Irsay 'optimistic' players, owners can reach deal through negotiations, not litigation

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By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Monday, March 14, 2011; 7:58 PM

INDIANAPOLIS - Jim Irsay thought NFL owners and players were getting closer to a new collective bargaining agreement last week.

Now the Colts owner is pleading for everyone to get out of the courts and back to the negotiating table.

Irsay said Monday he's "optimistic" the league will not lose the 2011 season or next year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis because of the current lockout, though he is "disappointed" that players have resorted to making their case through the legal system.

"I think we have our differences, but I feel there's a framework for a deal," Irsay said. "I was disappointed Friday because I felt when we came with another proposal, we really had a chance to continue to mediate, negotiate and do the things to get a deal done. There's work to get done, it can get done, but it's not going to get done through the courts."

Irsay spent 45 minutes fielding a wide array of questions about the lockout and insisted little will change at the team complex.

Though players and team officials are barred from contacting one another and players cannot use the team's workout facilities, Irsay insisted team employees would not be treated any differently during the league's first work stoppage since 1987.

That means no furloughs, no layoffs and no pay cuts.

"I look at someone who's making $40,000 or $50,000 a year, who has rent to pay, and I just don't see it for me, as an owner, to be asking them for anything," he said.

Irsay doesn't feel quite the same way about the players' association, though.

On Friday night, Irsay chided the dissolution of the NFLPA, calling it a "sham." The weekend did not change Irsay's opinion.

"In terms of being decertified and that sort of thing, that is something where you have to negotiate in good faith and you can't decertify with the intention of coming back and certifying," he said. "That's something under law that you cannot do."

Decertification means players no longer are protected under labor law but instead are now allowed to take their chances in federal court under antitrust law.


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