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.
Roger Goodell: We had 17 days of mediation here. We certainly want to thank George Cohen, Scott Beckenbaugh and the entire staff here. We worked hard. We didn’t reach an agreement obviously. As you know, the union walked away from the mediation process today to decertify. We do believe that mediation is the fairest and fastest way to reach an agreement that works for the players and for the clubs. And we believe that ultimately this is going to be negotiated at the negotiating table. They’ve decided to pursue another strategy and that is their choice. But we will be prepared to negotiate an agreement and get something done that is fair to the players and fair to the clubs.
Jerry Richardson: This is a time for our fans not to be discouraged. We’ve worked very hard. I view it as a bump in the road. In due course we will have an agreement. As the Commissioner alluded to, we’ll have to negotiate an agreement. I would also like to add there has been no anger and friction between the players and the teams and has been actually a real learning experience for all of us, and in due course we will have an agreement.
John Mara: This obviously is a very disappointing day for all of us. I’ve been here for the better part of two weeks now, and essentially during that two-week period the union’ s position on the core economic issues has not changed one iota. Their position has quite literally been ‘take it or leave it’ and in effect they have been at the same position since last September. We made an offer to them today to basically split the difference between the two sides. We made that approximately at 12:00 pm and at 4:00 pm they came back and said it was insufficient and they have apparently decided to decertify. One thing that became painfully apparent to me during this period was that their objective was to go the litigation route. I believe they think it gives them the best leverage. I never really got the feeling in the past weeks that they were serious about negotiating. And it’s unfortunate because that’s not what collective bargaining is all about. I think eventually we’ll be back at the table, but unfortunately now we will have to go through this process where we are in court.
Jeff Pash: As you know we’ve been here for the better part of three weeks, fully engaged and fully committed to this process. I said yesterday that an agreement could be reached if there was a shared commitment on both sides. I was disappointed and all of us were disappointed that at the very time we were face-to-face with the union and its executive committee, they had already made the decision to decertify their union. We were meeting with them after 4:00 pm this afternoon to talk about the offer that we tendered them. And an hour later, we got letters that as of 4:00 PM they had given up their status as a collective bargaining representative.
So I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate as we said all along. And that’s unfortunate because all it means is the eventual resolution of this business dispute is going to be delayed. We will have an agreement and we will have a system that is good for fans, good for players and allows this game to grow.
I want to say before I go any further that George Cohen and Scott Beckenbaugh, the director and deputy director here at FMCS have our most profound gratitude. They’ve put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort, they have brought a discipline and a strength to the process, they have pushed both sides to examine and re-examine their positions.
Out of that came today a comprehensive, new revised proposal to the Players Association that incorporated and moved in fact further on all the areas we had discussed all week and where progress had been made.
We incorporated new economic terms to try to bridge the gap. You’ve heard a lot of talk about an $800M gap. Nowhere close. Not close to factual.
We offered today to split the difference and meet the union in the midpoint, with a player compensation number that would have been equivalent to player compensation in 2009 and above player compensation in 2010, and we offered grow it from there over four years by $20 million a club, to the point where in 2014 the player compensation number was the union’s number. It was the number the union proposed to us and we accepted it. That wasn’t good enough.
We offered to guarantee for the first time in the history of the league, more than one year of injury on player contracts. Apparently not good enough.
We moved off of our wage scale, and we offered to do a rookie compensation system within the context of a hard rookie cap as the union had proposed which would preserve individual negotiations and maintain the role of agents in the process. Evidently not good enough.
We offered, in fact we agreed to the union’s request for a cash team minimum for the first time in league history. We agreed to it at their number and their structure. Evidently not good enough.
We told the union that for 2011 and 2012, we would play within the existing 16-game regular season format, and we committed to them, notwithstanding the rights we have in the current agreement, we would not change to 18 games without their consent. Evidently not good enough.
At the same time, we agreed to implement wide ranging health and safety changes, reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing the practice time in the preseason, reducing the practice time and contract drills during the regular season and expanding the number of days off for players. Evidently not good enough.
We offered to increase the benefits in a wide range for both current and retired players. Under the proposal we had tendered, retired players who left the league before 1993, would experience an increase in their retirement benefit of close to 60 percent and the union, which says it represents former players, walked away from that today.
We’re discouraged, we’re frustrated, we’re disappointed, but we are not giving up. We know this will be resolved in the negotiation process and we will be prepared to come back here any time the union is ready to come back here.
And we look forward to getting back to the collective bargaining table with the assistance of the director and Scott Beckenbaugh and getting the kind of agreement that we need to have this game go forward.
Will you lock the players out tonight?
Decision has not been made.
How do you plan to get back to the negotiating table when you are so far apart?
On many things, I don’t think we are that far apart. That’s my point. We accepted the union’s position on a wide range of issues in an effort to bridge the gaps, in an effort to get to an agreement. Evidently that was not good enough for whatever reason.
Did they bargain in bad faith?
That’s for someone else to decide.
What do you say to the fans?
I can say to the fans as I’ve said before, the absence of an agreement is a shared failure and I think they should be disappointed, I think they should be unhappy and I understand that. I will only say that we will not waiver for one moment, for one day, in trying to get an agreement that works for fans, that works for players and that works for clubs. That’s what we want. It doesn’t do us any good to shut down our business. That was never our goal. It’s not our purpose today. No one is happy with where we are right now. We will continue our efforts. This is a part of the process, but it is not the end of the process. I think that’s the most important thing to remember.
Will you stay in touch with the union?
I certainly hope so. I would expect so, yes.
What is the status of the NLRB charge?
I don’t know.
How can you stay in touch if they’ve decertified?
I have my views on whether the decertification such as it is valid or meaningful. Someone else will make that judgment–it’s not for me to decide. But we’ve obviously brought a proceeding at the National Labor Relations Board to address that issue. There will come a point no matter how the litigation that union has evidently filed, whatever course it takes, when we will have to get back together to resolve these issues. Because the only way we can have an orderly process for having this game operate is through consensual negotiations, through agreements, and so we’ll have to make them. Eventually, I don’t know how long, I hope not very long, we’ll sit down and get to work on that.
When will you make a decision on the lockout?
We’ll talk to the CEC again and get a sense of what they think is the appropriate course and make an announcement at the appropriate time.
Will your offers be less generous as you continue to lose money?
We’ve said that as this goes on, there will be losses and those losses will obviously complicate, they won’t make it easier to get an agreement, they’ll complicate it – so that’s certainly a factor that we’ll have to account for as we go forward. That’s one more reason why the sooner we get back to bargaining, and the sooner we reach an agreement, the better.
Will you release any more financial documents?
There is no point to releasing them to people who don’t want to negotiate with you. We did offer to release five years of individual club-by-club financial documents to a mutually acceptable third party to review, analyze and report on those documents. We also offered to give the union aggregate profit data for the 32 clubs as a whole so they could see how the profitability has changed over the years. We offered substantial financial disclosures and the union chose not to take it.
Is the five years of audited financials a new offer?
It was something we had offered them some time ago. It was not something we just offered today.
When De Smith said we want 10 years of audited financials from each club, what was the reaction?
We were upstairs discussing the various points that they had made. Unbeknownst to us at the time they made those points they had already claimed to renounce their bargaining status, so I don’t know precisely why we were meeting with them. We were upstairs discussing it, we were talking to members of our ownership and within the committee and then we saw on one of the television stations that they had announced they had decertified and filed a lawsuit, etc. So it sort of muted the discussion.
SUMMARY OF NFL PROPOSAL
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
a. Reducing the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 to 10, and limiting on-field practice time and contact;
b. Limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and
c. 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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