Posted on: March 15, 2011 2:52 pm

Possible draft boycott gets more interesting

Posted by Andy Benoit

While not important in the big scheme of things on the legal and business side, the issue of whether rookies will attend the 2011 Draft at Radio City Music Hall is potentially the most interesting storyline in this current labor fiasco. We’re talking about a high profile television event and an issue that all fans understand. R. Goodell (US Presswire)

Thus far, the NFLPA has received backlash for reportedly encouraging rookies to boycott the event. Thus, it’s no surprise that they clarified their side of the story on Tuesday.

“Let me also correct the record: the NFLPA is not asking anyone to ‘boycott’ anything. NFL Draft in particular,” spokesman George Atallah said. “The NFL Draft is special. Players and their families will be in NYC.  It just may be different. We will provide details when we can.”
Atallah’s comments seem to imply that the union could hold a separate draft party for players. But for right now, the public views this as just another form of boycott.

The NFL loves this backlash. And they’d love nothing more than to see the Radio City Music Hall green room full of first-round draft picks during the April 28 primetime event. Not only would player attendance make for better television, it would also be a nice PR feather in the league’s cap. You’d have future members of the NFLPA shaking hands with the commissioner. (Can’t you picture NFL executives flashing smug smiles in the direction of union executives while first-round picks embrace Roger Goodell in front of a legion of cameras?)

But the tables could soon turn in this PR battle if Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s hunch is correct about what the NFLPA might have in store. King suggests the union event could feature rookies hearing their name called, coming up on stage and being greeted by their new teammates. If the NFLPA could pull that off, the effects could be huge.

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King quotes one high profile agent as saying, "What is the first round of the draft for the NFL? It's a TV show, a show that makes the league a lot of money. They're going to be asking young men to shake the hand of a commissioner [Roger Goodell] who is trying to lock them out. They're going to be asking young men to help the league put on this big TV production. And I can tell you this: There're a few quarterbacks who could get picked high in this draft and the NFL will invite to New York. All those quarterbacks would do by attending the draft for the NFL is giving DeMarcus Ware more incentive to knock their blocks off the first time they line up across the line of scrimmage from him.''

Think about the dilemma it would give ESPN. They’re a television partner of the NFL. Would they be willing to provide live coverage to the NFL’s competing event?

Thus, it’s no surprise that when LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson’ said he’d like to attend the draft, the league featured the story on NFLLabor.com.

“I heard about (the potential boycott),” Peterson said. “No one has contacted me to go to New York or not go to New York. I would like to go if possible. That’s what you play football for.

“That’s a big moment to go up there and shake the commissioner’s hand and get that jersey and hat. It means a lot. I definitely want to go and no one has told me not to go. So, we’ll see what happens.”

That’s something everyone is interested in seeing.

Posted on: March 15, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:09 pm

Adrian Peterson sounds off on owners

Posted by Andy Benoit

UPDATE 3:00 p.m. EST: We held off on passing along Peterson's most explosive comment from this interview because there was initially a bit of confusion regarding the validity of the quote. Farrar included it in his original interview, but removed it soon after. But he later acknowledged that Peterson said it.

And what was it he said, exactly?  Referring to the owners' business arrangement with players, Peterson said, "It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too."

Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner scored a one-on-one interview with Adrian Peterson  just minutes after the NFLPA decertified, which means he caught the Vikings running back in a state of high emotion. Sure enough, Farrar’s interview with Peterson produced some gold.

Here is an excerpt; the whole interview was published Tuesday afternoon:

SC: We're talking about 15 minutes after the NFLPA sent in the paperwork to decertify, so the lockout's on everybody's minds. I've talked to a lot of players about this recently, and I always ask the same question — what is the message you want to get out to the people who love the game and are tired of hearing all the labor talk?

AP: We're business-minded, also. It's not just fun and games. A lot of football players, whether it's Sunday or Monday night — we're out there on the field, competing, hitting each other. But people don't see everything else behind it. It's a job for us, too — every day of the week. We're in different states, sometimes thousands of miles away from our families and kids, and a lot of people don't look at it like that. All some people see is, 'Oh, we're not going to be around football.' But how the players look at it … the players are getting robbed. They are. The owners are making so much money off of us to begin with. I don't know that I want to quote myself on that…

SC: It's nothing that I haven't heard from other players, believe me.

AP: People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey — without us, there's no football.' There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we're not all on the same page — I don't know. I don't really see this going to where we'll be without football for a long time; there's too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we'll get something done.

But this crazy idea about an 18-game season … I'm sure they want more entertainment and more revenue, but we're not going to see a pinch of that (the increased revenue), and it's just the business we're in.

SC: It seems to most of the players that if the owners had nothing to hide financially, and if the current business model was as unsustainable as they claim, they'd have no trouble opening the books and showing audited profit and loss per team. Is that your impression?

AP: Exactly! It's like … 'Well, show us.' We want more information, and they want to bull****, going around, saying this and that, just open it up and give us the information we want. If they have nothing to hide, just give us the information. Why not? Obviously, there's a lot to hide -- these guys are professionals, and they're maximizing what they do. But they know that if all this information comes out, the information the players want, it'll be right out there for everyone to see. It's a rip off — not just for the players, but for the people who work at the concession stands and at the stadiums. The people working at the facilities, you know?

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:50 pm

Hot Routes 3.15.11 labor pains

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 9:33 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 9:34 am

Will players negotiate before April 6 court date?

Posted by Andy Benoit

With the NFL set to go to court April 6, a few optimists have suggested that the union and owners could spend the next few weeks continuing negotiations. But some players are saying don’t count on it.

Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted Monday night, “One NFLPA source said there's ‘no chance’ there will be negotiations, or even possibly a deal, before April 6 lockout hearing is resolved.”

NFL Labor

Given the deal the players left on the table Friday before decertifying – a deal that reportedly included increased health benefits, a 16-game regular season and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue consideration – maybe the news from Schefter’s source should come as no surprise.

Then again, this also contradicts what Cardinals kicker Jay Feely told Pro Football Talk earlier in the day on Monday. Feely, who has been negotiating already, “I don’t know the exact legal ramifications for how and when we would have to negotiate and continue to negotiate. We’re always willing to negotiate so, we have no desire to be stagnant in a litigation system and our desire is to play football.”

Who knows who is speaking the truth (or if the players themselves have even made a decision about further negotiations).

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Category: NFL
Tags: CBA, lockout, NFLPA
Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:22 am

Report: Owners have cash to last through season

Posted by Will Brinson

The ruling where Judge David Doty shut down the NFL owners' ability to use more than $4 billion in television contracts during any work stoppage quickly rid the world of any notion that the billionaires could last two years without football.

I mean, they could, but not without hemorrhaging cash. However, a report Monday in the Wall St. Journal indicates that the gentlemen who run the 32 NFL franchises could in fact last one full season without football.

The WSJ report notes that the league would only need that money "if the labor strife drags on into the 2012 season" because "owners have already set aside enough money to cover them in case the 2011 season is cancelled."

That the NFL has a contingency plan for not being able to use the $4 billion isn't shocking, because Greg Aiello mentioned as much almost immediately following Doty's ruling. Also, the gentlemen in question are billionaire; they didn't gain that status without knowing a) to always have a backup plan and b) how to save money.

And they can almost certainly weather the financial storm of an NFL-less world than most of the players in the league. But that doesn't mean that not making a pile of money during the 2011 season is something that the owners want to see happen.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 7:17 pm

Titans to fans: 'Yes, games could be cancelled'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL's labor situation continues to become more and more potentially tumultuous -- a draft boycott everyone! -- in preparation of the April 6 hearing on the players' motion for preliminary injunction.

Still, the idea that there might not be NFL games in 2010 seems far-fetched. Or at least far off. Which makes a portion of the letter the Titans sent from Bud Adams to fans on Monday a bit terrifying.

"Yes, games could be cancelled," the letter said, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "However, both sides want to play and continue our great games. It is only a question of when we reach an agreement."

Now, this section was in an eight-part question-and-answer section (presumably the question was "Will games for next year be cancelled?"), so it's not as if the Titans were necessarily preparing their fans for the likelihood of games being missed.

Instead, they were simply answering a question that any reasonable fan of football might ask. What is kind of troubling, however, is that the Q&A wasn't included on the Titans' website when they posted the letter from Adams.

It's still a reminder that though most projections for football in 2010 are optimistic, the season isn't that far away.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 14, 2011 5:02 pm

Other important points from NFLPA conference call

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We've already discussed the main points from the 50-minute teleconference held this afternoon by the NFL players, but there were a few interesting sidebars that need to be addressed.

Let’s go point-by-point:

-Former union president Kevin Mawae on the possibilities of an 18-game schedule.

“Eighteen games is not going to happen through the NFL Players Association. We can’t justify it for the players’ health and safety. The 18-game schedule was taken off the table as soon as they proposed it. It never will be.”

NFL Labor
-Saints QB Drew Brees on why he’s one of the lead plaintiffs in the Brady v NFL case.

“Because it’s important to me. By doing that, I represent not only the 1,900 players in the league now, but the guys who played before us, whose shoulders we stand on. They’re the ones who created what we have. And we’re representing the guys who will come after us. I feel very strongly about our case and very strongly about the law.”

-Brees on Judge David Doty – seen widely by the owners as pro-NFL players – not presiding over the April 6 preliminary injunction hearing.

“To us, that’s not an issue. That was something the owners seemed very focused on. For us, it’s about the facts and the law. We believe those are on our side. We’re not concerned about that.”

-Colts C Jeff Saturday on the reports that he had dinner with commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday and what that was about.

“I did not meet Roger after Friday’s negotiations. I met him Thursday after our negotiations. It wasn’t for dinner. It was just a meeting later in the evening after we finished our work. The entire meeting was about trying to get an agreement in place. Everybody from DeMaurice (Smith) and everybody I ate dinner with, including some of the heads of the entire NFL Players Association, knew what I was doing. There was nothing secretive about what I did.”

-CBSSports.com's own Mike Freeman has confirmed today that the NFLPA is putting a plan into place that would force the players to boycott the upcoming NFL draft. The NFL still will invite the top 15 or 20 college players who are expected to be drafted early, and for now, it’s unclear whether those players will attend (though Freeman points out that the momentum of the boycott is building).

Ex-NFLPA spokesman George Atallah would not comment on the report.

“We’re here focusing on the players being locked out,” Atallah said.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:10 pm

NFL players repeat calls for owners to open books

K. Mawae Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Since the NFL has released a ton of statements this past weekend – in effect, saying the players walked away from the negotiating table and that the decertification of the NFLPA was a sham – the players took a shot at fighting back at the owners this afternoon through the media.

And, with Saints QB Drew Brees, Colts C Jeff Saturday and former union president Kevin Mawae on a national teleconference call, the tone the players presented was defiant – not to mention completely pissed off.

Here’s what it boils down to for the players: the owners refuse to show them their audited financials. Therefore, they will not make a deal on giving back money, in particular the additional $1 billion slice off the top of the league’s revenues that the owners have requested. At this point, with an April 6 preliminary injunction hearing set in front of Judge Susan Nelson, don’t expect the players and the owners to negotiate any further.

This one, it’s looking like, will be decided by the courts.

Unless the owners open their books.

“We have access to those revenue numbers,” Brees said. “We don’t have access to the cost numbers. As we watch the NFL grow and grow and grow – it grew 7.5 percent last year in one of the worst economies in our history – for the owners to come to us and say, ‘Costs are going up faster than revenues,’ a very reasonable and logical businessman would say, ‘Let’s see those numbers and try to make it work.’ Then, that person says, ‘No, you’ll have to take our word for it.’ That doesn’t work. It’s impossible to negotiate a fair deal when you don’t have the numbers from the other side.”

This essentially was the theme of the 50-minute conference call. No open books, no negotiated deals (seemingly every answer given by the players somehow worked toward that thought). That, and it was clear that the players don’t trust the other side.

“We have asked ever since May 8, 2009, for them to turn over their audited financials,” said Mawae, who also said the players were willing to take a $1 billion equity stake in favor of cost credits but were turned down by the owners. “It’s continued to be asked every time they’ve asked for a giveback. We want justification.

“Any time somebody says, ‘Give me $1 billion and we’ll pay you back,’ I’ll want to see your numbers. They said no.”

The players on the call – and spokesman George Atallah – seemed intent on painting the owners as unwilling to negotiate, and though it seemed in the early part of last week that a deal potentially could get done, Atallah said, “The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is, we really, really weren't."

NFL Labor
That said, the negotiations the past two weeks in Washington weren’t a total failure.

“There were a number of areas – the smaller areas that we started with – where we definitely made traction,” Saturday said. “That was because of the mediation process – to start on details that were pretty close anyway to get the communication going. It was effective. We did move in a lot of areas.”

Just not in the key areas, of course.

“Any communication, any realistic proposal or if they’d like to provide those ten years of audited financials to a third party so we could reach a deal, I’m sure we’d be open to that,” Brees said. “We’re very much in the process that we’ve been forced into; the decertification and the injunction so we can play football next year.

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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