Archive for May, 2011

Giants’ John Mara: “Time to get back to football”

“Fortunately, there is time to get back on track” wrote New York Giants president John Mara today on about the ongoing NFL labor dispute. “We need to resolve our differences with the players at the bargaining table, start the 2011 season on time, and set a positive course for the future of our great game.”

“Our end-game has always been a balanced collective bargaining agreement that helps us grow and improve the game,” Mara continued.

“The solution lies at the bargaining table. Everyone should realize what is at stake, especially in this economy. Right now, fans are caught in the middle listening to rhetoric and legalese they don’t want to hear. That is why, as ownership and players, we must recognize our shared responsibility as stewards of the game to compromise and reach a fair agreement — one that highly compensates players, protects their health and safety, ensures the on-field competitiveness of 32 teams, helps retired players, and improves the fan experience and fan value. The best way to get there is to let both sides exercise their labor law rights.”

Concluded Mara, “The current ball of confusion needs to become a football season, pronto; the kind of football season that NFL fans have grown to love and that has made our sport so popular.”

Following is John Mara’s complete essay:

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FACT CHECK: The NFL is not suing anybody

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith incorrectly stated four times in an 18-minute appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio last night that the NFL has filed a lawsuit in connection with the current labor dispute.

Said Smith in the interview:

  1. “This is the first league in the history of sports that has ever sued to not play their game.”
  2. “When we reach a time or a moment in history where a professional sports league is suing to not play football, we are in a bad spot.”
  3. “What do you think as a fan when you learn that the league that you write a check to, the teams that you have done nothing but cheer for years, are now suing to not play the game that we all love?”
  4. “You are the first league in history to go to court to sue that people should not be able to enjoy the game that you put on.”

Smith’s comments echoed a similar statement he made last Friday on the Boomer & Carton show on WFAN radio in New York. “Can you think of a business in America that sues not to play,” Smith said.

FACT: The NFL did not file a lawsuit. The NFL is a defendant in a lawsuit financed by the NFLPA.  What DID happen: On March 11, the NFL Players Association pushed away from the negotiating table and “disclaimed interest” in acting as a union.  The players’ counsel then filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, shifting the playing field from the boardroom to the courtroom.

FACT: It would be better for everybody if we drop the lawsuits and get back to the bargaining table.

We agree: Time is of the essence

“We had a good discussion,” NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said Tuesday following the second day of mediation in Minneapolis under the auspices of U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Boylan.

“I’ve said many times the only way we’re going to get this accomplished is face-to-face dialogue and really digging into the issues and I think we had a good step in that direction,” Pash continued. “I’m confident it’s going to continue and we’ll be back early next month to continue that process.”

Mediation with Judge Boylan will resume on June 7 and 8.

Cleveland Browns linebacker and player representative Scott Fujita, in an appearance yesterday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, agreed that time is of the essence.

“I know that the longer that this goes on this is going to get worse and worse,” Fujita said.

Eric Winston, the alternate player rep for the Houston Texans, was interviewed on SiriusXM NFL Radio Monday night and discussed the necessary give-and-take of negotiations.

“There has to be real compromise, there has to be some real understanding on both sides,” Winston said.

“If we can get both sides and we can mutually agree to a deal and we all feel it is fair, I think it should be a long deal,” Winston continued. “This isn’t good for football. Period.  It’s not good for the players, it’s not good for the owners, and it’s not good for anybody.”

Jeff Pash: “[Stay] just one step in the process. Negotiation is the only way to resolve this”

Following the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ grant of a stay on Monday night, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash reiterated the need for negotiation to reach a comprehensive agreement that will improve the game for players, teams, and fans.

“We’re not going to solve things through litigation and we’ve been clear on that,” Pash said in an interview with NFL Network after spending the day in mediation in Minneapolis. “What we need to be doing is focusing all of our attention on the process that’s going on here in this building with the assistance of the chief judge and in serious discussions with the players. We have an opportunity to resolve this matter and get the game back on the field, and that really should be our exclusive focus. Not litigation, not stays, injunctions, things like that. That’s not going to solve anything. So, I’m glad that it came out the way it did, but it’s just one step in a process and we need to focus on negotiation. That’s the only way we’re going to resolve this.”

NFL statement on stay granted by Eighth Circuit

“It is now time to devote all of our energy to reaching a comprehensive agreement that will improve the game for the benefit of current and retired players, teams, and, most importantly, the fans. This litigation has taken the parties away from the negotiating table where these issues should be resolved. We remain confident that the appellate court will determine that this is a labor dispute that should be governed by federal labor law. But the league and players, without further delay, should control their own destiny and decide the future of the NFL together through negotiation.”

Mediation quote of the day

“Feelings and ideas are renewed, the heart enlarged, and the understanding developed only by the reciprocal action of men one upon another.” —Alexis de Tocqueville


Commissioner Roger Goodell repeated Friday his concern about what the NFLPA-financed litigation could do to the NFL.

Asked by Mike Lupica on ESPN Radio-New York who it is that stands to gain the most from the decertification and litigation playbook pursued by the NFL Players Association, Goodell said: “There is no question — the attorneys. The lawyers are pursuing the litigation. They obviously benefit from that.”

But the Commissioner is more concerned about the direction the sport may take if the vision of the NFLPA lawyers determines the future of the league.

Said Goodell: “In fact, their vision of where they want to take the game of football and what they filed in briefs in the proceeding in the antitrust court is bad for the game of football.  They want to challenge everything. The draft, they say, is anti-competitive and illegal.  The draft has been a fundamental aspect of our competitive balance.  Having a salary cap and having a balanced free agency system instead of having every player free whenever their contract expires – I can go down a list of things that they are challenging in court which I think will be bad for the quality of the game and bad for fans.”

Goodell: “It’s about creating something better together”

Ali and Frazier. Packers-Bears. Borg vs. McEnroe. Jay-Z and Nas. Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Austin Powers and Dr. Evil.

In sports, music and movies, it is easy and fun to pit one side against another and simply look for the winner and the loser. It makes for good copy and theatre. Many people have tried to paint an “us vs. them” picture in the NFL’s attempt to secure a new agreement.

But that’s not what this is about, says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It is more about securing a new collective bargaining agreement that puts players, teams and fans on a path to even greater prosperity than the sport has enjoyed in the past 20 years.

Asked in a radio interview Friday by Mike Lupica on 1050 ESPN New York about his relationship with DeMaurice Smith, Goodell said: ““We have to recognize that it is not about fighting.  It is about creating something better together.  It is about working together to build the sport, which will ultimately benefit De’s membership, the 32 clubs from my standpoint and most importantly, the fans.”

Goodell added: “We have to work together to find that partnership and that relationship in a collective bargaining process that is going to allow everyone to flourish.”

Commissioner on litigation concerns & his role in current dispute

In an interview with Pro Football Talk Live’s Mike Florio Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed his concern about where the current NFLPA-financed litigation could lead and explained that his role in the current labor dispute is to help reach an agreement that works for both the teams and the players.

Florio brought up reports about the league considering a wide range of alternatives in the event that the appeals court in St. Louis decides that that the lockout should indeed be lifted. “Is there a concern on the part of the NFL,” asked Florio, “that no matter what rules the league would choose to put in place after the lifting of the lockout, those rules are going to be attacked as antitrust violations by the players?”

“That is the core of what concerns me about the antitrust challenges that the union attorneys are pursuing,” Commissioner Goodell said. “They are attacking aspects that have made the league successful.  The draft is a great example of it.  They say it is anticompetitive and illegal. Their documents all indicate that. They are challenging the legality of the draft. Other attorneys could decide that they want to attack other aspects of our system, whether it is the free agency system, the roster sizes or any aspect of our system. If there is an attorney who wants to pursue that and a judge who is willing to give an injunction, it is something we have to deal with. As you can imagine, that is not a way to be able to operate your league in a successful fashion. That is why this has to get back to the negotiating table, get a collective bargaining agreement that works for both sides and get out of this litigation mode because it will not be in the best interest of the game long term and I do not believe it will be in the best interest of the majority of the players over the long term.”

On the perception that he only represents the owners, Commissioner Goodell said, “My interest is the game and to continue to grow the game. The 32 owners felt very strongly that this labor agreement was not working for them. I understand why it’s not working for them. It is imperative that we all get together and find a deal that works for the 32 clubs but also all of the players. Whatever agreement is struck here, I wouldn’t want the players four years from now to feel the way the owners do about the current agreement. That’s not the right way to do this. It needs to have a balance to it that is responsible to the concerns of each party. Recognize here that neither party is going to get everything they want but they have to get what they need and to put together an agreement that makes sense for the game long-term.”

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s interview with Mike Florio:

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Commissioner Addresses NFL Economics

In his 12th conference call with NFL team season ticket holders, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked several questions by Cincinnati Bengals fans about the league’s economics. He emphasized how rising costs have changed the NFL’s economics despite growing revenue.

One Bengals fan said, “My question has to do with the funds that the players are getting now from the profits.  Other than an economic turndown for the league and reduced profits and all of that, do the players in accepting a percentage, a high percentage I might add, of the profits, do they take any of the other economic risks that the owners face?”

A: No, they do not take the economic risk. The way the system works right now is it’s not a high percentage of profits – it’s a high percentage of revenues. That’s one of the issues that the clubs are raising. While those revenues continue to increase, unfortunately, they’re not increasing as fast as our costs, including player costs. But there are costs in building new stadiums, maintaining those stadiums, making capital improvements to those stadiums, continuing to have great facilities for the clubs – all of those things come with higher costs and that is something that we want to have recognized in the system. With those higher costs, instead of taking it completely as a percentage of revenue, there should be recognition of those costs before the sharing of revenue, and that’s one of the systems that was proposed and part of the discussion that we’re having with the Players Association. It’s something that we’ve got to get addressed.

On what the NFLPA is seeking financially:

They are looking for a share of the overall revenue and they don’t want to change their share in revenue despite the fact they acknowledged costs have continued to escalate, not just player costs but the costs of operations, which they have acknowledged and we have demonstrated to them in financial disclosures.  Clearly, they understand that the economics of the NFL have changed over the past 10 or 15 years but they do not want their percentage shared to change.

It is unrealistic in this kind of an environment where it takes a significant investment to create revenue, whether it is a new stadium or other new business opportunities.  You have to invest to do that.  You have to encourage owners or clubs to make those investments because that is how the game is going to continue to grow.  That is how we have been able to grow the game, particularly over the past five or six years, by making smart investments.  Hopefully, we can get back to that.

On how the NFL plans to prevent the lockout from affecting season ticket holders and pricing them out of seeing games:

It’s a great question, and it is one of the things that we’re obviously trying to address here. By controlling our costs, that gives us a better ability to manage our business and I think we have to recognize what our fans are going through, either season ticket holders or other fans that want to attend our event or participate in our event in some fashion. The economy has taken an impact on people and it continues to have that impact. The uncertainty out there and the rising cost of gasoline – all the things that you are dealing with and every other fan are dealing with are realities and we cannot continue to shift the cost, our increased costs, to the fans, to the season ticket holders. That’s something we’re trying to address here. By controlling our costs, by getting a better control over the way we manage our business, we hopefully can do a better job of making sure that we continue to make our game affordable for all fans.

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s conference call with Bengals fans:

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