The current NFL lockout continues. The rhetoric has been constant. Players are pleading for financial documents. The league provides them but the players claim it is not what they requested. They players union decertifies to make it technically illegal to lock players out. The league doesn't buy it and licks them out anyway. The NFL claims that the players walked out of negotiations. The (former) players unions says draftees should boycott the draft. Then they say to attend player function instead of league function.
It is nothing more than a mess.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went through the media Tuesday trying to get the league's message out. I caught the interviews on ESPN and on NFL Network.
Feel free to give you thoughts on what he said.
Goodell with Adam Schefter on ESPN:
How will (the fact that Judge Doty did not get the hearing) affect the hearing?
Well, I'm proud to say I'm not a lawyer, so I don't have an opinion as to how the litigation will go, but this is going to be judged on the facts. And we think that's good for the NFL and I think that hopefully the court will consider those facts and make a judgement...and then we'll get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
How have you handled this (a work stoppage) happening under your watch?
I don't think any commissioner wants to have a work stoppage. We are in the business of presenting our game to the millions of fans who love the NFL. And I think it's something that we want to get back and make sure that we are doing what fans want, which is more football and better football.
What about the people that are anxiously awaiting an answer as to whether they are going to have the sport that they love?
They are frustrated. They don't want to hear about this...This is not something they tune into the NFL for. They tune in for great football and great action. And that's what we need to get back to. Get an agreement and let's get started on preparing for the 2011 season. But we all know that in 2006...that the deal was very much in favor of the players. We need to address those issues and get an agreement that's balanced and fair to both sides and allow this game to grow.
What is the best guess you can offer as to when you can envision a settlement occurring?
I'm prepared to get back to negotiating right now. I would get up from this seat and move right back down to mediation and get started on the mediation process. I think that we'll be back there. I think it's the fastest and fairest way to get to an agreement and I would do it starting tonight.
I have been told that nothing will happen until after the hearing April 6.
I don't know who you are being told that from, but I am prepared to start working right now.
With Rich Eisen on NFL Network:
What is your response to (the possibility of having a competing players' gathering for draftees as opposed to the league draft where the draftees greet the commissioner)?
Well, one of the things that makes the NFL Draft so great is that it is an opportunity for these great young players to realize their hopes and dreams. Anyone that would interfere with all the work that they put in to walk across that stage and become an NFL draft choice, I just don't think that is in the best interest of the young man and their families...and clearly is not something the fans are going to want...The fans want to see the reaction of these young men when they do realize that dream.
As for "opening the books," why not just open the books and move this off the table and move things forward?
That's exactly what we did last week in the mediation process to make sure that the players had asked for a certain amount of data. And we as the NFL agreed last week that we would share information with them that was audited financials over a five-year period that would show them profits on a league-wide basis and a club-wise basis that was information that they had asked for several times before. Most importantly, it was information we don't even share with our other 32 teams. So it was information that we thought was responsive to what they were asking for but also something that, if they really did feel this was going to help move the ball, they would have accepted and taken that information, and we would have been able to reach an agreement.
What about the rhetoric that has happened since then? They are calling Jeff Pash (NFL chief negotiator) a liar. How do you respond to that?
I don't think because you disagree with someone it's appropriate to anyone a liar. We all made an agreement that we were going to work through the mediation process, because we thought it was the fastest, fairest way to get to a collective bargaining agreement. We need to get back there, get away from the rhetoric and get to an agreement.
The players also said they felt disrespected. Did you get that sense through the mediator that they felt they weren't listened to and that your last offer came late after very little face-to-face bargaining?
I couldn't disagree more. We all agreed to make a commitment to the mediation process. A lot of that process is that you sit and wait...We are at the instruction of the mediator. They are the ones who determine, as professionals, what are the right steps to take, when are the right times to have meetings and I think that everyone did a very professional job, both players and owners and the negotiators, in representing their parties and listening to one another. I think that's why we made some progress over the last couple of weeks. The proposal that was made on Friday was, frankly, a culmination of not only the time we were in mediation, but discussion that had happened outside of that process over the last several months. You want to make sure when people walk away from mediation that they understand what they are walking away from, and that is one of the things the mediator told us right from the beginning. I think the owners put together a very thorough, fair proposal that the players should really take serious consideration of, and I hope they will.
How soon could mediation happen again?
We didn't push away from the table. We were still at the table when they walked out on mediation. So, for us to go back to mediation, you call me, I'll be there. It's a decision the mediator has to make, but we would certainly be there and I expect we will be there.
Have you had any contact with the 'trade association' other than legal letters?
There has been unfortunately very little contact. I think we're at a period right now where the litigators and the litigation strategies are ongoing. That will have to play out the next couple of weeks, but I said repeatedly that this will come back to negotiations and the sooner that happens, the sooner we will get things resolved.