Posted on: March 1, 2011 10:03 pm

Man, the NFL really comes off poorly here

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Let’s explore a little more into the decision made by U.S. District Judge David Doty and why he ruled the NFL had violated the CBA by entering into a deal with the networks that would pay the owners $4 billion next season even in the event of a lockout.

As the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand points out, the networks seemingly didn’t want to go along with the NFL’s idea to create a war chest that would be, for lack of a better term, lockout insurance in case there was a work stoppage.

Even though the networks didn’t want anything to do with it, that didn’t matter.

As Ourand writes, FOX didn’t want to pay during a work stoppage, but the NFL said the provision was a deal-breaker.* NBC believed it was getting “hosed,” so the NFL gave the network one additional game for the 2010-2013 seasons. The NFL also told ESPN a digital deal and the lockout provision were tied together.

*It can be scary just how powerful the NFL perceives itself. And is perceived.

But the craziest portion is the NFL’s deal with DirecTV.

From Doty’s ruling: "NFL's DirecTV contract provides that DirecTV will pay a substantial fee if the 2011 season is not canceled (and will pay) up to nine percent more, at the NFL’s discretion, if the 2011 season is canceled. In the event of a canceled season, 42 percent of the fee is non-refundable and the remainder would be credited to the following season.

Forty-two percent is non-refundable? For real?

More from Doty: "Typical work- stoppage provisions (in TV deals) anticipate a strike by players, not a work stoppage created by the NFL itself."

Not only did the NFL lose this decision to keep the $4 billion (for now, anyway), but it’ll be interesting to see how badly it suffers from the NFL fans' perception of this new informations. At this point, it’s really, really hard not to believe the owners were planning for a lockout, and that they knew they would profit mightily off it. In fact, it appears that the owners would have been better off if the 2011 season was lost altogether.

It’s almost hard to believe.*

*And if it is too hard to believe, here’s the complete ruling.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 8:25 pm

District judge rules NFL can't keep network money

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In yet another twist to the labor dispute, the NFL owners took a back-hand from U.S. District Judge David Doty today when he overruled special master Stephen Burbank and said the league could not have access to the TV network money for next season.

Doty ruled that Burbank had made several mistakes in his ruling from last month in which he said the NFL hadn’t violated the CBA with its “lockout insurance” deal with the networks, which would still pay the league about $4 billion even if there are missed games in 2011.

Instead, Doty said the league had breached the CBA and ordered a hearing to determine the damages accrued by the NFLPA. Doty also could – and probably will – keep that $4 billion from the owners if a lockout occurs. All along, the NFLPA has asked that the amount be kept in escrow.

Wrote Doty in his ruling: "The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the SSA relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the SSA as to those contracts.”

Here’s the NFL’s statement, via Greg Aiello: "As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included. Today's ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement."

Doty has ruled on NFL labor disputes for the past two decades, and the owners desperately want him off the case, because they think he’s pro-union. Today’s ruling certainly won’t change that opinion, but if Doty’s ruling forces the owners to get serious about negotiating, knowing they won’t get that TV money and knowing they've lost a measurable amount of leverage, NFL fans will love him forever.

Look for the owners to appeal the decision, but make no mistake: this is a sizable victory for the union.

And the NFLPA's statement: "This ruling means there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on."

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 5:37 pm

NFLPA 'cautiously optimistic' about today's talks

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For those who are looking for a little bit of hope – hell, ANY kind of hope – Seahawks G Chester Pitts has got just the news for you.

As the labor negotiation talks between the NFL owners and the NFLPA began to wind down today in Washington, Pitts emerged from the room and talked to a small circle of media members.

He said the meetings will continue Wednesday (remember, the CBA expires late Thursday night), and from the “we’re taking anything we can get” department, he said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

"The fans should know that both parties are hammering away at it and really trying to get a deal done,” Pitts told reporters, including NFL.com’s Albert Breer.

Also this: "It’s two groups doing business. The tone, none of that matters."

While that’s a bit difficult to believe – especially, because the tone, throughout this entire labor process, has been pretty unfriendly, and because nothing has gotten done – it looks like the two sides are beginning to work toward … well, something.

That maybe is good news, and tonight, we can go to bed with a little more positivity.*

*It might be the last optimistic night for a while, so make the most of it.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 2:44 pm

NFL, NFLPA resume mediations in Washington

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA resumed mediation in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday and this time around, there were a few more parties present.

Giants co-owner John Mara accompanied Roger Goodell's entourage into the session along with Falcons president Rich McKay (who's also the new head of the Competition Committee) and Redskins GM Bruce Allen.

Another difference: someone was willing to talk to the media! In this case, the NFL's lead negotiator and VP of labor, Jeff Pash.

"I don't think you could have a greater sense of urgency," said Jeff Pash, the league's lead labor negotiator. "We all know what the calendar is, and we all know what's at stake for everybody. And that's why we're here. We're going to be here as long as it takes and work as hard as we can work to get something done."

Whether something can get done remains to be seen -- there's not a tremendous sense of optimism surrounding the negotiations, particularly after the NFLPA's reported decision to decertify before the owners can lock the players out once the March 4 deadline for a new CBA occurs.

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 6:07 pm

Report: NFL owners could survive 2-year lockout

Posted by Will Brinson

There's always reason for cautious optimism surrounding an NFL work stoppage because, at some point, one of the sides is going to need some and eventually cave.

A report from CNN Money, which cites a Standard and Poor's rating agency note, pushes that point, at least for the owners, a little further out than folks would like to hear. Just how far? Two years far.

The S&P claims to have "confidential debt ratings on various stadium bonds" and "tracks teams' finances," and the primary logic behind the 2-year timeline is that the NFL owners will continue to collect revenue from television contracts.

That revenue will need to be paid back (plus interest!) if games are missed, but saving up for that payback doesn't necessarily preclude the owners from sitting tight on the cash they're bringing in and/or investing it.

Remember too that the NFL's said teams will reimburse season ticket holders for the cost of games not played. This is pretty nice of them, but it's also a pretty smart method of generating income that can be invested and/or create interest that results in, basically, free money to offset the losses needed to pay back fans and networks for games lost. (Yes, this assumes a wise investment of said money.)

Additionally, the S&P factored in a potential $900 million fund that the owners can tap into to assist clubs in surviving a prolonged lockout in the event football isn't being played.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 26, 2011 7:25 pm

Players will meet next week in Washington

Posted by Mike Freeman

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL players union does plan to decertify next week, CBSSports.com has confirmed with a variety of sources. But that is only part of the news.

Next week numerous NFL players will be at the union headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a sort of high profile union gathering. Players are expected to come into Washington from all across the country.

There are both practical and emotional reasons for this. If a deal is struck before the CBA expires on Thursday the union needs its executive members in town to ratify it. But since the chances of an agreement being reached are same as "Road House 3" being made the players will mostly come to Washington as a sort of union rally.

The union can present these players to the media once mediation, well, fails to broach a deal. The union hopes to humanize their fight. It's actually a smart strategy.

You could easily have faces like quarterback Drew Brees speaking for the union cause daily much of next week.
Both sides will resume mediation on Tuesday.

This was cross-posted from Mike Freeman's FreeStyle blog. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 26, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 5:40 pm

Report: NFLPA plans to decertify Thursday

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith (Getty) Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Even after seven days of negotiations with those representing the NFL owners and with another session scheduled for Tuesday, the NFLPA today raised the ante in the labor fight.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen are reporting that the players union, assuming there’s no progress in reaching a new CBA, plans to decertify the NFLPA on Thursday, which would preempt the owners’ ability to lock out the players.

According to Schefter and Mortensen, the union couldn’t decertify for six months if the current CBA expires, so from that aspect, it makes perfect sense why the union would make this move BEFORE the CBA is finished March 3.

A decertification also means that the NFLPA would no longer be a union, meaning the National Labor Relations Board would hold no sway over the NFL players. The owners, who have already claimed that the expected decertification meant the NFLPA was not bargaining in good faith, would challenge the decertification – which has been in the works for the past several months as each team unanimously voted for it during the season.

Decertifying also allows the players to file an injunction to keep the owners from locking them out, as well as allowing them to file an anti-trust suit against them (the latter of which could be the make-or-break moment in this labor standoff).

This was an expected leverage move by the NFLPA, and it’s not surprising in the least. But for anybody who thought the owners and the players were close to an agreement with the current CBA about to expire – though I doubt you could find ANYBODY who actually believed that – this should dispel that notion pretty quickly.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 25, 2011 3:14 pm

Pre-draft workouts in jeopardy without a CBA?

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL combine is critical for teams to evaluate potential draftees, but it's not the whole shebang, either. Pro days at individual schools and, perhaps MOST importantly, individual workouts with candidates give teams a good idea of whether a player represents a sound investment.

The last two could be in serious jeopardy, though, according to what's leaking out of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith's meeting with a group of agents at the combine, where the one thing Smith apparently didn't discuss was the mediation that went down in D.C. recently.

He only told, according to our own Mike Freeman, the group of agents there was "some" progress while prepping them for lockout contingencies.

That's good news only in that if a ton of mediation-related information started leaking out right after his talks with agents -- and it would if he talked about it -- the owners might not take too kindly to him violating the media blackout.

The owners might not be too thrilled with some of the reports about what kind of access they'll have to rookies, either.

Adam Caplan of FOX Sports reports that, according to agent sources present during Smith's presentation, teams won't be able to talk to agents about rookies at pro days during a lockout.

Even worse is the news that Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reported -- the individual meetings with teams might disappear entirely.

"[I'm] being told teams will not be able to do individual pre draft workouts," a source told Wilson. "The union considers that communication in regards to financial situations for the players.

"[I] don't see that happening."

Contradicting all of that, though, is NFLPA spokesman George Atallah.

"We'd be hard pressed to stand in the way of a player doing something he needs to do," Atallah said Friday.

But that's the Catch-22 -- the players need to talk with teams to make more money (and, inherently, so do the agents) and teams need to talk to players in order to figure out who they want to draft. Unfortunately, the labor cloud keeps looming and we have to keep wondering when the next public dust-up will occur.

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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