Today, on the 5th day of March Madness came the NFL Players response to Roger Goodell's letter that was sent out on Thursday. The response came via the website NFLLockout.com, which aims to argue the side of the players. My belief is that this letter would have been better served coming out on a Monday which would have gotten more attention than it has gotten on a Saturday, which is normally light when it comes to the amount of attention that is given to NFL News during an Offseason even if we are currently in a lockout. But nonetheless here is the response of the Players to Commissioner Goodell:
"March 19, 2011
National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
This responds to the letter you sent to all NFL players on March 17.
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 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.
The mediation was the end of a two-year process started on May 18, 2009, when our Executive Director sent you a letter requesting audited financial statements to justify your opting out of the CBA (letter attached).
The NFLPA did all it could to reach a fair collective bargaining agreement and made numerous proposals to address the concerns raised by the owners. In response, the owners never justified their demands for a massive give-back which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for players in major league pro sports.
That is why we were very troubled to see your letter, and repeated press reports by yourself, Jeff Pash, and the owners, which claim that the owners met the players halfway in the negotiations, and that the owners offered a fair deal to the players.
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% 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% 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% share of all revenues they have had for the past twenty years.
- If NFL revenues grow at 8% 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%, 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% 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 to give 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 1980′s, 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 the 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.
Cc: All NFL Players"
For various personal reasons I tend to side with the Players or any Union in a dispute against their owners, but I consider myself to be an openminded person who can see both sides of the argument. I could argue the points of each letter but I won't because I leave that up to each and every one of you. You San Francisco 49ers Fans are some of the most intelligent and well versed fans in all of sports. You deserve to make up your own mind when it comes to which side of the debate you are on but what I will do is offer some of my personal feelings about how this has become a sham and how the fans are the ones losing, not the Players and not the Owners.
The one thing that irks me about this whole situation is the mudsling that has gone on from both sides of the table. Especially from Jeff Pash, Roger Goodell, Greg Aiello & DeMaurice Smith; all four individuals are making a mockery of this whole situation. And honestly I feel like if all four individuals were removed from the negotiating table a deal could have been completed by now. I understand that this will not happen but one can hope. Like Mike Vrabel said the negotiating should be done by the NFL Players and their representatives and The Owners and their lawyers that is it. Jeff Pash cannot agree to a new CBA, Roger Goodell cannot agree to a new CBA and DeMaurice Smith cannot agree to a new CBA yet all three individuals are at the forefront of this whole situation. This dispute is between the Owners and the Players and although Roger Goodell & DeMaurice Smith are agents of the Owners & Players respectively they should remove themselves from the proceedings and allow real negotiating to occur.
Since the release of Commissioner Goodell's letter we have seen him interviewed on both ESPN & The NFL Network and we have seen both Greg Aiello & Jeff Pash make statements in favor the Owners' proposal. Other than an interviewing given to ESPN's George Smith this letter address to Roger Goodell is the only communication in the last week that the Players as a collective have given. What this means has yet to be determined, is it better to be on the offensive and make you case publicly to both the Players and the Fans? or is better to wait and see how the court see the case that the Players are making? Only time will tell
But until April 6 my question to both the League & the Players is "is this how this lockout is going to proceed"? Are letters that are address to each other that "mysteriously" become public knowledge going to be the only form of communication between the two sides? I understand that the players are banking on the courts to give them the decision that they are hoping for but for the League to truly want to get back to work on a new CBA there has to be another method that Roger Goodell and the 32 owners can employ aside from a letter written to the Players. There has to be another way, there has to be a way that both the Owners and Players swallow their pride and see that this game is bigger than the both of them, that this game is better than us all.