Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:48 am
Edited on: April 14, 2011 11:49 am

Mediation underway; four owners attending talks

Posted by Andy Benot

Thursday is the start of the court-ordered resumed mediation between the NFL and NFLPA (kickoff time 10:00 a.m. EST). This time the talks are taking place in Minnesota in the chambers of Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.

NFL Labor
According to league spokesman Greg Aiello, four NFL owners are attending the Thursday session: Robert Kraft of the Patriots, Jerry Richardson of the Panthers, Clark Hunt of the Chiefs and Art Rooney of the Steelers. Also in the room are Roger Goodell, NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash and, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer, Falcons president Rich McKay.

Judge Susan Nelson, who ordered this mediation, has required that whoever is on hand must have the power of full authority. In other words, the individuals in the room must be able to work out whatever (if any) deal their side is willing to do.


UPDATE 10:19 a.m. EST: Breer reports that two of the plaintiffs in the Brady v NFL case are in the mediation: Mike Vrabel of the Chiefs and Ben Leber of the Vikings.

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Posted on: April 11, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 3:45 pm

Mediator appointed for NFL and NFLPA

Posted by Andy Benoit

Judy Batista of the New York Times reports that Judge Susan Nelson has appointed Chief Magistrate Arthur Boylan to handle the mediation between the NFL and NFLPA. The sessions will begin on Thursday.

This can be considered a win for the players. They wanted mediation to be under the umbrella of the court, rather than having a repeat round with George Cohen.

Boylan was appointed Magistrate Judge in 1996. He’ll oversee the discussions in his chambers on Thursday. He cannot force the parties to come to an agreement, but he wields considerable power in the proceedings. As legal expert Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains, “In the federal system, magistrate judges typically handle discovery disputes and other low-level matters.  Thus, the mediation will occur before someone who potentially will have a direct role in the litigation moving forward, which means that any rudeness or misbehavior could, as a practical matter, work against the party who acts up.”

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Posted on: April 11, 2011 11:45 am

NFLPA announces guest list for its event

Posted by Andy Benoit

It will be an eventful weekend in New York at the end of April. Despite the lockout and ongoing court battle, all 20 rookies who were invited by the league to attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall have RSVP’d.

On Monday, the NFLPA announced the expected guest list for its separate event (which is being described as a "celebration of legacy, of past, present and future football players coming together to honor those making the journey from prospect to professional” and will NOT coincide with the draft).

Rookies expected to attend (via National Football Post):

Prince Amukamara, Nebraska; Marvin Austin, North Carolina; Adrian Clayborn, Iowa; Marcell Dareus, Alabama; Nick Fairley, Auburn; Blaine Gabbert, Missouri; A.J. Green, Georgia; Mark Ingram, Alabama; Julio Jones, Alabama Cameron Jordan, Cal;Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue; Corey Liuget, Illinois; Von Miller, Texas A&M; Rahim Moore, UCLA; Cam Newton, Auburn; Patrick Peterson, LSU Robert Quinn, North Carolina; Aldon Smith, Missouri; Daniel Thomas, Kansas State; and J.J. Watt, Wisconsin.

This is the same list of players attending the draft.

Current veterans and former players expected to be on hand at the NFLPA event:

Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers; Cornelius Bennett; Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs; Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams; Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants; Roger Craig; Zak DeOssie, New York Giants; Eric Dickerson; Eddie George; Marshall Faulk; Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars; Dustin Keller, New York Jets; Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins; NFLPA president Kevin Mawae; Willie McGinest; Brian Mitchell; Warren Moon; Sean Morey; Shaun O'Hara, New York; Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens; Tony Richardson, New York Jets; Takeo Spikes, San Francisco 49ers; Mike Vrabel, Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFLPA event will include, among other things, a dinner and interviews in Times Square on Thursday (before the first round) and a football clinic in Harlem.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 6, 2011 6:08 pm

NFL, NFLPA can't even agree on how to negotiate

Posted by Will Brinson

When the NFL and the NFLPA spent several weeks mediating in Washington, D.C., things didn't go perfectly. That's why they went to court on Wednesday. But NFLPA lead counsel Jim Quinn said on Wednesday afternoon that mediation, between now and Judge Susan Nelson's ruling on Wednesday's hearing, is "certainly something we'll consider."

Of course, the caveat there is that the mediation Quinn's referring to is binding mediation governed by Judge Nelson, not the "voluntary" style of mediation that took place at the Federal Mediation and Counseling Services building under the guidance of George H. Cohen.

"That's certainly something we'll consider," Quinn said. "Because any way to get the players back on the field and playing … makes sense."

When asked if he'd be consider "More likely it will be here in federal court having to do with settlement of litigation, not collective bargaining," Quinn said.

Naturally, the NFL disagrees with this notion.

"Our basic position, as it has been, is that these kind of matters ought to be settled at the collective bargaining table, and not at a federal court," David Boies, attorney for the NFL, said. "We've asked the court to deny the injunction that the players' association has asked for."
NFL Labor

Boies also emphasized the importance of utilizing the FMCS, rather than entering into mediation under the guidance of Judge Nelson.

"We've said from the beginning that we're prepared to resume collective bargaining," Boies said. "The [FMCS] has a lot of experience, they're ready to go -- all it takes is for the players' association, formerly known as a union, as Prince would say, to decide that they are prepared to come back and bargain."

Look, the difference here -- which relates on how to start trying to settle the case -- is pretty stark. And problematic. And if you're a fan, pretty annoying.

But it shouldn't be surprising.

That's because the NFL, for semantical reasons, doesn't want to get involved in "legal settlements" -- by doing so, they risk admitting that the union has, in fact, dissolved. Additionally, that mediation would be under the Judge Nelson's watch and, judging by the court proceedings today, they're not too interested in that.

For the players, they'd clearly prefer to get involved in binding settlement talks handled by Judge Nelson and not move away from the venue in which they hold the most power: court.

All of which is to say, don't hold your breath waiting for one side to cave and saunter into the other side's venue to cheerfully negotiate this matter.

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Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:57 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 6:03 pm

NFL Charities draws '$2M' from on-field fines

Posted by Will Brinson

UPDATE (4:45 PM EST): Per NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, "... the fact is NO player fine money is used by NFL Charities to fund Player Foundation grants ... Player fine money each year is used to support retired players via NFL Player Care Foundation and NFLPA Players Assistance Trust." Aiello also added that "Those funds come from NFL clubs."

Aiello's clarification, if accurate, debunks one of the issues regarding the publicized distribution of this financial data (and ruins a perfectly good IRS analogy, sigh). But at the risk of sounding like I'm asking the NFL to, ahem, "open the books," it's still pretty cut-and-dry on the NFL Charities website as to how they bring in revenue, but not as clear on the distribution.

Earlier today, we told you that NFL Charities, the charitable arm of the NFL, donated $1 million to 87 different NFL players' charities.

We also noted that there was a slight reason to be skeptical, since two of the named players in the press release -- Drew Brees and Peyton Manning -- are also named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the NFL.

Here's another reason to cast a wary eye towards this highly-publicized, albeit highly-charitable, donation: NFL Charities draws, according to their own website, $2 million in funding from on-field hits during the NFL season.
NFL Charities has traditionally donated funds to charitable causes from annual revenues generated by on-field disciplinary fines levied against players and coaches. This on-field fine money has netted more than $2 million per year for distribution to a variety of worthwhile charitable organizations over the last four years.
 The website also notes that "one-quarter of the total fine money received by NFL Charities each year is donated to support former players in need through the NFL Player Association's Player Assistance Trust (PAT)."

So, that's great, because those former players do need help, particularly in medical assistance through financial donations.

But, with all do respect to NFL Charities and at the risk of making an analogy that will remind you April 15th is on the horizon, that's a bit like the IRS taking the money I owe them in taxes each year, donating it to charity and then issuing a press release to let everyone know that they donated money to a charity like The V Foundation, which I already support with my own money.

For instance, James Harrison got tagged for a $20,000 fine when the Steelers played the Saints on Halloween ... for hitting Drew Brees. Brees' foundation, obviously, received some of that money.

This isn't me poo-poo'ing philanthropy, and I'm sure that the Brees Foundation appreciates the money going to a good cause.

But the fact that money -- and a lot of money, in fact -- that comes from the players' pockets is being used to help fund donations back to the players seems like something worth recognizing.

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Posted on: April 5, 2011 1:10 pm

NFL Charities donates $1M to Brees, Peyton, more

Posted by Will Brinson

In fantastic news, the NFL announced on Tuesday that NFL Charities (the charitable foundation of the NFL, natch) has donated $1 million to 87 different charitable foundations run by current and former players.

In slightly more awkward news, the first two names listed in the NFL's press release are Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, who, as you may know, are currently suing the NFL in an antitrust suit!

"We are proud to support current and former player foundations and applaud all players' efforts to make their communities healthy, happy, and safe," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who also serves as the president of the NFL Charities board of directors, said Tuesday.

Of course, all players are currently suing the NFL, but Brees and Manning just so happen to be named plaintiffs in the suit. 

And, in fairness to the NFL, they also happen to be two of the biggest names in the league, which is a justifiable reason for using their names in a high-profile press release.

Additionally, it's not unheard of for such donations to be made around this time of year -- on March 30, 2009, the NFL gave away $1 million and referred to the timing as "Inaugural NFL Charities Week."

But the timing -- less than 24 hours before the two square off in court on a fairly important hearing related to the lockout -- and the fact that the NFL felt compelled to post this press release to NFLLabor.com -- "Your Source for NFL Labor Information" -- is a big odd. As is the naming of Brees and Manning specifically (their foundations have previously been donated to, although they weren't named in the release).

Having made those mildly awkward points, there's $1 million being given to a lot of different charities, and that's always fantastic news.

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Posted on: April 5, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 12:17 pm

No cellphones, cameras allowed in Minny courtroom

Posted by Will Brinson

On Wednesday, Judge Susan Nelson will hear arguments on a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by the plaintiffs (read: players) in the Brady v. NFL case. It's a huge deal, because if the players win the motion and then win the almost guaranteed appeal from the owners, the lockout will be lifted.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves, because we need to see how things shake out on Wednesday first. Unfortunately, when Judge Nelson hears the case, we won't know precisely how things are going in "real time" because there will be no video cameras or cell phones allowed in the courtroom, per Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.

Which, of course, means no live news reports from inside the court and no tweets about what's taking place; in such a motion, Judge Nelson would give each side an equal time to argue and likely ask questions from both the plaintiffs and defendants as well.

This could be a good thing, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, though the media's role is to be objective, oftentimes it's difficult to report on a charged event like this -- using a real-time method like Twitter -- without providing some hint of opinion as to what's just occurred. (A perfect example of this is the Bonds trial, which is being more-or-less live-blogged thanks to Twitter.)

Secondly, while quotes will inevitably come out from the proceedings, it's still nice to see the legal process actually play out without too much fear as to how certain statements or decisions will play out on camera.

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 12:25 pm

Goodell: HGH testing is coming to NFL

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Baltimore Sun today that the NFL is going to insist that HGH testing be part of the next CBA and that it was discussed in labor negotiation meetings with the NFLPA before the lockout ended all talks.

NFL Labor
“The integrity of the NFL is critical,” Goodell said after he spoke to 700 Baltimore-area high school football players about performance-enhancing drugs (and about how drugs are bad, mmkay). “We have to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to have the best drug program in sports. Making changes to our program is critical. We have done that over the years and we have to do more, including the inclusion of HGH testing.”

Goodell wouldn’t say how the players reacted to that – though they’ve been uninterested in HGH testing in the past because that would require a blood test, rather than simply a urine test – but he also said the NFLPA knows the importance of doing it.

“You always have to modify your testing program to stay ahead of the people who are going to cheat the system,” he said. “We would be naïve to think that people aren’t going to cheat the system. But we have to have the best drug testing program to be able to offset it.”

It’s interesting to ponder how much of a wedge issue that might have been between the owners and the players, because we didn’t really hear anything about it before today. It probably landed somewhere between how to split up the $9 billion and how to split up the $9 billion.

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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