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NFL talks collapse, shutdown of pro football expected

By Mark Maske

The NFL's labor talks collapsed Friday, leaving the league, players and fans bracing for the first shutdown of professional football in 24 years and a confrontation that could play out in court for months to come.

The players filed to dissolve their union, according to officials on both sides of the dispute, a move that ended negotiations with the NFL and team owners over a new labor pact whose central issue is how to divide the $9 billion in annual revenue generated by the nation's most popular sport. The two sides met Friday for a 16th day of mediated talks but made no substantial progress.

Decertifying the NFL Players Association enabled the players to file antitrust litigation against the owners, which they did late Friday, according to their attorneys. Lawyers for the players also announced that they are seeking an injunction from U.S. District Judge David S. Doty in Minneapolis to block an expected lockout of players by the owners. Doty has overseen the NFL's labor pact since 1993. It is not clear when Doty will act on that request, but union attorneys said it probably would be in three or four weeks.

The owners are likely to announce later Friday that they will lock out players, effective after the sport's current labor deal expires at 11:59 p.m. But they may not have to move immediately.

The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, said as he left the talks about 4:40 p.m. that the union had given owners until 5 p.m. to turn over 10 years worth of audited financial records. The owners apparently did not comply.

Smith said that "significant differences" remained between the two sides.

The players union announced in a news release that "it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.

"The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a brief statement that the union had "walked away" from the mediated talks, which he described as the "fairest and fastest" way of resolving the dispute.

"They've chosen to pursue another strategy, and that is their choice," Goodell said. He predicted, however, that the issues eventually would be resolved at the bargaining table.

John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, was harsher in tone. He criticized the NFLPA for refusing to alter its position on key issues. "Their position basically has been 'take it or leave it,'" Mara said.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson urged fans "not to be discouraged" and predicted that "in due time we will have an agreement," a deal he said would be reached at the bargaining table.

In a statement, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that "the union left a very good deal on the table."

He said it included:

--An offer to split the difference, thought to be $700 million or less, that separated to the two sides on the division of of NFL revenue.

--Guaranteed reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without reducing compensation for players selected in rounds 2-7.

--No reduction in pay for veterans.

--New year-round health and safety rules.

--Retaining the current 16--game regular season, with four preseason games, for at least two years, with future changes subject to the approval of the league and union.

--A new fund for retired players, with $82 million contributed by owners over the next two years.

"The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs," he added in the statement.

In a brief statement outside his K Street office, where the talks have been held the past four weeks, federal mediator George H. Cohen said "regrettably, the parties have not achieved an overall agreement" and had been unable to resolve their differences on "core issues."

Cohen said he had concluded that "no constructive purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue mediation."

Vonnie Holliday, the Redskins' player representative, said in an interview on ESPN that "we want a fair CBA. That's it. The owners are saying that they're losing money and they want 18 percent back. Okay, if you are losing money, then in fact show us that. We are not opposed to restructuring, but they refused to do that."

Attorneys for the players' side lined up quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, along with other players, to be the named litigants in antitrust litigation against the owners.

Brees, a member of the union's ruling executive committee, wrote Friday on Twitter: "The NFL brought this fight to us--they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request. They refuse to give that information to us. They think we should just trust them. Would you?"

Brees also wrote: "We have a responsibility to our players--past, present, and future, to advance this league forward, not take [three] steps back. I am very sorry that you as fans have to endure this. Football is more than just a game for all of us. We will keep fighting... always."

If Doty sides with the players and agrees to prevent the expected lockout, the sport would continue operating while the labor dispute is litigated in court. But any decision by Doty could be appealed.

The league already has challenged the players' decertification of the union in an unfair labor practice charge to the National Labor Relations Board last month.

The sport's system of free agency and a salary cap was established as part of a 1993 settlement of antitrust litigation by players after they decertified the union, which later was reinstated.

Sources on the owners' side have said they could withstand a season-long lockout financially, even after a ruling by Doty last week that could prevent the owners from receiving approximately $4 billion in payments from television networks.

Hopes for a settlement were buoyed when Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, persuaded the two sides to agree to a pair of extensions last week that brought the bargaining deadline to Friday.

But talks stalled this week with the league and union unable to resolve the issue of how much money should go to players. The union wanted the league to provide additional financial data to justify concessions the players were being asked to make, and the two sides could not agree to the terms by which such financial disclosures would be made. Tensions had mounted considerably by Thursday evening.

The NFL also had proposed to lengthen the regular season to 18 games, impose a wage scale for rookies, and blood test players for human growth hormone.

As the league's negotiating team walked into the mediator's office Friday morning, the NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash said: "We'll do our best."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters there could be developments within a few hours.

Nine owners on the 10-member bargaining committee attended Friday's meeting.The union's negotiating contingent Friday included roughly two dozen people.

By Leonard Bernstein  |  March 11, 2011; 6:30 PM ET  | Category:  Collective bargaining agreement , Union Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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One might think any person at the league, ownership and player rep levels would have common sense and be paying very close attention to the heartbeat of America and realize there are over 15 million unemployed American's that rely upon the NFL as their inspiration to get through these tough economic times week after week.

This is a complete lack of respect for the conditions of our people "The NFL Fans" and a disgraceful approach that all involved in this decision at the NFL and NFLPA have taken. Get your priorities straight and stop being self-centered upon your own highly inflated, disproportionate bank accounts like "Walt Street Execs & Politicians" did in creating our recent economic collapse.

Consider this, with the increased costs of all fuel, food, and taxes that the avg. NFL Fan is going to have to come out of pocket during the next year or two, do you think they're going to be able to afford NFL licensed merchandise, NFL TV Packages, Game tickets, NFL Video Games and more? You do not have your finger on the pulse and you are all lost and disconnected with reality. Shameful, and disrespectful.

Drew Brees should be considering the "Have Not's in NOLA" and realizing what position your unconscious decision has caused the NOLA community.

Think it through everyone and get back to the negotiations table as soon as you can and eliminate the spineless and cowardly involvement of legal counsel to make your decisions for you. They just care about their $750+ Per Hour Legal Fees and Racking-up the Revenues for their firms. You will never get anything accomplish to align the proper course of action and leading the vision when you rely upon lawyers to do your work.

Chart your new course together and be respectful of the fans, American's the previous NFL Players and Owners who have paved the way to make a pretty damn good monetary situation for all parties. Let's get back to business. Let's get back to the game that provides hope and income for millions of everyday people.

DukieII
My mind and my door is always open.

Posted by: DukieII | March 12, 2011 11:16 PM

The NFL shutting down is great news. The only thing better in this regard would be if it never came back.

Posted by: eric22 | March 11, 2011 11:35 PM

Born in 1962, I have early memories of being just tall enough to stand at my father's knee as he and his friends watched weekend football. 1964 brought the civil rights laws where it began affirmative action in college scholorships. The changes gravitated into highschools where often we students wondered why certian players were not picked for the team, when it was obvious they had the skills and clear others were picked with lesser skills. The coach never really defended his decisions other than stating that was his decision and it was final. It only makes sense now as anyone can look at the racial make up of professional sports, especially from my perespective and think, man what a change over the years.

I want to make it clear that I am not stating that any athlete does not work exceptiaonlly hard and puts forward the best effort that individual is capeable of producing. Yet I have to wonder what other talent that was passed over simply due to the pressures of affirmative action. Affirmative action in sports is an ugly concept that no one seems to want to talk about. Many even believe that the only the absolute best make it to the pros form college and that is true, but these are the affirmative action picks influenced by progressive policy than seems to be common place these days. Furthermore, during the early days of my sports admiration, which became less and less by the early 1980s, union activity was not an issue in the 1960s, but it certianly evolved into making an influence about the time I stopped watching progessional and college sports. I can honestly say, since highschool, I have never attended a college game even though I finished my degrees. I have only attended two professional baseball games in my life, Cubs vs. the Padries and Cubs vs. Mets, both in Chicago and the Cubs won, it was 1984.

Not only has affirmationve action and progressive influences affect who we see in sports, but now the union intervention affects when we will see sports. My best advice to all concerned, abandon profession sports. The unions are not helping as we all know that government spending builds the infastructure needed for all those people to not only have a place to watch sports in person, but to travel to and away from the game. All we really get in return is a little economic boost and a fading pride in a local winning team. Not to mention the clean up from the possible riots induced by sore losers or over zelous winners looking for an excuse to disrespect property and liberty.

Finally, due to the progressive influence, we may not be seeing the best play as it seems the process in selection, starting in highschool through college is biased in favor of minorities, who now dominate professional and college sports. Highschool coaches know that they must also provide conditioned athletes to meet those progressive affirmative action quotes to provide opportunity.

Perhaps more people should be interested in Japan than sports.

Posted by: Chris561_561 | March 11, 2011 10:20 PM

I agree shut it down; both sides are out of control. The owners want to bleed us dry and the players want to win the lottery! Well so do I.

Take your luxury boxed and shove em!

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Posted by: zhenghnn | March 11, 2011 9:46 PM

You mean Haynesworthless got to share in the additional revenue/profit in addition to the $100 million contract? Maybe Snyder is the smartest man on earth, not having to shell out the over-priced contracts. The value of the team won't change by that much, once the game comes back.

Posted by: shhhhh | March 11, 2011 9:46 PM

Hooray!

Bring on the scabs!

I am fed up with the millionaire players wanting more and more of the billionaire's shrinking nest egg.

The owners pay the bills, which keep growing with the absurd costs of doing business these days. The Players want so much money the owners can't maintain the stadia or pay the gameday help.

Where else can the workers tell the bosses to take a flying leap if they don't give them all the margin?

I say 18 games.
I say lifetime medical.
I say retirement based on years AND games played from money paid to the union by the owners.
I say same pay scale for ALL players starting at $250,000 with a quarter million per year in the league. Add performance and playing time incentives as determined by the union, coaches and owners.

I say enough of this bullcrap! You don't see military or teachers or police officers or firefighters pulling this crap and they put their lives on the line every time they go to work.

Posted by: GreatBasinRat | March 11, 2011 9:35 PM

Who cares!!!!!!!! College football is more fun to watch anyway! Just play some of the games on Sunday.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | March 11, 2011 8:48 PM

This is, at this moment in US history, not news unless we see it as labor vs. management.

Let's leave these people to argue among themselves, then give 70% of the take to the unemployed and homeless.

Posted by: mini2 | March 11, 2011 8:31 PM

The name is Nay-son Campbell and I offer to bring my talents to DC as a replacement player for the Washington Redskins.

Like former Skins QB Jason Campbell, I --
-have never mastered any NFL playbook,
-regularly throw balls into the dirt,
-have no pocket presence,
-panic in the red zone,
-can't throw deep,
-can't throw long,
-am hopeless on timing routes,
-seem to hyperventilate during the 2 minute drill, and
-fumble for no reason.

I am available for interviews all next week. Thank you for your kind consideration.

Nay-son

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 11, 2011 8:25 PM

One good thing is the redskins have been on strike for a decade

Posted by: southportwave | March 11, 2011 8:15 PM

S$rew the NFL - S$rew the players - these greedy bastards couldn't agree to divide up $9 Biilion dollars when the world in in a financial mess - I hope the whole thing collapses as it should and the spoiled owners and brain dead millionare players have to join the rest of us in reality.

Posted by: Realist201 | March 11, 2011 8:10 PM

the nfl is turning into the nba.inter city kids worship them because they have no fathers.kids will spend hundreds for sneakers or shirts that have names of their heroes instead of buy laptops to help them in life.what a bore.
we will have college football on which is better because it is played as a sport.

Posted by: nugy | March 11, 2011 7:59 PM

greedy players and greedy owners. Not clear why previous 10 years was made the make or break criterion by the players. They may have wanted to see trends but the issue is the future, not the past. I don't fully trust the owners but why not have an agreement that calls for an independent 3rd party monitor an agreement? Sort of like the organization that handles the NBA lottery. Would keep information confidential but provide the same report to both parties. Players might believe that courts, public opinion, elected officials and/or the media will put pressure on the owners. The media appears to side with the players based on reporting I've seen. The people deserving a break are the fans who end up funding both owners and players. If Wal-Mart can roll back prices, why not the NFL?

Posted by: RichardCollins | March 11, 2011 7:55 PM

The poor little rich spoiled boys. I sure feel sorry for their pain and suffering.

Posted by: roleyaltizer | March 11, 2011 7:54 PM

Both sides are nothing but greedy b@st@rds.

Posted by: uvrays | March 11, 2011 7:46 PM

Perhaps you knuckle draggers, stripped of your legally sanctioned GBH, will read a book or two.

"Not bloody likely"

Indeed, Overlord Kent Cooke!

Cheers,

GGordon

PS Might I suggest "The Monkey Handlers"?

Posted by: GGordonLibby | March 11, 2011 7:29 PM

Hey, the CFL, the UFL and Arena Football all still play pro football and entertain with out whining and complaining, I think I will just spend my time and money with them. Who needs NFL football as it has become in the past 20 years??? Not Me.

Posted by: sgill72983 | March 11, 2011 7:22 PM

Washington D.C. is blessed with the Billy Goat Trail of Great Falls National Park - as fine a park adjacent to a city as exists in the nation.

The crown jewel of the hike is a point at which hikers reach a confluence point in the mighty Potomac River. Here is a splendorous piece of unsullied nature. Unsullied, that is until Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, with hubris beyond belief, built a mansion and clear cut a high peak to afford himself a view of this majestic vantage. His wart is what people now see when they look down-river.

Until his abomination, nature-loving citizens and visitors could experience something pure. No longer. End of an era.
Dan Snyder's reprehensible act can not be undone.

Professional football has become a manifestation of the worst in capitalism. Owners who are awash in so much cash, they lose all perspective. Players who can act as base as they want as long as they perform childish tasks effectively. Fans who will pay any price to touch the spectacle - many of them spouting drunken angry pejoratives at those rooting for opposing teams.

Human absurdity at its worst. Go ahead and strike. And stay struck. Good Riddance.

Posted by: dogwolf | March 11, 2011 7:20 PM

How will we ever live without televised events like this? “. . . The football commentary reached a new pitch male histeria, a climax of excited imbecilism, as the Oafs revenged last year’s defeat at the hands of the Morons . . .”

Posted by: SydneyP | March 11, 2011 7:17 PM

Oh, and while my sentiments are slightly in favor of the players union vs. owners , it's gotten impossible not to see Demaurice Smith as a grandstanding tool in his own right ...

Posted by: RoidRage | March 11, 2011 7:14 PM

Maybe the NFL reality show can be replaced by a Charlie Sheen reality show. And did you know his real name is Carlos Estevez and Martin Sheen's real name is Ramon Estevez?

Posted by: Michael2255 | March 11, 2011 7:09 PM

After witnessing the mess, we endearingly call the Skins, for the last eleven years.

You can weld the gates closed as for all I care.

Fan Since Dec-19-1965

Posted by: Defund_NPR | March 11, 2011 7:07 PM

It's all a waste of time -- while the owners certainly stand to lose a ton of money if there's an extended work-stopage , they have much deeper pockets than the players , it's inevitable that the players will eventually cave ... and then they'll settle for a deal much like the one they left on the table today (if they're lucky) ...

Posted by: RoidRage | March 11, 2011 7:02 PM

I could care less. A complete shutdown and maybe Snyder would sell the 'skins.

The whole NFL scam reminds me of what was once said about GM....The purpose of GM isn't to sell cars; the purpose is to make money. Similarly, as GM lost its way relative to making cars that people want to buy (OK, I like the Corvette and new Camaro, but otherwise, bleagh!), the NFL has lost its way relative to a game that people want to watch. Besides the inebriated vomiting fans hollering in the stands, the game has so been corrupted by television money (network commercial timeouts? Come ON!) and steroid usage that it has no relation to reality.

And don't get me started on NCAA college football..purely a taxpayer supported farm team operation by any other name. The best jokers in college F-ball (not to mention B-ball) hardly every finish their degree, on average work for the NFL for 3 years, and suffer lifelong health issues.

The best thing for the players is no football..they'll live longer without all those 'sclades and Hummers and Lamborghinis, not to mention Ketal One and 3X-overpriced champagne and the trollops that collect around them.

Posted by: joy5 | March 11, 2011 7:02 PM

I could care less. A complete shutdown and maybe Snyder would sell the 'skins.

The whole NFL scam reminds me of what was once said about GM....The purpose of GM isn't to sell cars; the purpose is to make money. Similarly, as GM lost its way relative to making cars that people want to buy (OK, I like the Corvette and new Camaro, but otherwise, bleagh!), the NFL has lost its way relative to a game that people want to watch. Besides the inebriated vomiting fans hollering in the stands, the game has so been corrupted by television money (network commercial timeouts? Come ON!) and steroid usage that it has no relation to reality.

And don't get me started on NCAA college football..purely a taxpayer supported farm team operation by any other name. The best jokers in college F-ball (not to mention B-ball) hardly every finish their degree, on average work for the NFL for 3 years, and suffer lifelong health issues.

The best thing for the players is no football..they'll live longer without all those 'sclades and Hummers and Lamborghinis, not to mention Ketal One and 3X-overpriced champagne and the trollops that collect around them.

Posted by: joy5 | March 11, 2011 7:01 PM

Lock 'em out and throw away the key! Let those illiterate, steroid filled bozo's try to get a real job and see how they like that. Didn't they go to college? Was that just a subterfuge? Nobody will remember 99% of those idiots in a year anyway. The fans will be back. This is the guy's alternative to Dancing with the has-beens, the bachelor, the biggest loser...

We're America. We'll watch anything.

Posted by: 21stCenturyCaveman | March 11, 2011 6:49 PM

Oh, my, so easy. What are the owners hiding? If their argument is so compelling, why won't they show the numbers to prove it? Because, Virgina, the numbers prove otherwise. Why do you think Los Angeles has no football team? Because we locals know their game and won't pay our tax dollars to play. Frankly, I don't like unions, but this one is so easily in their court. Go, players!

Posted by: tmkelley | March 11, 2011 6:37 PM

Can you imagine in October, Redskins had not been mathematically eliminated?

Posted by: shawnp220 | March 11, 2011 6:31 PM

I hope that the next three to five NFL seasons get canceled so that the billionaires, the greedy, seat-license loving, money-grabbing, tax-advantaged owners feel the pinch big time. Thirty-five dollars for parking, $10 hot dogs, over-priced tickets, timeouts for television commercials - there is no end to the avarice. Let them have their lockout; fans can direct all of their attention to college and high school football.

Posted by: BB703 | March 11, 2011 6:14 PM

Thousands of people have been killed by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the wars in Iraq and Afganistan continue, as do the casualties. Let's get a little perspective....It's a freakin' GAME!!!!! Grown men are paid millions of dollars to play a game for grown men who make billions of dollars off of a GAME!!!! Cancel the season. Who really cares. It's just a freakin' game. This is just not important.

Posted by: ArlingtonVA1 | March 11, 2011 6:12 PM

Who cares? But it will be resolved before the season begins. The players will want paid.

Posted by: jdonner2 | March 11, 2011 6:11 PM


I AM sorry I ever got involved in watching PROFESSIONAL football.

What was I thinking?

Why the college game is..........

No. No. I'm wrong again.

The college game is rotten too. The MONEY. The ABUSES. The SCAMS.

Now Pee-Wee. THAT'S football.

Posted by: notinmt | March 11, 2011 6:10 PM

If the owners want to take back $800 million a year in compensation, at a minimum they need to demonstrate a basis other than just greed and a desire for a bigger share of the pie. The only way that's likely to happen is if they open the books. The onus is on the owners since they want to tear up an agreement that has been beneficial for the league, the owners, and the players.

In Amy Shipley's piece one of the people quoted said: "If you get everything, does that mean you get to question how much to pay the coaches?" asked Marc Ganis, president and founder of the Chicago-based sports consulting firm SportsCorp. "Or how much to pay the marketing people? Do they then have the right to start questioning every expense?"

The answer is pretty clearly "Yes, Yes, and Yes." If the owners are asking for an across the board pay-cut from the players amounting to almost $800K a year on average, they need to make a pretty compelling argument that those cuts are in fact necessary for the long-term health of the league. If the owners are simply inept and need the money to cover losses, or if they are simply taking advantage of an economic crisis to pad their own profit margins, then they don't really have much standing to ask for additional concessions.

One thing that also should be part of the discussions: The owners and current players need to do a lot more for former players -- especially those suffering from job related injuries. I can't believe that a multi-billion dollar industry doesn't provide long-term health care for its employees. Those players deserve at least some show of respect. The NFL would not be where it is today without their contribution to the enterprise.

Posted by: JPRS | March 11, 2011 6:03 PM

Un believable - once again a labor unions sticks it to Americans. If the owners have any sense they will cancel the 2011 season. I am no support of the owners, but what the players did today was calculated anbd ALWAYS their intent since Demaurice Smith took over. The owners offered to split the difference today and Smith demanded 10 YEARS OF AUDITED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS FROM EACH OF THE 32 TEAMS! That is insanity and he knew the NFL could not and would not accept those terms. I cannot stand for this and I will move on from the NFL, and become a college football fan....at least at the college level(espeically 1-AA) the participants play for the love of the game.

Posted by: Realist201 | March 11, 2011 6:01 PM

Not unexpected. The Owners had NO INTENTIOn of coming to an aggreement without a struggle. Thes is March. There is no Pressure
The PA wants 10 Years of Audited Financials. Are they crazy? No Employer will give up that much financial data.
Bottom Line. The Owners want to keep a largre piece of the pie But without the players they have no product to sell to make their Billions.
So they need to stop the posturing and give the Players a fair offer and work out th difference.
In Negotiations you never get everything you want. You make the best deal possible count your money and move on.
Yjere is enough for everybody and we still have Millions of Americans without jobs.

Posted by: Carprin | March 11, 2011 5:50 PM

Man, wouldn't you love to see the Redskin's books? I bet there is more ridiculous crap being pulled by Snder than any of us can imagine. He probably has all of his pets on the payroll. In fact, maybe his dogs are actually making personell descisions, that would explain a lot...

Posted by: David90 | March 11, 2011 5:45 PM

Bankrupt the NFL!

Now I support unions when they work to get a better deal from a corporation. If they over-reach, then the corporation goes bankrupt.

When a public employee union over-reaches, then the government just increases taxes on the citizens. I can't support that.

Posted by: blasmaic | March 11, 2011 5:41 PM

I love the description somebody gave about this whole thing. Billionaires are fighting with millionaires trying to decide how to share the money WE give both of them.

Maybe we should stop giving them our money and attention.

Posted by: CvilleJohn | March 11, 2011 5:37 PM

Shut it down....... Both sides need to go get a new career

Posted by: frankn1 | March 11, 2011 5:36 PM

Hmm, well if there is a lockout then we might as well say goodbye to the Jacksonville Jags and maybe even a couple other teams. The Skins and Cowboys will be able to weather the storm no problem, but I'm not so sure about the Bills, Vikes, Rams, Raiders, etc...

Posted by: ozpunk | March 11, 2011 5:32 PM

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