Saturday, March 12, 2011
Posted: 10:32 a.m.
By John Mullin
NFL players may have elected to decertify their union and take up matters through the courts system but the league is not done with them.
The NFL issued a statement Saturday that called on the players to return immediately to negotiations while laying out many of the issues the owners believe were part of a good deal left on the table.
In its statement the NFL declared:
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.
After a period of limited public comments by either side, viewed by most as an indication that progress was being made and that neither side wished to create antagonism, the NFL on Saturday was considerably less conciliatory, bringing in an unspecified comparison to situations such as Wisconsin public workers losing their rights to collective bargaining.
Continuing with its statement, the NFL said:
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.
While the situation will ultimately fall to the courts to decide, the league officially declared the lockout that has been threatened for as much as two years, or since the owners exercised their option to exit the existing collective bargaining agreement.
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.
And to the fans:
The league made a push for the high ground in the court of public opinion:
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 everyones attention returns to the football field as soon as possible.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.