for a preliminary injunction to stop the lockout.

In order to get this injunction, the players have to show that there is a likelihood of success for them to win on the merits of their case, and then they would need to show there is irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted. Boston Globe reporter Greg Bedard was on hand for the hearing and his twitter feed has a host of nuggets that would indicate Judge Nelson is likely to side with the players.

What was most pertinent to football fans about today’s proceedings was that Judge Nelson did indicate she thought it was better for this to be handled at the negotiating table and not by simply locking out the players. She suggested more formal federal mediation under her supervision. It remains to be seen if that will lead to results, but it has to be better than just staring at each other in court.

Judge Nelson indicated it would be a couple of weeks before she had a decision. It will be interesting to see if the two sides get back to the negotiating table in the meantime. The owners have indicated they would only go back to the table if the players recertified as a union. Needless to say the players are not exactly down with that.

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NFL CBA Negotiations: NFL Releases Summary Of Proposal To NFLPA

The NFL has released some terms of their proposal to the NFLPA. Most of the issues detailed were talked about a lot by the media during negotiations, but nothing official was ever revealed. These statements are particularly interesting because they illustrate many things that could be perceived as NFLPA-favorable, yet a deal was not close to being done. The summary is below in its entirety.

1. We more than split the economic difference between us, increasing our proposed cap for 2011 significantly and accepting the Union's proposed cap number for 2014 ($161 million per club).

2. An entry level compensation system based on the Union's "rookie cap" proposal, rather than the wage scale proposed by the clubs.  Under the NFL proposal, players drafted in rounds 2-7 would be paid the same or more than they are paid today.  Savings from the first round would be reallocated to veteran players and benefits.

3. A guarantee of up to $1 million of a player's salary for the contract year after his injury - the first time that the clubs have offered a standard multi-year injury guarantee.

4. Immediate implementation of changes to promote player health and safety by:

  • Reducing the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 to 10, and limiting on-field practice time and contact;
  • Limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and
  • Increasing number of days off for players.

5. Commit that any change to an 18-game season will be made only by agreement and that the 2011 and 2012 seasons will be played under the current 16-game format. 

6. Owner funding of $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2000 former players by nearly 60 percent.

7.  Offer current players the opportunity to remain in the player medical plan for life.

8. Third party arbitration for appeals in the drug and steroid programs.

9. Improvements in the Mackey plan, disability plan, and degree completion bonus program.

10.  A per-club cash minimum spend of 90 percent of the salary cap over three seasons.

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NFL CBA Negotiations: NFLPA Officially Decertifies

The NFL Players Association has announced its decertification. After labor negotiations extended for a week, the NFLPA made a statement at 4:45 p.m., stating that the NFL had until 5:00 p.m. (fifteen minutes) to relinquish ten years of audited financial statements to guarantee an extension in negotiations. That is to say, if the NFL wanted to talk at all, they had to give up an awful lot of information that they usually would not be entitled to. The official statement is below.

The NFL Players Association announced today 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 will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.

This means that the new negotiating venue will be ... the court system. Most are predicting a long and messy court battle, but it's not necessarily the only scenario. Individual players can now file anti-trust lawsuits against the NFL for locking out players. Let's all hope that this gets done sooner rather than later and that the battle doesn't rage on into what would be the regular season.

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2011 NFL CBA, Labor Talks: Second Deadline Approaching

The NFL and NFL Players Association have been negotiating with renewed intensity this week after the two sides gained some ground last week and agreed to a week long extension of the expiration deadline. The two sides have continued utilizing mediator George Cohen, which has likely been pivotal in keeping this labor battle out of the press and at the negotiating table.

The NFL CBA expires later this afternoon and the pivotal talking point lately has been the NFLPA’s insistence on some greater level of financial disclosure by the owners. In the meantime the owners reportedly made a revised offer that the players are now mulling over. The NFLPA has a deadline of 5pm eastern if they want to decertify. That remains the primary legal strategy for the NFLPA, and is the one thing really hanging over the head of this deadline. The two sides could continue extending or we could head to court. We’ll find out more soon.

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2011 NFL CBA, Labor Talks: Owners, Players Agree To Seven Day Extension

After agreeing to a 24-hour extension yesterday afternoon, the NFL owners and players have agreed to a seven day extension of the expiration deadline. Earlier the players had been open to a ten day extension, which would seem to indicate there was some negotiating on this that led to the agreed upon seven day deal.

While a deal is not yet done, this at least counts as a positive step forward. We don’t know how close or far they are from a deal, but this news would indicate the two sides think they can make progress in the coming week. It will be interesting to see if this leads to an additional extension in a week or if the sides can in fact get a deal done. At this point the possible results for a week from now would be a new deal, an additional extension of negotiations, or lockout/decertification/Armageddon. So basically just about anything could happen in the next seven days. Get your popcorn and pull up a seat!

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2011 NFL Lockout, CBA Issues: Players Agree To Further Extension, Ball In Owners Court

Word out of Washington, DC is that the NFL players have agreed to a 10 day extension of the NFL CBA expiration deadline to prevent a potential lockout and/or NFLPA decertification. Yesterday the players and owners agreed to a 24-hour extension of this deadline, leaving tonight at 9:00pm pacific as the expiration time. However, that 24-hour extension was apparently meant more as a window to negotiate a longer extension for talks.

The two sides had no meetings scheduled for today, but rather mediator George Cohen was going to meet individually with each side. He apparently met with the players first and convinced them that a ten day extension was worth a look. It sounds like Cohen was there to convince the players that there was some value to such an extension in that further talks could potentially be fruitful.

Once the players agreed to this extension, Cohen took that proposal to the owners. If the owners do not agree to an extension the CBA would expire at 9:00pm pacific tonight. Additionally, prior to that the NFLPA would likely decertify, thus moving this battle into a court room.

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NFL Lockout 2011: Owners, Players Agree To 24-Hour Extension Of NFL CBA Expiration Deadline

With the CBA set to expire at 9:00pm pacific this evening and a 2:00pm pacific deadline for the NFLPA to decertify itself, the NFL owners and players have agreed to extend the deadline 24 hours to tomorrow night. This could open the door for additional extensions or even a deal being done in the next 24 hours. I’d expect the former more than the latter, but we can always hope, can’t we?

While I do think this extension can only be considered a positive step forward, it doesn’t mean a deal is imminent. It’s possible the two sides could work out a two week (or some other time frame) extension and these 24 hours are meant to see if that can be worked out. If the two sides think a deal can be done in the next couple weeks they’ll work on a longer extension. However, if over the next 24 hours they’re not sensing enough progress, then maybe the legal issues officially come into play. Whatever the case, it’ll likely end up being another deadline discussion tomorrow.

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2011 NFL Lockout, CBA Issues: Owners, Players Discuss Deadline Extension As Rumors Swirl

The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement expires at 9pm pacific tonight, at which point the NFL owners could elect to impose a lockout on the players. However, rumors are swirling that the two sides are working towards a potential extension of the negotiating deadline. If the two sides can agree on an extension, that’s a good sign that talks are improving and concessions might be close. Additionally it means the issue won’t immediately go into the courts and be litigated to its eventual conclusion.

While this would not mean a deal is done, it’s still a positive step forward, at least compared to a lockout and litigation. We’ll provide updates through the day, but if you’re looking for pertinent updates from the insiders out there, check out the following Twitter accounts. The first three provide the necessary business and legal knowledge, while the latter two provide insider access to the NFL.

Andrew Brandt, National Football Post
Daniel Kaplan, Sports Business Journal
Liz Mullen Sports Business Journal
Adam Schefter
Chris Mortensen

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2011 NFL Lockout Issues: Full Owners Committee Meets With Drew Brees, NFLPA Executive Committee

As the clock ticks down to tomorrow night’s 8:59 p.m. Pacific time NFL CBA expiration time, both sides appear to be taking things at least a little bit serious. The entire owners’ labor committee attended today’s mediation session, meeting with Drew Brees and the NFLPA’s executive committee. NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash indicated there is still the possibility of an extension of this deadline rather than simply moving straight to a lockout.

The idea of an extension is not the best of news since a lockout could still happen, but the NFL’s acknowledgement that it is still an option is a positive sign. It also might be an indication the owners recognize the pressure they now face courtesy of Judge David Doty’s ruling overruling their “lockout insurance.” Over at National Football Post Andrew Brandt discussed the ruling and its impact on both sides going forward.

With approximately 33 hours until the deadline, we’ve now reached crunch time, which hopefully means round-the-clock negotiations. I’m not optimistic a deal will be done by tomorrow night, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

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NFL Lockout Issues: Judge Doty Overrules Lockout Insurance Ruling

As the players and owners met today to renew negotiations with just over 48 hours remaining before the current NFL CBA expires, a potentially huge ruling came down in regards to the owners 2011 television money. Federal judge David Doty has ruled that the NFL owners violated the collective bargaining agreement when they struck deals with the television networks to receive fees even if a lockout occurred. The belief was that this so-called lockout insurance would allow the owners to continue paying their stadium debt bills and thus wait out the players via the lockout.

The NFL released a statement indicating it was prepared for this kind of contingency and would be appealing. However, Mike Florio made an excellent point about this change in leverage:

It’s a huge factor. It’s real leverage for the union, something the union hasn’t really had. Until now, the league has had the union over a barrel, threatening to take football away from the players and the fans until the players cry, “Uncle!” Now, the players know that a lockout lasting into the season will hurt the owners as much or more, since the money needed to service the debt will have to come from somewhere, and it possibly won’t come from the networks.

While this doesn’t guarantee anything right now, a loss of NFL leverage could drive the owners closer to the bargaining table in these final days before a potential lockout could begin. Several owners have taken on a whole lot of debt to build shiny new cathedrals to the game of football. If you remove those billions of dollars in television revenue, things could suddenly get rather dicey for some of these owners.

You can view the details of the decision in PDF format at the NFLPA’s website.

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2011 NFL Lockout: NFLPA Reportedly Ready To Decertify As Some Agents Believe Sides Still Far Apart

As the 2011 NFL Combine continues to roll along today, the NFL-NFLPA labor battle continues to loom large. One source is reporting the NFLPA is set to decertify sometime before the CBA expires this Thursday. The two sides conducted seven straight days of negotiations through earlier this week but even the mediator acknowledged the two sides remained far apart. The NFLPA met with agents recently and there are mixed reports as to where the two sides are at in negotiations. One agent reportedly texted Adam Schefter the lockout would be going into September, while another agent reported that Schefter received bad information.

At this point it seems like the mediator is the best source of information given his released statement and where he stands in this process. Given his comments, this week looms large for both sides. The two sides will reportedly meet again on Tuesday March 1 to continue negotiations. However, with the CBA set to expire at 11:59pm eastern time on Thursday night, time is definitely short.

According to the terms of the current CBA, if the NFLPA does not decertify before Thursday’s expiration, the union would have to wait six months to decertify. Given the leverage this maneuver provides, it would seem to provide even greater motive to decertify by Thursday night. If the union were to decertify the players could file an injunction prevent a lockout. If the owners attempted to implement their terms, individual players would then have standing to file antitrust lawsuits against the league. While in a bargaining unit the players do not have such standing, as the NLRB retains jurisdiction. However, a decertified union no longer falls under the NLRB’s jurisdiction.

This Tuesday’s meeting between the players, the league and mediator George Cohen looms large. Cohen suggested both sides spend the weekend reassessing their positions on important core issues. If they do not budge on Tuesday or Wednesday, we would appear to be destined for a lengthy battle that would likely end up in federal court.

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2011 NFL Lockout Update: Seven Days Of NFL-NFLPA CBA Negotiations Ends; Will Resume Tuesday March 1

Last week the NFL and NFLPA entered into mediation and committed themselves to seven straight days of negotiations. Additionally, and possibly more importantly, the two sides committed to end their PR war that had dragged the negotiations into something of a war mentality.

The two sides brought in federal mediator George Cohen, who used the last seven days to get both sides working to regain some sense of trust. The two sides have battled in the media for much of the last two months and avoided any semblance of negotiations. However, according to Cohen’s recently released statement, there has been some progress in at least working towards a deal:

Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance. I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions.

At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties. Nonetheless, I recommended and the parties have agreed to resume the mediation process in my office commencing next Tuesday (March 1). During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues.

The two sides will return to the bargaining table next Tuesday with only three days remaining before the current CBA expires. One possible upside to these continued negotiations even without a new deal is the parties might agree to some kind of temporary extension of the deal. At the very least the owners might show a willingness to not lockout the players. Free agency remains a question mark while a new deal is figured out, but for now they’re at least working to make progress.

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2011 NFL Lockout: NFL Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against NFLPA Claiming Surface Bargaining

The NFL has taken a strong step against the NFL Players Association by filing an unfair labor practice charge against the players’ union. As a potential 2011 NFL Lockout looms, this kind of action is not a step in the right direction. The NFL is claiming the union is conducting surface bargaining during these negotiations. The basic idea of surface bargaining is that one party is “going through the motions” and not seriously attempting to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFL is apparently citing to the de-certification strategy as one example of potential surface bargaining.

An unfair labor practice charge is serious, but at the same time the two sides can continue negotiating even as this issue is being dealt with by the National Labor Relations Board. One of the primary strategies of the NLRB is to try and mediate through disputes to avoid an eventual Board hearing. They’ll have both sides work towards this even if a hearing eventually takes place. Resolution has been reached as late as midway through an NLRB hearing.

Negotiations broke down last week after some issues with revenue sharing proposals (among other things), but the two sides have reportedly been continuing to talk in small group communications. The PR battle continues as player rep Domonique Foxworth recently spoke about the “whack-a-mole” strategy he believes the owners are employing.

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2011 NFL Lockout Potential: NFL Owners, NFLPA Cancel Labor Meeting Amidst Revenue, Rookie Scale Disagreements

Word came out today that the NFL owners and NFL Players Association have cancelled a planned five hour bargaining session. Reasons were not given, but Chris Mortensen indicated some serious disagreements on the revenue issue and Andrew Brandt is tweeting about rejected rookie scale proposals. There was some sort of issue about “total revenue” versus “all revenue” and Joel Thorman defined total revenue as follows:

Currently, “total revenue” is defined as the $9 billion gross, minus $1 billion in credits the league takes off the top. The “players get 60 percent of the pie” argument you hear means 60 percent of the $8 billion remaining. Without the stadium credit — or $9 billion — the players currently get about 50 percent, according to the union.

According to Chris Mortensen, it sounds like the two sides are upwards of a billion dollars apart based on the current proposals up for discussion. Owners are apparently asking for a billion dollar credit towards the total revenues on top of an existing billion dollar credit. Union sources indicate that would cut the players’ percentage of the pie to 40%, which they state would be the lowest among athletes in any of the major sports.

Andrew Brandt of National Football Post has been tweeting about disparities as well in the potential rookie salary scale. Brandt tweeted the following this morning:

- NFLPA proposal on rookies limited length to 4 yrs for rounds 1-3; 3 yrs for rounds 4-7, cap on incentives, savings to vets. Rejected by NFL.

- Proposal on rookies from union formally rejected this week. NFL wants wage scale, no negotiations, 5 yrs for 1st rd, 4 yrs for rest.

- Under NFLPA proposal, 9th pick in Draft would make 18M over 4 yrs; under NFL proposal, 9th pick in Draft would make 8.6M over 5 yrs.

As Brandt later said, this would seem to show a serious fundamental difference between the two sides. Three weeks of negotiating can in fact be an eternity, but until progress is made on at least one of these issues, it’s hard to get excited about avoiding a lockout.

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2011 NFL Lockout: NFL, NFLPA Negotiate in Undisclosed Location In Washington, DC

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have followed up their Saturday pre-Super Bowl XLV bargaining session with a scheduled nine-hour bargaining session today in Washington, DC. The session was scheduled to last from 10:00am to 7:00pm eastern time. This is to be followed up by a five hour negotiating session tomorrow (Thursday) from 9:00am to 2:00pm eastern time.

The ESPN article linked in SB Nation’s article discussed some of the issues in a new CBA, but also issues the league could face if a new deal is not done by the March 4 expiration date:

Among the major issues are how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues; the owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games; a rookie wage scale; and benefits for retired players.

The league estimates there would be a cut in gross revenues of $120 million without a new agreement by early March; $350 million if there’s no CBA by August, before the preseason starts; $1 billion if no new contract is in place until September. And if regular-season games are lost, the NFL figures the revenue losses would amount to about $400 million per week.

I’d argue player safety and health issues factor in to the expanded regular season issue as well as the benefits for retired players issue. One continuous argument coming from the union is the idea that if the league wants an 18-game schedule, they will need to come up with a way to cover the health and safety issues arising from such a schedule.

Whether you’re for or against the union in this negotiation, the health issue related to adding two games seems obvious. The NFL has argued that it’s still 20 games, just with the two on the back end evened out by removing two preseason games. While players do get injured in preseason contests, it seems like a logical fallacy to compare the two removed preseason games with the tow regular season games.

Even the most intense preseason game sees starters go no more than three quarters. Additionally, banged up veterans are more likely to be held out of such games since the games are meaningless for record purposes. However, a similarly banged up player is much less likely to sit out a late season game with the playoffs on the line. That needs to be accounted for when deciding on these scheduling issues.

If you’re looking for some more details on this on-going process, the NFL Players Association put together a list of the top 10 CBA articles from Super Bowl week. Some are more neutral in nature, while some lean towards the NFLPA’s arguments.

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2011 NFL Lockout: Union Encouraging Boycott Of 2011 NFL Combine?

The AP is reporting that the NFLPA has discussed a boycott of the 2011 NFL Combine by draft-eligible players. The information is coming from anonymous source and basically indicates the union might be looking to work with agents to disrupt the scouting process:

The union is hopeful such a boycott would disrupt teams’ scouting of college players, but it’s unlikely to get widespread support from the agents whose first duty is helping their clients get selected high in the draft.

College players find themselves with a potentially conflicting stance on these labor negotiations compared to the NFLPA and current players. One of the proposals on the table is for a rookie wage scale that would severely decrease signing bonuses. One of the biggest issues for the league has been the rising level of signing bonuses going to unproven college stars. It sounds like this issue is one that will be resolved fairly easily, but it would cause some conflict with these draft-eligible players.

While a boycott of draft-related events would put a crimp in teams’ preparation, it’s hard to see something like this working out given the importance of these events for raising one’s draft stock. Even if there is a rookie wage scale, higher picks will still make more money than lower picks. If a player can really help their draft stock at the Combine and a Pro Day, it would be hard to convince them otherwise. Additionally, since they haven’t joined the union yet they have not received the constant messaging from union reps to the players. It’s only one more angle on a complicated process.

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NFL Lockout, Labor Issues: NFL, NFLPA Reps Conduct Formal Pre-Super Bowl Bargaining Session

Representatives for the NFL and the NFLPA met Saturday morning for two hours in the first formal negotiation session I believe since this past November. The current CBA expires in less than a month and with a potential NFL Lockout in 2011, time is running out for a deal to get done. Both sides have been battling in the media for the past few months, but hopefully the PR battle will cease while negotiations continue.

The two sides released a joint statement following the session, which is one of the few issues on which they can apparently agree at this point:

The NFL and NFL Players Association met for two hours today in a continuing effort to narrow the differences and reach a fair agreement that will benefit the players, teams and fans. We plan to increase the number, length and intensity of bargaining sessions so that we can reach agreement before the March 4 expiration of the current CBA.

No details have been released as to the results of the meeting and I wouldn’t expect any details at this point. Confidentiality is often an important part of labor negotiations and both sides have already done enough negotiations via the media.

As for what went down during the two hour session (not even a third the length of today’s Hall of Fame selection meeting), it potentially would play out as follows, although this is more just one of many possibilities (this is based on some training I was involved in during a law school internship):

One side would make an offer to the other side and they might discus that offer and debate the merits of it. The side receiving the offer would potentially decide to then hold a caucus with its own negotiating members to discuss the proposal and either decide it’s worth accepting or come up with a counter proposal. The negotiators wouldn’t usually just accept or reject an offer out of hand without a caucus of some sort out of the ear-shot of the other side. Often the caucuses can be what take longer than anything else during the negotiations.

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2011 NFL Lockout Update: Special Master Rules For NFL In TV Money Case

A special master ruled for the NFL today in deciding the league could have access to the television money they’ll receive in advance of any games played in 2011. If games are not played it is my understanding that the league would have to pay back money for unplayed games along with interest.

One of the primary issues in play is the fact that even with the potential requirement of paying back the money, this gives the NFL owners a war chest with which to buy some time against the players. The more money one side has the longer they can wait out a new deal and thus end up with potentially better terms.

The NFLPA was awarded damages in the case, but the players still plan to appeal. The logical and fair option would seem to be to put the television money into some kind of escrow account (as mentioned in the Yahoo! article above) so that neither side gets the benefit of money for games not played. Of course logic isn’t always followed to closely in situations like this. Let’s just hope the upcoming bargaining sessions can move us past this decision.

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2011 NFL Lockout, Labor Strife: Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith Meet In New York

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith took what could be a big step in avoiding a potential 20110 NFL Lockout in March by meeting together in New York City yesterday. The two men have seen their respective organizations engage in a somewhat bitter PR battle the last month as the NFL/NFLPA labor strife grew by the day. Prior to yesterday there wasn’t even much mention of future negotiation sessions even as the current CBA winds down in the next month. However, the two sides met on Monday and have agreed to hold a formal bargaining sessions this Saturday in Dallas, the site of the Super Bowl.

The formal meeting this Saturday is expected to be followed by a variety of formal and informal meetings in the coming weeks as the two sides try to address their differences. As the New York Daily News commented in the link above, it will be interesting to see how this affects the on-going PR battle we’ve seen to date. Each side has tried to gain traction with the public, but the end result has been a public sometimes turned off by both sides.

The key at this point is actually making progress in closing the gap between the two sides. It’s great that they have these meetings planned, but the next step that has to be taken is actually getting something productive out of these sessions.

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2011 NFL Lockout: Antonio Cromartie Goes Off On Everybody

As the NFL and NFLPA go back and forth in the media while trying to work out a new collective bargaining agreement, the first cracks on either side are starting to show. New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie unleashed a tirade on NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and the NFL owners following the Jets loss to the Steelers this past weekend:

“Honestly, I don’t give a damn if they get mad at me or not,” Cromartie said. “But it’s getting to the point where it’s getting ridiculous when everything is always dealing with money. You’re basically dealing with people’s livelihoods… You’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of other people in this workplace from the venues to everyone else. To me, you need to stop bitching about it. If you want to say that you want to get into a room and meet. Then, do it. Don’t just talk about it.”

“You got our head union rep acting like an a-hole,” Cromartie added. “They got their guys acting like a-holes. So they just need to get their sh— together and just get it done.”

According to Jason Whitlock, Cromartie also said:

“When you don’t get no information about nothing from the union or the owners,” Cromartie told New York reporters Monday. “So to tell you the truth, they (NFLPA reps and owners) need to get their damn minds together and get this (spit) done. Stop bitching about money. Money ain’t nothing. Money can be here and gone. Us players, we want to go out and play football. It’s something we’ve been doing and we love it and enjoy it. It’s our livelihood.”

Naturally some of the more prominent players in the NFL were quick to comment on the issue. Ray Lewis and Darnell Dockett stated that the NFLPA has its leaders and everybody is behind them. It will be interesting to see if Cromartie is heard from again during this lockout or if he’s been told keep quiet.

It’s a lot harder for the players to remain united against the owners for two big reasons. The first is that there are so many players in the NFL. With somewhere on the order of 2,000 NFL players (53-man rosters + 8-man practice squad + injured players) and approximately 32 owners (not factoring in minority ownership interests), the NFLPA has a larger contingent to keep toeing the line and staying on message.

The second problem for the players is that while their salaries are primarily dependent on playing and endorsements related to playing, owners have usually made most of their money in other industries. The owners either still have additional income streams or they’ve saved a whole bunch of money over the course of their lives. Either way, they will generally not find themselves in the same financial predicament that is guaranteed to entrap some players during a possible lockout.

The owners currently have the advantage and the longer a lockout drags on, the greater that advantage will be for the owners. I suppose a long stoppage could embolden the players, but when it comes down to it, money talks and the players do not have the same resources as the owners.

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2011 NFL Lockout: Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith Make Salary Cut Gestures

As the NFL and NFLPA ratchet up the rhetoric in the ongoing labor dispute that could lead to a 2011 NFL Lockout, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has declared that if there is a work stoppage after the CBA expires in March, he will reduce his annual salary to $1. For those wondering, Goodell currently makes approximately $10 million per year including bonuses. In this letter to owners Goodell also indicated the NFL’s chief negotiator, Jeff Pash would have his salary reduced to $1. Pash apparently makes in the neighborhood of $5 million (a mighty nice neighborhood).

Naturally, this was followed by a tweet from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith proclaiming that if a deal was done by the Super Bowl he would reduce his salary to 68 cents. Isn’t that just a fantastic offer?

I try to remain calm about all this but as these PR stunts are exchanged between the two sides it just strikes me as incredibly ridiculous. The Commish makes approximately $10 million per year. Cutting his salary to $1 would certainly impact the money he will make during that time, but I have a feeling he’s got some money stashed away, and he doesn’t have to worry about finding health care for his football-related injuries.

DeMaurice Smith made his counter but nobody expects a deal to be done by the Super Bowl. It’d be nice if they got such a deal done, but given the attitude between the two sides, it’s just as meaningless. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and in phone conversations between the two sides, but I pray these PR gestures are not all that is going on at this point.

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2011 NFL Lockout Issues: Should Owners Be More Forthcoming With Financial Information For NFLPA?

This past Friday there was an intriguing article at Time.com discussing the current NFL-NFLPA labor dispute. A potential NFL lockout is on the horizon in 2011 in part because of differences of opinion over the financial state of the NFL and its member teams. The focus of this Time article was on the idea that the it might be reasonable for the players, and even the fans, to demand the owners be more forthcoming when it comes to their financial situations.

The owners have argued for a reduction in the percentage of revenue going to the players. They’ve argued the financial model has changed and they cannot be pinned down by such significant costs. Whether one sides with the owners or not in this dispute, Time columnist Sean Gregory makes a solid enough point:

If costs are so high, and teams are not making as much money as they used to, why can’t the NFL show the players each team’s full audited financial statements, which would include a bottom-line item — net income, or profit (or loss) — that gives both sides a fuller accounting of the league’s financial state?

The NFL has reportedly turned over a lot of financial information linked primarily to revenues.

“They know more about our revenues than most unions know about the revenues of the businesses they work in,” Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead negotiator, recently said in an interview with Politico about the transparency issue.

As important as it is to know revenues, aren’t the costs what are really at issue? Only one team has revealed their total financial picture, and that is the Green Bay Packers who are a publicly owned team and thus required to provide such information to the public. That information revealed the Packers saw their operating profit drop from $20.1 million the previous year to $9.8 million this past year. That’s certainly significant, but NFLPA President Kevin Mawae did make a good point when these numbers were released this past summer:

“It’s 1/32nd of the financial information we’ve requested in response to their demand that we give back $1 billion and increase our risk of injury by playing two additional games.”

Although the Packers information can be considered significant, Mawae makes a good point. It would be foolish for the players to make decisions based on the information of only one team.

Aside from the Packers, the NFL is a private organization that is technically under no obligation to provide this kind of information. However, Gregory’s article makes a good point in this regard:

But then again, the NFL isn’t your typical private company. If a lawyer, say, isn’t happy with his salary or thinks his bosses are hoarding too much cash, the free market lets him go work at another firm. But in football, there’s simply no other league where players can be similarly compensated for their specialized skills.

Again, this is merely one reason for the owners to reveal more cost-related information. There are no requirements for them to do so, and holding back such information might very well simply be part of their negotiating strategy. Although the players might certainly argue revealed numbers are bogus, such information would still be a chip in the owners favor. Now if the owners revealed this information and it was later proven to be false that would certainly be a major issue. But for now revelation of such information that would prove the financial woes would be a major argument in favor of their argument for a reduction in player costs.

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2011 NFL Lockout Update: Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith Meet In New York

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith had a face-to-face meeting today in New York City. Although it was reportedly more about just advancing the bargaining (meaning figuring out ways to communicate more), it’s at least a step in the right direction. The last couple months have been filled with a lot of angry and aggressive rhetoric between the two sides.

This meeting occurred as current and former NFL players took a trip to Washington, DC to discuss the issue with various lawmakers in Congress. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee released a statement in regards to the on-going labor strife between the league and its players:

That is a business dispute. The owners and players are both literally and figuratively big boys and do not need Congress to referee every dispute for them.

There is still no word on when there will be a new negotiating session. The two sides haven’t met in an official bargaining session since before Thanksgiving and the clock is ticking towards the March 3 end of the CBA. Much of the negotiations can often happen behind closed doors, but when that happens there is generally more talk of progress than we’re seeing right now.

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2011 NFL Lockout Update: Optimism Being Reported By Random Reporter

As the 2011 NFL playoffs continue rolling along, this week has seen a decent amount of news related to the NFL’s labor strife. Until recently most of the press had been negative as both sides have engaged in fairly brutal PR campaigns trying to win the proverbial “hearts and minds” of the fans.

Now we have reports of some optimism, although it remains to be seen how much this source can be believed. Jeff Howe, New England Patriots beat writer for NESN.com, ran off a series of tweets that indicated some level of optimism in all this nonsense. The tweets were discussed in this article at NESN.com.

Howe’s “sources” indicate that an 18-game schedule and a rookie salary scale are basically a done deal, with the 18-game schedule likely being implemented in 2012 instead of 2011. He stated that the biggest hurdle remaining was revenue sharing between the owners.

That would certainly be good news if a lockout was avoided, but before I pop the cork on my champagne I’d like to hear about this from more than just some random team beat writer. I’m sure Howe is a perfectly fine journalist. However, given what we saw during the week leading up to Jim Harbaugh’s hire as the San Francisco 49ers head coach, I’m thinking I’ll wait for some kind of confirmation on this story. Until we hear this kind of stuff from the Adam Schefter’s of the world it’s nothing more than hearsay and speculation. Schefter doesn’t automatically make it legit, but he gives it a certain level of respectability that any random writer doesn’t quite have.

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NFLPA Hosts Let Us Play Day In Growing PR Campaign

Although the two sides of any labor battle have to solve their problems at the negotiating table, the public relations campaign can be equally important. While the public doesn’t exactly have a say in what the two sides agree to, a well-coordinated public relations blitz can force one side to re-examine their offers. The NFLPA is developing such a PR campaign to get the fans on their side and prevent a potential lockout that could wear down the will of the union members.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, January 18), the NFLPA is sponsoring a day they’re calling Let Us Play Day. This day will feature a massive web-based onslaught of tweeting and Facebook’ing:

— Tell EVERYONE you can about www.NFLLockout.com and how they can sign the Petition to Block the Lockout.

— Donate your Facebook status by posting: “Today is LET US PLAY Day. Help NFL Players and Fans Block the Lockout. Visit NFLLockout.com and sign the Petition.”

— Tweet the following: “Today is #LETUSPLAY Day. Help #NFL Players & Fans #BlocktheLockout. Visit NFLLockout.com and sign the Petition.”

—You can participate in a #LETUSPLAY Chat with me and other players on Facebook and Twitter that day. We will also be taking fan questions from Twitter and Facebook and responding to them on Ustream and our YouTube page.

The day will involve a variety of chatting and tweeting with NFLPA players and executives as the players association attempts to ratchet up public awareness of a potential lockout and also public pressure on NFL owners. It looks like abasic public relations move, but bringing any kind of pressure on the owners could potentially force them back to the bargaining table in some form or fashion.

At the end of the day, the important thing is getting the two sides together to discuss their differences like adults and figure out a solution. A deal can be done and it can be done without costing the league and its players money. The two sides just need to move past the sabre-rattling.

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