Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote NFL players Thursday, outlining the league’s last proposal to the union and cautioning that “each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk.”
Goodell ended the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, by telling players: “I hope you will encourage your union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement.”
Talks between the teams’ owners and the NFL Players Association broke off last Friday, the 16th day of federal mediation in Washington. The union dissolved that afternoon, allowing players to file a class-action antitrust suit in federal court. Hours later, owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
“I’ve told my guys to take the letter and set it on fire. We’re not that stupid,” said Seattle Seahawks guard Chester Pitts, whose reaction was relayed by NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah.
Goodell wrote that the NFLPA “walked out of the federal mediator’s offices … and filed a lawsuit.” He also said owners “are prepared to resume those negotiations at any time.”
“We need to come together, and soon,” Goodell wrote.
He told players he wants them to “understand the offer that we made,” a proposal put forth during the final day of negotiations.
“We believe the offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations, allowing the new league year and free agency to begin, and growing our game in the years to come,” Goodell said.
His letter goes point-by-point through 10 categories Goodell said were included in the NFL’s last proposal. Among them:
– Salary and benefits would be $141 million per club in 2011, and rise to $161 million by 2014;
– Free agency after four seasons;
– Less offseason work and fewer padded practices in the preseason and regular season;
– Keeping a 16-game regular season for at least the next two seasons and not changing to 18 games without the union’s agreement;
– Guaranteeing up to $1 million of a second year of a player’s contract if he is injured and can’t return to play;
– A new rookie compensation system;
– A jointly appointed neutral arbitrator for all drug and steroid appeals.
If you just listen to NFL, you would think the players are absolutely crazy for during down this last offer. You would think that they didn’t get a chance to see the final offer in it’s entirety (and maybe they didn’t). You would think that Demaurice Smith and his team in New York just balked at the NFL before walking out of negotiations, without giving the final proposal a second glance. You would think that the players never had any intention of trying to come to a deal.
Some of that may very well be true, however when you listen to the players since the talks broke off, they are all in this together and united. They all feel the deal was bad and the that the owners themselves were the ones trying to pull a fast one while making themselves look good. At this point both sides are to blame and there seems to be no end in sight until it goes to the courts next month. We can make our own decisions based on all the information available to us but in the end we’re the ones getting screwed out of football just like the players and the owners. It’s a lose – lose situation no matter how you look at it until this gets fixed.