Friday, July 22, 2011

NFL owners agree; it's players' move now

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-- "Tricked, duped, led astray, hoodwinked, bamboozled."
That, in the words of Redskins defensive end and player representative Vonnie Holliday on Twitter, was what many NFL players were feeling Thursday evening after NFL team owners overwhelmingly voted for a tentative agreement, pending an OK from the players.
Players said the proposal that the owners sent over was, in fact, the owners' own proposal and included language on some issues that the players had not signed off on. And so, while the two sides have reached agreement on the major issues, the 32 teams' player representatives - after a two-hour conference call - did not vote on the tentative agreement to end the 128-day lockout.
The two sides will try to pick it up again today, though the owners will be in Massachusetts attending the funeral of Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft who passed away from cancer Wednesday.
In fact, maybe part of the problem was that the owners had their limo engines running outside the Atlanta-area hotel so they could catch their evening flights. If they weren't in a rush, then NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's news conference, in which the league passed out a schedule for free agency, might have been a bad power move, a botched attempt to put the onus on the players and open them up to possible fan outrage by not ratifying the "new deal."
Reporters caught up to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones late Thursday night and asked him his reaction to players tweeting that the owners were trying to pull a fast one.
"There comes a time for us to have a deal," he said.
Well, according to one player representative, that time might not be today either.
"It takes two sides to reach an agreement," the Bills' George Wilson told ESPN, "and when they try to shove an agreement down our throats, that's a sign of disrespect. ... There is no timetable set. For most of the time that we were on the conference call, we didn't even have the proposal yet."
This after Goodell said that with an agreement, teams could open their facilities to players on Saturday and free agency would start Wednesday.
"Hopefully, we can all work quickly, expeditiously, to get this agreement done," Goodell said. "It is time to get back to football. That's what everybody here wants to do."
Thursday's owner vote was 31-0, with the Raiders abstaining from the ratification. The NFL said the players had to re-establish their union quickly for the agreement to stand - thereby putting a kibosh on any future antitrust lawsuits.
However, NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith wrote in an e-mail to the 32 player representatives shortly after the owners' decision: "Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers' compensation, economic issues and end-of-deal terms, remain unresolved. There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time. I look forward to our call tonight."
The NFLPA later sent a second e-mail to player reps and took issue with the league setting a rough Tuesday night deadline for the NFLPA to re-form as a union.
"In addition to depriving the players of the time needed to consider forming a union and making needed changes to the old agreement, this proposed procedure would in my view also violate federal labor laws," read the e-mail, written by NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen.
"Those laws prohibit employers from coercing their employees into forming a union, and could result in any agreement reached through the procedure being declared null and void."
The owners' scenario was that once a deal was agreed to, players would begin the process of acquiring 51 percent of the 1,900 player signatures to begin the recertification process, which would allow the 10-year agreement to formally become a collective bargaining agreement. Thus, the opening of facility doors Saturday to help get signed union cards, as players don't want to do it electronically.


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