Roger Goodell Continues to Paint NFLPA as Obstructionist
"Today's collective bargain agreement does not work as it should from the standpoint of the teams," Goodell wrote. "If needed adjustments are made, the NFL will be better for everyone. The first step is making sure a new collective bargaining agreement is more balanced and supports innovation and growth."
Goodell touched on some of the specific problems the owners have with the current deal -- including escalating stadium maintenance and operation costs, rookie salaries and the 60 percent share players get of all league revenues after the $1 billion the owners take off the top for operating costs. And as has been the case throughout with both sides, it was heavy on language that stressed the importance of fans.
But in reality, the Goodell essay Tuesday was a continuation of the owners' current strategy, which may include a March 4 attempt to unilaterally impose a new set of work rules without the union's approval.
The union has long held the contention that the owners intend to lock the players out following the expiration of the current deal. But as has been speculated several places over the past year, there is another option. If the owners can show that the union hasn't negotiated in good faith, it could declare an impasse and impose its "last, best offer" as the new set of work rules. By filing an unfair labor practices charge against the union Monday and continuing to insist Tuesday that the owners want to negotiate seriously, the league could be building its case to declare an impasse once the current deal expires.
The union, however, dismissed the unfair practices charge as "without merit" and points out several counter-proposals it has made on concrete issues such as the rookie wage scale and the proposed expansion of the regular season to 18 games. The lackluster responses to these counter-proposals by the owners serve as evidence for the union's claim that it's the owners, and not them, who are refusing to negotiate seriously because they intend to impose a lockout in an effort to break the union and secure a strongly favorable deal.
The NFLPA has cited ample evidence that the owners' strategy involves a lockout, including the hiring of attorney Bob Batterman, who orchestrated the NHL lockout, and new TV contracts that guarantee to pay off even in the event that no games are played. The union's latest evidence that the league is anticipating a lockout has been coming over the past couple of days as teams have elected to use franchise player designations on free agents such as Peyton Manning and Michael Vick. Since no one knows what the free agency rules will be under the new CBA, teams are making sure to hold onto the rights of franchise players with whom they intend to negotiate long-term deals once the new rules are established. The union has also said it plans to challenge teams' rights to use the franchise designation in 2011, since it's not a "league year" under the expiring CBA and no one knows if a franchise designation will exist under the new rules.
In the meantime, no negotiating sessions are currently scheduled after the owners walked away from the table last Wednesday in Washington, D.C. All that exists right now is the rhetoric, which Tuesday took the form of the owners' side continuing to claim hardship.
"The NFL is healthy in many respects, but we do not have a healthy business model that can sustain growth," Goodell wrote. "Companies with far more revenue than the NFL have gone bankrupt because they mismanaged their costs and failed to address their problems before they became a crisis. The NFL has a track record over many decades of making good decisions that have led to unprecedented popularity. Negotiating a fair agreement will result in billions in pay and benefits to current players, improved benefits for retired players, and a sustainable business model for our teams."
However, given the current state of negotiations, don't expect that to happen any time soon.