NFL Players fire back to Goodell, decertification ‘last resort’

Published on March 19, 2011 by     AP News

Locked-out players wrote back to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday, saying they chose decertification as a last resort after three weeks of mediation.

The letter, signed by the 11 members of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, states that the NFL should contact the class counsel in the players’ antitrust suit against the NFL for further discussions about a settlement.

“We start by reminding you that we were there at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA’s status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players,” the players wrote. “The players took this step only as a last resort, and only after two years of trying to reach a reasonable collective bargaining agreement and three weeks of mediation with George Cohen of the FMCS. At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal. The NFL representatives at the mediation did not, and the owners were mostly absent.”

Less than a week after contract negotiations between NFL owners and the NFLPA broke down, Goodell sent a letter to all players and their agents Thursday explaining the league’s final offer and asking them to urge their leadership to return to the negotiating table.

In Saturday’s letter, the players went through various parts of the offer the NFL made on the last day of negotiations.

“You had ample time over the last two years to make a proposal that would be fair to both sides, but you failed to do so,” the players wrote. “During the last week of the mediation, we waited the entire week for the NFL to make a new economic proposal. That proposal did not come until 12:30 on Friday, and, when we examined it, we found it was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week when we agreed to extend the mediation.”

They concluded their letter by telling Goodell that if he has “any desire to discuss a settlement of the issues” in the antitrust suit filed by 10 players — including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brees — he should contact the lawyers representing the former union.

The 11 members of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee include Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, New York Jets fullback Tony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel and guard Brian Waters and former players Sean Morey and Kevin Mawae, the NFLPA president.

Each attended at least some of the 16 days of federal mediation in Washington that broke off March 11 without a new deal.

A hearing on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the lockout is scheduled for April 6 in Minneapolis.

ACTUAL LETTER TO THE COMMISIONER:

Your statements are false.

We will let the facts speak for themselves.

— The proposal by the NFL was not an “a la carte” proposal. The changes in offseason workouts and other benefits to players were conditioned upon the players accepting an economic framework that was unjustified and unfair.

— Your proposal called for a pegged amount for the salary cap plus benefits starting at 141M in 2011 and increasing to 161M in 2014, regardless of NFL revenues. These amounts by themselves would have set the players back years, and were based on unrealistically low revenue projections. Your proposal also would have given the owners 100 percent of all revenues above the low projections, including the first year of new TV contracts in 2014. Your offer did NOT meet the players halfway when it would have given 100 percent of the additional revenues to the owners.

— As a result, the players’ share of NFL revenues would have suffered a massive decrease. This is clear by comparing your proposal to what the players would receive under the 50 percent share of all revenues they have had for the past twenty years.

— If NFL revenues grow at 8 percent over the next four years (consistent with Moody’s projections), which is the same growth rate it has been for the past decade, then the cap plus benefits with our historical share would be 159M in 2011 (18M more per team than your 141M proposal) and grow to 201M per team in 2014 (40M more per team than your 161M proposal).

— Your proposal would have resulted in a league-wide giveback by the players of 576M in 2011 increasing to 1.2 BILLION in 2014, for a total of more than 3.6 BILLION for just the first four years. Even if revenues increased at a slower rate of only 5 percent, the players would still have lost over 2 BILLION over the next four years. These amounts would be even higher if your stadium deductions apply to the first four years (your proposal did not note any such limits on these deductions).

— We believe these massive givebacks were not justified at all by the owners, especially given recent projections by Moody’s that NFL media revenues are expected to double to about 8 BILLION per year during the next TV deal.

— Given that you have repeatedly admitted that your clubs are not losing money, the billions of dollars in givebacks you proposed would have gone directly into the owners’ pockets. We understand why the owners would want to keep 100 percent of this additional money, but trying to sell it as a fair deal to the players is not truthful.

— You proposed a CBA term of ten years. But you did not include any proposal on the players’ share of revenues after the first four years, which left open entirely how much more the owners would have taken from the players.

— The owners continued to refuse any financial justification for these massive givebacks. Our auditors and bankers told us the extremely limited information you offered just a few days before the mediation ended would be meaningless.

— Your rookie compensation proposal went far beyond addressing any problem of rookie “busts,” and amounted to severely restricting veteran salaries for all or most of their careers, since most players play less than 4 years. What your letter doesn’t say is that you proposed to limit compensation long after rookies become veterans—into players’ fourth and fifth years. As our player leadership told you and the owners time and again during the negotiations, the current players would not sell out their future teammates who will be veterans in a few short years.

— Your proposal did not offer to return the 320M taken from players by the elimination of certain benefits in 2010. It also did not offer to compensate over 200 players who were adversely affected in 2010 by a change in the free agency rules. Your letter did not even address a finding by a federal judge that you orchestrated new television contracts to benefit the NFL during the lockout that you imposed.

— You continued to ask for an 18 game season, offering to delay it for only one more year (you earlier said it could not be implemented in 2011 no matter what due to logistical issues). This was so even though the players and our medical experts warned you many times that increasing the season would increase the risk of player injury and shorten careers.

— All of the other elements you offered in the mediation, which you claim the players should have been eager to accept, were conditioned on the players agreeing to a rollback of their traditional share of 50/50 of all revenues to what it was in the 1980s, which would have given up the successes the players fought for and won by asserting their rights in court, including the financial benefits of free agency the players won in the Freeman McNeil and Reggie White litigations more than 20 years ago.

— The cap system for the past twenty years has always been one in which the players were guaranteed to share in revenue growth as partners. Your proposal would have shifted to a system in which players are told how much they will get, instead of knowing their share will grow with revenues, and end the partnership.

You had ample time over the last two years to make a proposal that would be fair to both sides, but you failed to do so. During the last week of the mediation, we waited the entire week for the NFL to make a new economic proposal. That proposal did not come until 12:30 on Friday, and, when we examined it, we found it was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week when we agreed to extend the mediation. At that point it became clear to everyone that the NFL had no intention to make a good faith effort to resolve these issues in collective bargaining and the owners were determined to carry out the lockout strategy they decided on in 2007.

We thus had no choice except to conclude that it was in the best interests of all NFL players to renounce collective bargaining so the players could pursue their antitrust rights to stop the lockout. We no longer have the authority to collectively bargain on behalf of NFL players, and are supporting the players who are asserting their antitrust rights in the Brady litigation. We have heard that you have offered to have discussions with representatives of the players. As you know, the players are represented by class counsel in the Brady litigation, with the NFLPA and its Executive Committee serving as an advisor to any such settlement discussions. If you have any desire to discuss a settlement of the issues in that case, you should contact Class Counsel.

Sincerely,

Kevin Mawae(notes)

Charlie Batch(notes)

Drew Brees(notes)

Brian Dawkins(notes)

Domonique Foxworth(notes)

Scott Fujita(notes)

Sean Morey(notes)

Tony Richardson(notes)

Jeff Saturday(notes)

Mike Vrabel(notes)

Brian Waters(notes)

CC: All NFL Players

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