Thursday, March 31, 2011

NFLPA's Kessler Puts the Pressure on the NFL with Statements

Excerpt from

SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily’s IMG World Congress of Sports concluded Thursday with a discussion of laborby NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler. Kessler provided some insight into what the decertified NFLPA envisions could come about if Judge Susan Nelson rules in its favor next week and blocks the NFL lockout.

Kessler believes if the lockout is lifted, teams will impose severe restrictions on the players. “We believe, and we have good reason to believe, their intention would be to impose restrictions that are going to be anti-competitive. In fact, more restrictive than anything that has ever been agreed to previously in collective bargaining.”

Keeping in mind the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit, Kessler said, “That’s why that case also seeks to stop them from doing that, to stop them from substituting for a lockout with a set of restrictions that themselves would be antitrust violations.” He added, “If the league wants to disabuse us of that notion, and not impose such restrictions, than life will be a lot easier, legally, for them. But right now, we have every reason to believe that if they’re forced to impose a system, it’s not going to be one that complies with the antitrust laws. But that’s what we’ll find out.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SHOWTIME: The iLLiance with CHiddy Bang and The White Panda Tonight 3/22

NFL Uses Sham Defense in Antiturst Suit

This Monday, March 21, the NFL filed a 57 page document claiming the NFLPA's decertification was a sham and the antitrust suit should not be heard under the NLRB rules on the decertification issue.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=6243983

Saturday, March 12, 2011

NFL CAN Still Use the "Sham" Defense Against the NFLPA

From NFLLabor.com

http://nfllabor.com/2011/03/12/nfl-counsel-gregg-levy-%E2%80%9Cthis-%E2%80%98decertification%E2%80%99-also-a-sham%E2%80%9D/

“In an effort to protect its ability to repeat the fraud a second time, the union tried in the White settlement to limit the NFL’s ability to challenge in an antitrust court any future attempt by the union to pull off a similar sham. But that limitation could have applied only if the purported decertification occurred after expiration of the Stipulation and Settlement Agreement. The union was in such a rush to get to court that it did not wait until SSA expiration. The league is therefore free to show that this ‘decertification’ is also a sham.”

Where We Are Now With the NFL

The players’ union decertified Friday, March 11, 2011 around 4PM

The NFL owners began a lockout at midnight (no trades, signings, contact with players etc.).

The union has already filed a request for an injunction to block the lockout with U.S. District Court Judge David Doty. If Doty grants the injunction, the NFL will appeal the ruling, but the league year, with free agency and trades, could begin while the court process continues- not until a week or so at least.

If Doty rules the lockout is legal, there would be no NFL offseason (or potentially regular season) until both sides reach agreement.

The NFL's Proposal The Union Turned Down

Here is a statement from the NFL regarding their proposal to the Union. This comes from the NFL and thus represent the "we" below.....

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:

  • 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

Lockout Letter

Here's the text of an email sent by the NFL detailing its decision to declare a lockout:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

3/12/11

NFL STATEMENT ON "DECERTIFICATION"-LITIGATION-LOCKOUT

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.

Goodell Letter to Fans

Dear NFL Fan,

When I wrote to you last on behalf of the NFL, we promised you that we would work tirelessly to find a collectively bargained solution to our differences with the players’ union. Subsequent to that letter to you, we agreed that the fastest way to a fair agreement was for everyone to work together through a mediation process. For the last three weeks I have personally attended every session of mediation, which is a process our clubs sincerely believe in.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you that earlier today the players’ union walked away from mediation and collective bargaining and has initiated litigation against the clubs. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, our clubs offered a deal today that, among other things, was designed to have no adverse financial impact on veteran players in the early years, and would have met the players’ financial demands in the latter years of the agreement.

The proposal we made included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee a reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; 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).

It was a deal that offered compromise, and would have ensured the well-being of our players and guaranteed the long-term future for the fans of the great game we all love so much. It was a deal where everyone would prosper.

We remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached, and call 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.

While we are disappointed with the union’s actions, we remain steadfastly committed to reaching an agreement that serves the best interest of NFL players, clubs and fans, and thank you for your continued support of our league. First and foremost it is your passion for the game that drives us all, and we will not lose sight of this as we continue to work for a deal that works for everyone.

Yours,

Roger Goodell

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NFL Wins 4BILLION, For Now

The NFL Gets to Keep A 4 Billion-Dollar Bargaining Chip

Posted at at 11:00 am on Feb 10, 2011 by Zak Kurtz

With all the press from Super Bowl week and the talk about the upcoming CBA deadline, many people overlooked a very important ruling by NFL Special Master Stephen Burbank last Tuesday, February 1. Under the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement the league is required to maximize revenue for the mutual benefit of both sides. The NFL Players Association alleged that the NFL improperly negotiated below value television contracts, in exchange for a structuring deal that would pay the league $4 billion in 2011 (knowing that a lockout was possible), and was therefore not getting the most revenue possible in other seasons when the income would be shared with the players.

The Special Master rejected the Union’s complaint; however the he did rule that the NFL violated the Reggie White settlement agreement governing the CBA, regarding the NFL’s specific media contracts with ESPN and ABC. Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reported that the Special Master did not grant the injunction, but instead, awarded $6.9 million in damages for the CBA violations of the ESPN and ABC contracts. According to the Associated Press, the NFLPA was asking for $60 million in damages, but was awarded $6.9 million. Most importantly, the Special Master did not grant the Union’s request for an injunction, thus allowing the NFL to keep $4B from the TV contract deals with networks in 2011.

After the ruling both sides claimed a victory. The Union was happy the Special Master found minor CBA violations with the ABC and ESPN contracts. NFL Executive VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash called the award a “modest” amount at a press conference, but had to be delighted with the outcome. Union spokesman George Atallah tweeted after the decision, “Now for the good news: The NFL, until the appeal in Minnesota, has $4 billion to not play football next year. VICTORY!”

I believe this is a clear victory for the NFL. Comparing an award of $6.9 million with $4 Billion from what the Union called “lockout insurance” gives the NFL a lot more chips at the bargaining table.

The fact that the Union immediately appealed the ruling, and is now asking U.S. District Court Judge David Doty, the judge in charge of overseeing the NFL’s CBA, to issue a decision on its appeal before the March 3rd CBA officially expires is another example of how the Union is truly taking this ruling. One of my favorite quotes from an NFL statement over the weekend read, “As we have said all along, a new CBA has to be hammered out at the negotiating table, not in the courtroom. If the union commits to invest as much time, energy and other resources in negotiations as it has in its litigation strategy, a new agreement could well be reached by March 4.”

Although the NFL appears to have an advantage after the Special Master’s decision, the ruling could be beneficial to both side’s progress and enhanced efforts for a new CBA. This ruling could entice the NFLPA to negotiate more fervently in hopes of coming to an agreement before the critical March 4th deadline, just like the league’s statement above suggests.

On a side note, the league’s Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman also mentioned to reporters in January that the TV money at issue has to be repaid, with interest, once the games resume. Conversely, the NFL recently mentioned that it would not touch the $4 billion from the television contracts until a potential second lockout year in March 2012, if a new CBA still has not been reached. If these statements are true then the NFL now has even more incentive to come to an agreement for a new CBA and get these funds active.

Moving forward, Judge Doty will hear oral arguments for the appeal on February 24th in an open federal courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Judge Doty has been favorable to the players in recent rulings. The NFL even asked the judge to remove himself from his role overseeing the NFL’s CBA after his decision in the Michael Vick ruling, claiming Doty was showing bias towards the NFL players by meeting with player representatives before hearings and making inappropriate public comments. However, I am not so sure about Doty ruling with the players on this decision.

NFL Management and the NFLPA will be enhancing the intensity of negotiations between the two parties over the next several weeks. Hopefully the Union will let Judge Doty decide this decision on appeal, and not let it disrupt the flow of negotiations. As we all know, the sides have many other issues to agree on before March 4.