Posted on: May 24, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:35 am

NFL Shop raises jersey prices $5 amid lockout

Posted by Will Brinson

It seems like a terrible time to raise the cost of jerseys at NFLShop.com -- by a whopping five dollars apiece. Yet that's exactly what is happening although a lockout is firmly in place with no current guarantee of football in 2011.

The NFL insists the price hike is a result of the "normal course of business."

I called NFLShop.com after seeing a report on JoeBucsFan.com (via Pro Football Talk) that the NFL has increased the costs of replica jerseys from $79.99 to $84.99. After providing my name and employer, I was immediately put on hold and transferred to a supervisor.

"Well, the only thing we can say about any price increases are a part of normal course of business and a result of the cost of goods increasing, sir," the supervisor told CBSSports.com.

Since that didn't equate to confirmation, I felt a follow-up question was appropriate. I asked:  "But can you confirm the increase in $5 per jersey?"  

"Yes, sir, but any price increases are part of a normal course of business," she replied.

As to the issue of selling jerseys for unsigned rookies (as you can see Cam Newton jerseys are on "advance sale!" for $84.99), the supervisor said that she "wouldn't be able to answer that" question.
NFL Labor

Obviously, the timing on the increase in costs for jerseys is poor (and that may be an understatement).

But, it's entirely possible that the cost of jersey-making is going through the roof right now, which would rationally explain the need to raise costs of jerseys by $5 under the "normal course of business."

However, representatives for both the NBA.com and MLB.com confirmed to CBSSports.com that neither of their respective stores had raised prices in the last month and neither had plans to raise prices any time in the near future.

Certainly, jersey-making, while not homogenous across all sports, should follow some sort of trend. It seems that the NBA and MLB should also be feeling any increase in costs. However, if those teams are feeling cost increases they certainly are not passing them on to fans -- and that is what makes the NFL's move so problematic in a lockout-ridden offseason.

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Photo via NFL.com
Posted on: May 22, 2011 5:46 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2011 8:15 pm

Ray Lewis: Lockout will lead to rise in crime

Posted by Will Brinson

There seems to be a prevailing theory that the current lockout has led to more off-the-field trouble for NFL players. (Though you could also chalk it up to more attention on the behavior of players, if you're so inclined.)

Ray Lewis has a more interesting sociological theory, however, in that he believes general crime will rise if the lockout continues into the season.

"Do this research if we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game," Lewis said in an interview with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

But, um, why?

"There's nothing else to do, Sal," Lewis said.

He also seemed to attribute behavior of the general public through vicarious living.

"There's too many people that live through us, people live through us," Lewis said. "Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the streets, and I'm not talking about the people you see all the time."
NFL Labor

It's an interesting theory, though I'm not so sure it holds water, at least at first glance.

For instance, less NFL games actually mean more money for the general public. More money, typically, means less crime.

Additionally, I'm not sure that anyone who watches football is going to see less of what happens on the field and become more violent, if you want to examine the vicarious living aspect.

But maybe Lewis has something here, if only because more free time can definitely lead to less appropriate behavior.

I'm not entirely sure that a rise in crime while the NFL is missing games can even be fairly classified as a direct correlation, either, but if it leads to the NFL and NFLPA working harder on getting a deal done and getting football on the field, then by all means, let's manipulate some statistics.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: May 21, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2011 3:50 pm

Appeal ruling boils down to recognition of union

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA filed their brief in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case just before midnight Friday, and led with a strong statement: "The NFL is a cartel."

But for as many zingers and strong language that exists in the brief, the argument that the panel of judges in St. Louis are really considering is this: "Are the players still a union?"

In their brief, the players argue that the NFL has not actually proven that the nonunionized players are arguing their case in the wrong place.

"The NFL does not cite any case that has ever held that disputes between employers and individualized nonunionized employees fall under the [Norris LaGuardia Act]," the players' attorneys wrote.

See, the Norris LaGuardia Act (NLGA) basically says that if there's a dispute between a employer and a group of employees in a union, that such a dispute needs to be resolved by the NLRB, and not by the court system.

So this -- "Are the players still a union?" -- is the dispute, legally speaking, that will decide whether or not we continue to have a lockout. If the Appeals Court believes/rules that the NFLPA truly disbanded, they'll lift the lockout. If they don't believe that, they'll leave the lockout in place, because, in their eyes, no court has jurisdiction over such a labor-related matter.

Here's the biggest problem, for those hoping the lockout will end: if the Appeals Court rules that the NFLPA broke up in good faith and is truly no longer a union (versus simply disbanding for legal leverage), they will establish a nightmarish precedent for themselves.
NFL Labor

Here's an example that may or may not simply be for the purpose of referencing The Wire, which is all the rage these days: If the Baltimore Union of the International Brotherhood of Stevedores decides it's being treated unfairly and wants to pursue litigation against its employer, Hypothetical Widget Shipping, Inc., it cannot dissolve the union, file a lawsuit and re-unionize later. At least not right now.

But it could -- potentially anyway -- do such a thing should the Appeals Court rule in favor of the players. (Edit: There is a difference between the status of sports leagues and other places of employ re: anti-trust status. But the point remains that the court would open itself up to a different interpretation of the law. Also, a better example could be: the NBA.)

This is problematic for the courts because it completely flips the jurisdiction of all labor disputes, if a union is willing to disband.

Remember, the Court of Appeals is pro-business; they're not "pro Roger Goodell." They don't care about this case in the sense of "How can we keep the players from winning?" They care about this case in the sense of "How does this effect future legal proceedings?"

Which is why it seems quite unlikely that the 8th Circuit will favor the players, regardless of how strong their arguments are.

Are there more issues? Yes. Are some of them stupidly complex? Absolutely.

But if you're going to boil the legal battle of the lockout down to one singular thing, it's whether or not a group of judges want to believe that the NFLPA has deunionized. Because of what they'd be setting themselves up for in the future, it's highly unlikely they'll rule that way.

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Posted on: May 20, 2011 9:49 am

Goodell: 'No drop-dead date' for NFL season

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell's been on a telephone tour de force with NFL season-ticket holders, explaining what all of this lockout business means and answering questions from the people who just so happen to make this a multi-billion business.

His latest stop found him on a bunch of Pittsburgh phone lines and while the call went mostly the same, Goodell had an interesting answer, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when it came down to the date on which the NFL needs to start to get a full season in.

"First, our objective is to have a full season, we scheduled a full season, we are planning for a full season and that's our intent," Goodell said. "If we're not capable of doing that we will play as many games as possible and want to finish with the Super Bowl."

Most importantly though, how many games will such a season necessitate?

"There is no drop-dead date," Goodell said.

So, theoretically, we could have a sudden-death, round-robin season starting in Week 14, where everyone plays their division rivals once and whoever's got the best record/tiebreaker record moves on to the playoffs, where they'll be crowned with a giant asterisk upon winning the Super Bowl.
NFL Labor

Now, Goodell kind of has to say this -- if he points out that there's a certain date in which the NFL season would be lost, that provides a hard target for the players to eye when it comes to absolutely finishing off the season.

Not that they want to finish it, but canceling a season would be pretty devastating to an owner or two who's already accepted accepted season-ticket money. Even if the fans get their money, plus one percent interest, back -- one has to think that each of the 31 individual NFL owners can procure a better interest rate over the course of a lost season that actually would equate to profit.

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Posted on: May 17, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 5:41 pm

NFLPA memo details nearly 2 years of CBA talks

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA's negotiations and collective bargaining with the NFL during the past four years has centered squarely around avoiding a lockout through the implementation of a "pegged cap," according to a five-page NFLPA memo obtained by CBSSports.com.

This document sheds perhaps the most light to date on the specifics of back-and-forth -- formal or otherwise -- between the two sides through the current labor negotiations.

According to the document, the NFLPA and NFL discussed -- either in a bargaining session, meeting or via telephone -- the "pegged cap" issue nine times from June 2010 through March of 2011.

A September 2010 meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash is specifically detailed, in which the pair reviewed "in writing" the pegged cap concept.

The document also notes that during a Super Bowl bargaining session the NFL stated a need to "examine the pegged cap concept in more detail" and later respond. The Super Bowl bargaining sessions were cut short; per the memo the "NFL walked out, claiming a fundamental misunderstanding."

It was later reported that the now-infamous exchange between Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Drew Brees/Peyton Manning may have caused the split.

The document, recently distributed to players to simplify the chain of labor-related events over the past years, also focuses on the inability of the NFLPA to procure financial details from the NFL.
NFL Labor

According to the document, the NFLPA requested "audited financial statements and other financial information from the clubs and the League" at least a dozen times between May 2009 and November 2010.

The NFL responded, per the memo, by sending one page of "limited cost data" in November of 2009, and four pages of "League-wide cost information" from 2007 and 2008. In contrast, Pash said in March 2011 that the union had received unprecedented financial data from the league.

During the November 2009 session in which the NFL provided the single sheet of financial information, they also introduced the rookie wage scale and "18% rollback" of the salary cap, per the memo.

This 18% rollback was deemed necessary again at the Super Bowl negotiating meetings -- based on the document, the owners deemed such a rollback necessary to give "additional incentive" to invest in their teams.

Among all these discussions, however, the biggest issue at hand seems to be the difference in the split of revenue. The NFL repeatedly claimed a "70/30" split, while the NFLPA reiterated, according to the memo, that "it is closer to 50/50 after [the] $1 billion deduction."

It also seems that the "pegged cap" issue provided the most movement of any issue within the realm of labor negotiations. Several back-and-forths occurred, per the memo, and multiple proposals were exchanged, before the decision from Special Master Stephen Burbank that awarded the players damages in the television contracts case.

Whether or not the television contracts became the actual breaking point in negotiations can't be completely ascertained. The only thing that's clear from the document is that there was a chance -- at one point in time -- to avoid a lockout and the situation all parties, including fans, are in now: without football.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 5:00 pm

Mediation recesses Tuesday ... until June 7

Posted by Will Brinson

Mediation between the NFL and NFLPA resumed Tuesday, under the awkward cloud of the NFL's recent win at the Court of Appeals. But it didn't last long. DeMaurice Smith, Roger Goodell and U.S. Judge Magistrate Arthur Boylan left for lunch in the early afternoon (and returned quickly -- take that for what it's worth), and shortly thereafter, at about 2:15 pm EST, mediation adjourned for the day.

NFL Labor

Per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the two sides were not returning for a Wednesday session. However, don't let that fool you into thinking negotiations are totally dead. 

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told Breer that the two sides would return for further mediation on June 7, after the June 3 Court of Appeals hearing.

"We owe it our game, we owe it to our fans we owe it to ourselves, the league and players, to sit down and talk," Pash said, per Breer.

Neither side discussed any specifics, though Hall of Famer Carl Eller said he believes this week's session included progress. Eller represents retired players.

As mentioned earlier, much of the remaining available leverage hinges on Judge David Doty's ruling on the TV lockout fund.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 10:50 am

Why the players won't simply cave just quite yet

Posted by Will Brinson

As the second day of court-ordered mediation is underway in Minnesota, it's presumed that the NFLPA will throw up their collective -- but un-unionized! -- hands, and take the best reasonable deal the owners will offer.

I don't see that happening just quite yet.

My colleagues Mike Freeman and Clark Judge both made excellent cases for why the leverage-less players should get to work on making a settlement happen.

And they weren't the only ones writing doom-and-gloom scenarios for the players. There was good reason for these opinions -- the language from the 8th Circuit regarding irreparable harm is a brutal blow to the players.

But just because the 8th Circuit favored the owners in this instance, it's not guaranteed that the 8th Circuit will favor the owners in the future.

This is critical, as DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA are still sitting on a pretty big, $4 billion bullet that is the TV lockout fund case.
NFL Labor

Judge David Doty will rule on that some time in the near future; the status is currently "under advisement," so there's no set timeline for the District Court Senior Judge to rule.

Presumably, he's going to hammer the owners, who he believe heavily violated their partners' trust by negotiating in a subversive manner with the networks. And, presumably, the NFL is going file an appeal with the 8th Circuit ... again.

But here's the interesting thing: the 8th Circuit, while notoriously "pro-business," isn't beholden to the NFL in this matter.

In fact, the crux of their ruling on Monday is the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which centers around whether or not a labor dispute -- i.e. a dispute arising between an employer and a union -- can be resolved by the federal courts.

What's important to remember here is that, while the Court of Appeals is concerned with fixing the game of football, they're probably a touch more concerned with not setting a precedent for any union in America to decertify (even temporarily) going forward, with the express intent of creating legal leverage.

However, the presumed appeal they'll see on Judge Doty's TV ruling doesn't involve the Norris-LaGuardia Act. At all. It's just a standard appeal.

Which makes it a lot more likely that the players can score a "win" (insomuch as these exist these days) on appeal. The players know, and the owners certainly know this.

It's why you're hearing reports that the owners are pushing for some sort of settlement while they have the most leverage firmly in hand.

And the players, I imagine, will certainly listen to any sort of settlement offer that comes their way. Just don't bank on them caving quite yet.

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Posted on: May 14, 2011 12:19 pm

Goodell: Teams could have dealt between lockouts

Posted by Will Brinson

As you'll recall, there was a (very) brief period between the lockout(s) in which players were free to report to facilities, meet with coaches, etc., etc.

This period, roughly between 8 AM - 6 PM on Friday April 29, didn't mean that teams could trade players, however. Or at least so we thought anyway.

Roger Goodell, while speaking to Eagles fans, said that two teams could have agreed to a deal before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the league a temporary stay.

Per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Goodell said that "trade talks about players were not allowed during the draft, but he said two teams could have agreed on a deal before the lockout went into effect and could then carry through when the lockout ended."
Kevin Kolb: So Hot Right Now

This is a pretty huge deal, because it could potentially mean that players are already heading to different destinations, perhaps without even knowing about it.

Kevin Kolb is the reason for an Eagles fan asking, of course, and it's entirely possible that he's headed to a new team immediately following the lockout.

What would be particularly fascinating is if Kolb's (admittedly hypothetical) new team is interested in keeping him up to speed ... could they potentially find a way of getting him a playbook? Would it be worth the risk to gain such an advantage heading into the 2011 season? Could that team keep it from leaking out if that were the case?

Again, all of these questions are hypothetical scenarios, but the point remains: Goodell's statement to Eagles fans on Friday opens up an interesting window for offseason player movement that we previously weren't aware of.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com