Pash says so-called “worst deal in history of sports” would pay players $19-20 billion over next four years

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash sharply disputed players’ union  leader DeMaurice Smith’s description today of the NFL’s proposal as the “worst deal in the history of professional sports” and added that if negotiations had continued he believes there would have been an agreement before the union’s April 6 court date.

On Sirius NFL Radio with Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan, Pash was asked Smith’s statement earlier today on Mike Francesa’s WFAN Radio Show in New York that if the NFLPA had agreed to the deal the NFL clubs proposed last Friday, “It would have been the worst deal in the history of professional sports.”

“I think that is quite a surprising statement,” Pash said. “The deal we had on the table, which we did not put out there as a take it or leave it and didn’t set a deadline saying if you don’t accept it by this time we are going to lock you out, was meant to keep the negotiations going and keep the process going.  It would have paid the players over the next four years, 2011-2014, somewhere between $19 and 20 billion.  It would have increased pay from 2011-2014 by $640 million on a league-wide basis, $20 million per club.  It would have reduced the amount of work that is required in the off-season.

“We got rid of five weeks of the offseason program,” Pash continued. “We cut OTAs from 14 to 10 days.  We made changes in the preseason.  We put limits on full-padded practices in the regular season.  We increased days off.  We increased retirement benefits so that more than 2,000 retired players would have gotten almost a 60% increase in their pension benefit. We offered players the opportunity to have lifetime coverage in our medical plan.  We offered for the first time to revise our disciplinary system so that they get a third-party neutral arbitrator on all the drug and steroids cases.  We offered improvements in the disability plan, the 88 Plan, the post-career benefits, not just for medical but for post-career education and career transition programs.  There was a lot on the table that would have been significant improvements. To say it was the worst deal in the history of sports suggests a lack of familiarity with a number of professional sports deals, starting perhaps with the hockey deal in 2005 where players lost an entire season of pay and then went back to work with a 25 percent pay cut.” 

Pash also discussed the union’s litigation strategy.

“The union in order to maintain its litigation posture and to maintain the fiction of not being a union has to not talk to us,” he said. “That’s the reality, unfortunately.  They have elected this decertification gambit and, in order to try to demonstrate that they really are not a union, they can’t talk to us.  It is too bad because honestly, I think if we had negotiated hard from last Friday to April 6, we probably would have had an agreement before April 6.”

“If they wanted to meet with us, we would be there tomorrow.”

Below is a transcript of Pash’s interview.

NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF

LABOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL JEFF PASH

MOVIN’ THE CHAINS with PAT KIRWAN & TIM RYAN

Thursday, March 17, 2011

 

On state of affairs:

Unfortunately, we are not where we wanted to be.  We were hoping, frankly, that we would still be with the federal mediation service in dialogue with the union and continuing to make progress but obviously that is not what happened so we are in a bit of a holding pattern. 

On DeMaurice Smith stating that ‘It would have been the worst deal in the history of professional sports’:

I think that is quite a surprising statement. The deal we had on the table, which we did not put out there as a take it or leave it, we didn’t set a deadline saying if you don’t accept it by this time we are going to lock you out, it was meant to keep the negotiations going and keep the process going.  It would have paid the players over the next four years, 2011-2014, somewhere between $19 and 20 billion.  It would have increased pay from 2011-2014 by $640 million on a league-wide basis, $20 million per club.  It would have reduced the amount of work that is required in the offseason. We got rid of five weeks of the offseason program. We cut OTAs from 14 to 10 days.  We made changes in the preseason.  We put limits on full-padded practices in the regular season.  We increased days off.  We increased retirement benefits so that more than 2,000 retired players would have gotten almost a 60% increase in their pension benefit. We offered players the opportunity to have lifetime coverage in our medical plan.  We offered for the first time to revise our disciplinary system so that they get a third-party neutral arbitrator on all the drug and steroids cases.  We offered improvements in the disability plan, the 88 Plan, the post-career benefits, not just for medical but for post-career education and career transition programs. 

There was a lot on the table here.  That would have been significant improvements. To say it was the worst deal in the history of sports suggests a lack of familiarity with a number of professional sports deals starting perhaps with the hockey deal in 2005 where players lost an entire season of pay and then went back to work with a 25 percent pay cut.

On the proposed lifetime medical plan included:

We offered so that any current player when he retired would get five years of post-career medical that is paid by the clubs.  We offered after that to allow players to continue to participate in the medical plan by paying the premiums.  If they bought the insurance, they could participate.  One of the benefits that was created in the last agreement, which we would be continuing, was a health savings account where players, over the course of their career, can build up hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a benefit fund, sort of like a 401k, but for medical expenses which they could then use to pay the premium to stay in the medical plan so there would be no issue of preexisting conditions.  There would be no issue of trying to buy insurance as an individual or having to pay the higher rates when you are outside the group.  You’d have the same quality of care and the same network all over the country.  We thought that the reaction of the players and the reaction of union officials to that proposal was really very positive.  That is obviously the first time that the opportunity has been available from the NFL.

On offering to raise the cash spend to 90 percent of the salary cap:

For the first time, we were going to have a cash minimum as opposed to just a cap minimum.  You understand what the difference means and of course so did the union, which is why they pushed for that.  The 90 percent was an agreed upon figure and because of the way teams change over time, we all thought that you couldn’t do it year-by-year so we were doing it at on a three-year basis to allow for the fact that teams go through cycles.  Everyone on both sides thought that was a sensible compromise.  It would have done a lot.

On being close to agreement on several issues:

I agree with that on work rules and on the way we handled 18 games.  We committed that there would not be 18 games in 2011 or 2012 and that we wouldn’t go to 18 games without the union’s consent.  That is significant because the collective bargaining agreement that we have had in place for three decades would have allowed us to go to 18 games any time we wanted to without having to reduce the preseason games.  We could have played four preseason and 18 regular-season games if we wanted to.  We said, ‘Whatever rights we have in the current agreement, we are going to set that aside because this needs to be a consensual move if we make it.’

On why the parties are not negotiating prior to April 6:

The union in order to maintain its litigation posture and to maintain the fiction of not being a union has to not talk to us.  That’s the reality, unfortunately.  They have elected this decertification gambit and in order to try to demonstrate that they really are not a union, they can’t talk to us.  It is too bad because honestly, I think if we had negotiated hard from last Friday to April 6, we probably would have had an agreement before April 6.

On the NFLPA decertifying while the parties were still negotiating:

What happened was we were meeting with them and we finished the last session with them at about 4:15 PM and at 5:00 PM, we received three separate letters, each of which said as of 4:00 PM they had given up their status as a labor union.  In other words, at the very time that we were meeting with them, they had already given up their bargaining status.

On assuring football will be played in 2011:

Nobody is more committed to having football in September than Commissioner Goodell and the team owners.  That’s why the owners got into the business and that is what the Commissioner lives for.  We will do everything in our power and work as hard as we can to have football in September and to have football before September.

I understand that fans are fretting and they want to blame someone.  I totally get that.  I have said many times that the responsibility for getting this deal done is a shared responsibility and the failure to get a deal done is a shared failure.  We take our share for that.  We are not running and hiding from that.  We are accountable, too.

It takes two parties to get this deal done.  We are ready to go back to the negotiating table.  If they wanted to meet with us, we would be there tomorrow. 

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