Owners Try Pushing Players Into Corner … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

In the battle between billionaires and millionaires, score one for the guys with the extra zero.

The NFL owners showed on Thursday some of the negotiating tactics that have made them billions of dollars over the years and allowed professional football to become America’s past-time. By announcing that they had ratified a labor agreement by a 31-0 vote, the owners backed the players into a corner and put the spotlight directly on the guys that wear the helmets and pads.

Essentially, the owners and their front-man NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made a major production out of the league approving its own proposal, one that included significant items that were reportedly news to the players’ negotiators. Essentially the NFL pulled the hidden ball trick, coming onto the labor negotiating field with their Thursday proposal tucked under their expensive Italian suits.

The owners got into the end zone and kicked the extra point while the players were still huddled up on the sidelines. As one might expect, the players had some problems with what went down and a scheduled vote by the player reps Thursday night did not go down. They need more time to look at the paperwork from the NFL, and some of that paperwork didn’t make its way from Atlanta (owners meeting) and New York (league headquarters) to Washington D.C. (union headquarters) until late Thursday evening.

None of this would be that important if it were May or June, or even early July. But the reason it came down from the owners on Thursday is an attempt to save the 2011 pre-season. They’ve already lost the Hall of Fame Game, which was officially cancelled on Thursday. The owners’ clock is ticking, but the players are not in the same time zone. There’s nothing special for them on July 21 or 22, or even next week, or August 1.

Essentially it comes down to this – the negotiations are not over. Forget the celebratory approach of the owners as they left Atlanta, or the anger of the players; nothing is settled and talks must continue.

The league’s actions have changed the temperature of these negotiations. For the last few weeks, things have gotten done as the parties have worked well together. It was a situation where both sides joined to move the labor football down the field and into the red zone.

That good feeling is now out the window, which ordinarily doesn’t make for a quick resolution of the disagreement.

There’s no question the ball has been punted into the players end of the field and the next step will depend on how the players react in the next 24 to 48 hours. According to Goodell, the league wants to open their facilities to the players on Saturday, but only if the deal is approved. The league wants to start the 2011 league season and open training camp on Wednesday, July 27, but only if a recertified union approves the package.

But merely by making those conditions, the NFL owners may be breaking labor law. Late Thursday, players attorney Richard Berthelsen e-mailed the executive committee on the league’s demand for recertification. He wrote:

“In addition to depriving the players of the time needed to consider forming a union and making needed changes to the old agreement, this proposed procedure would in my view also violate federal labor laws. Those laws prohibit employers from coercing their employees into forming a union, and could result in any agreement reached through the procedure being declared null and void.”

How reasonable is that view? Attorney Gabe Feldman who acts as a legal analyst for the NFL Network says the players’ attorney is on the money.

“It’s not only pegging the date, but it’s making a deal contingent on the reforming of a union, which would be management pressuring employees to form a union — which is illegal,” Feldman said. “You can’t as an employer, force or coerce your employers to form a union.”

Make no mistake, the owners knew what they were doing on Thursday and they did it on purpose. The attention from fans and the media falls on the players now and what they will do. It jacks up the pressure and allows the owners to stand back and throw up their hands and say things like, “we want to get back to football; we don’t know what’s wrong with them.”

But it makes sense for the players to slow this down right now. They know most of the details, but it’s the fine print that often makes a difference in living with a contract. That’s especially true in this deal, given that it’s a 10-year agreement and includes plenty of twists and turns dealing with billions of dollars.

Stay tuned … this football soap opera is not over yet.


All the details of the owners’ proposal have not yet escaped into the public domain yet, but we do know some of the efforts that are in the deal concerning former NFL players.

The owners’ deal includes additional funding for retiree benefits to the tune of $900 million to $1 billion. That would be essentially $100 million per year extra going to past players. The bulk of that amount — $620 million – will set up a new Legacy Fund that will increase the pensions for the pre-1993 retired players.

There are other improvements that the agreement leads to for medical options after a playing career is over, a disability plan, the 88 Plan to help with rest home costs, degree completion programs and the league’s Player Care Plan.

Plus, the owners’ proposal includes a joint fund for medical research and healthcare programs, with $50 million dedicated there per year.

And there’s also a key provision for the players of today, who will be the players of the past soon enough – current players will be given the opportunity to remain in the league’s medical plan for life.

11 Responses to “Owners Try Pushing Players Into Corner … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • July 22, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    Not a legal expert – but who would the League have a CBA with if not a certified union? So unless the NFLPA does re-certify the whole paperwork is bogus and the whole thing has to start from scratch.

    The timeframe set is probably the last option to keep the season’s schedule as it is – any further delay would cause at least a one week slip or force the teams to play the pre-season games without anything resembling a training camp.

    Not desirable from a player’s point of view as well.

    Not concerns me more than this final powerplay is the anti-trust lawsuit by Brady, Brees and others who obviously aim at creating private benefit for themselves out of the situation (Mankins, Jackson: cash; Brady & others: no franchise tag)

  • July 22, 2011  - RW says:

    Now we’re down to the real nut cutting. Money is there to be earned or lost for both sides and it’s at this point where someone is going to have to be the first to blink and get their cash flow going again.

    In the past, it’s always been the players who caved. Will it be so this time? I still believe it will but I also think it won’t be until more financial pain is felt on both sides.

  • July 22, 2011  - el cid says:

    I am confused by all this. The owners and some unspecified players group came up this a new CBA. Wed. the plan was to be presented to the players for a vote by everyone in the league, right? But the players said they needed to study it more, folks, that is not how it works anywhere but with football players. Face it some of those guys may be able to catch a football but contract negociators they are not, doubt most every read a contract, that is why they hired agents.

    Now the owners accepted the agreement their rep put together but 300+ players would not accept what their reps to together. Seems like it is more important to NOT have an agreement than get on with pro football. I starting to think we need a new pastime, football is not getting it done any more.

  • July 22, 2011  - upamtn says:

    nice work, Bob …

    pretty obvious and sad that the owners continue with their strong-arm tactics like this, sad but not at all surprising given their attempt to run an “end around” play with the TV contract a year ago

    just as they did in the pre-decert negotiations, the owners are one-sidedly changing things, then trying to present themselves to the public as “the good guys” … intelligent people can see right through that attempted scam, and that includes the players themselves

    I hope the changes made are superficial and acceptable to the players, but the tactics and posturing by the owners on this, and the changing of the proposal at the last minute as the owners have done, is disgusting

  • July 22, 2011  - Ray from Dallas says:

    The assertions of the NFLPA, or whatever they currently call themselves, that the NFL is breaking labor law by coercing them to form a union begs the question of whether or not they ever stopped being a union in the first place. That is under dispute and in fact what reactions we’ve seen from the courts indicate they might agree with the NFL that the “de-unionizing” move was a farce. From the NFL’s perspective they just want the players and the NFLPA to acknowledge that they are in fact a union, not to reform a union, which from the NFL’s perspective never stopped existing.

  • July 22, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    I’m not a patient person, although I am surviving the lockout of 2011. The NFL is the goose that lays the golden eggs. The TV networks are feeding that goose the finest prime rib nestled inside a platinum bun. Everybody likes to make money including me.
    I love football, especially Chiefs football. Why should I care if the average player earns more money in a year than I will in my lifetime. Why should I care that the average NFL owner earns more money than the GDP of most foreign countries. Why should I complain that since March of this year I’ve been reading about a bunch of guys figuring out the best way to get the bigger piece of the NFL pie. Why should I complain about the ever increasing cost of fuel, food, NFL tickets and related merchandise. Why should I complain that I have good friends that are unemployed, that taxes keep going up & that politicians have grown forked tongues.
    I’m not asking for much. I’m a simple man. I pay my taxes, work hard, stay out of trouble and always trying to do whats right. I love my family, my country and my God. Why is it that since March a million guys like me have been worried about what we’ll be watching on Sundays this fall and winter. I really can’t think of anybody that owes me anything. So why am I ranting?
    I love football…especially Chiefs football.
    Now, make it so.
    Go Chiefs.

  • July 22, 2011  - Ed says:

    We keep hearing about all these new terms the owners allegedly snuck in but we have no specifics. Why is that? What are these new terms? Are they at all material? Do they really exist? Also, recertification of the union was always contemplated by both sides and by all third-party observers. To now claim that the owners are acting in an underhanded, possibly illegal way by coercing the players into forming a unuion is ridiculous. Even now, the player reps from the decertified union are acting on behalf of their fellow players as is D Smith (the head of the union). Decertification was simply a tactic that the players used so that the antitrust lawsuit could be filed and everyone knows it.

  • July 23, 2011  - TimR says:

    This is all bs. DeMaurice has got the players in a jam. Yes, they are in a corner because they put themselves there. The owners have relented on virtually everything: no 18 game season, a greater revenue split, a different definition of total revenue that favors players, more limitations of OTAs, etc., more money for medical, pensions, & a requirement to increase the “floor” of the cap that clubs MUST spend. The players gave up really nothing except agreeing to a rookie cap which coupled with the higher “floor” leaves more money for vets! The players need to get a grip & get their ass to camp. The longer they wait, the less they’ll get when the revenue shrinks from reduced games. The PLAYERS are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. These fools think if they can all be FAs w/ no union they will make more. Only a few will because the cap would be history. Not all teams would have the revenue to compete. The real dollars would be in the hands of a few stars & a few teams. There’s a reason the owners are the owners & billionaires are the billionares instead of millionaires…

  • July 23, 2011  - Niblick says:

    Tim R. I agree. What was De Smith hired to do. I thought he negotiated this deal as their representive. I thought he had agreed to the deal. If the proposal he agreed to did not meet their approval, perhaps he should be fired. I guess the owners could have also handled it differently and not tried to pressure the players. I still feel Smith blew it as well.
    I am so disgusted with the whole process I’m on the verge of no longer caring.

  • July 23, 2011  - el cid says:

    The players told CNN the owners “changed” the proposed agreement after the reps ended the meeting. No saying it so, but if the players cannot agree on the agreement, they should vote it down. Then they can wait for the 2012 season and negociate until it comes out their ears.

    Personally, I agree with Tim R. But it could be a case of delaying until there will be no training camp, just go into the season (watch the injuries cost us then). Also the is some issue on the new CBA being 10 years, do not get that either.

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