NFL lockout: Commissioner Roger Goodell urges players’ union to return to bargaining table


In his letter to the players, Commissioner Roger Goodell urged them to “encourage your Union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement.” (JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)
March 17, 2011

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to the sport’s locked-out players, urging them to “encourage your Union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement.”

In the letter, Goodell outlined the terms of the proposal made last week by the league to the players’ union before the talks, supervised by a federal mediator, collapsed.

Goodell wrote that the league “offered to meet the Union at the mid-point between our previous offer and the Union’s demand.”

Goodell wrote that the league’s offer also included reductions in offseason workouts and restrictions on hitting in preseason and regular season practices, a commitment to retain a 16-game season for at least two years and never to change to an 18-game season without union consent and bolstered injury guarantees in players’ contracts, among other features.

The union “walked out of the federal mediator’s offices in Washington, told us that it had abandoned its right to represent you as a union, and filed a lawsuit,” Goodell wrote, adding later that “each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk.”

Seattle Seahawks guard Chester Pitts, who participated in the negotiating sessions held in recent weeks in Washington, said through a spokesman for the dissolved union: “I’ve told my guys to take the letter and set it on fire. We’re not that stupid.”

Negotiations crumbled last Friday. Players decertified their union that day and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the sport’s franchise owners in federal court in St. Paul, Minn. The owners locked out the players Saturday.

Goodell wrote in his letter that last week’s proposal by the league “was made to avoid a work stoppage.”

NFL officials and owners have said that the league offered last Friday to split the difference on the approximately $650 million gap between the two sides over how much money would be credited annually to the owners for expenses before the players’ portion of the sport’s revenues would be calculated under a salary cap system.

A hearing is scheduled for April 6 in St. Paul before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction that would lift the lockout.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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