Friday, December 17, 2010

Goodell Talks CBA, Favre, Tampering and a Team in LA

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently addressed the ongoing labor talks, Brett Favre, tampering and a possible move of an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Labor Deal

Goodell has said a new labor agreement could be in place by the Super Bowl "if we all commit to it and work hard at it. There's no higher priority than getting a collective bargaining agreement. So we will work night and day to get that done."

He added, "I have said this repeatedly: I believe this will be resolved at the collective bargaining table," Goodell said. "Obviously we're seeing a lot of rhetoric and different tactics, including litigation strategies that I think are all distractions and attempts to get leverage. I understand that. But at the end of the day, this will get solved at the negotiating table. That's where we should be."

In a nutshell, here are some of the main labor issues:

Adjust Revenue Sharing Model

Currently players get 60% of revenue and owners want it dropped to 40%. The salary cap has gone from $85.5 in 2006 to $128 in 2009. The owners want the revenue split adjusted.

Rookie salary cap

The NFL wants a cap on rookie deals. Owners would say look no further than Sam Bradford, whose contract represented a seminal moment in the history of escalating rookie contracts. Bradford, who had never taken a snap in the NFL, signed a record contract that included $50 million in guaranteed money. As for other rookie guaranteed money, Matt Stafford signed for $42 million, Jarmarcus Russell for $32 million, Ndamukong Suh for $40 million, Gerald McCoy for $35 million and Trent Williams for $36.7 million.

These numbers pretty much guarantee that the NFL will not walk away from the negotiation table without some type of restriction on rookie deals. You can bet on it.

Reclaim Bonus Money When Contracts Violated

The NFL wants to be able to recoup bonus money paid out to players that subsequently violate their contracts. The NFL tried it with Michael Vick, but a Court ruled Vick could keep his $20 million bonus. In particular, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that Vick had already earned the bonuses before his dog fighting conviction, so the money wasn't subject to forfeiture. Faced with this court decision, the NFL needs this new rule written into the CBA; otherwise they are out of luck.


The NFL has talked about rollbacks in salaries. We saw NHL players agree to a 24% rollback in 2005, and the NBA has suggested it may look for a 35% rollback.

Expand Season to 18 Games

The NFL wants to expand the season to 18 games. This is a really hot issue for the owners. One proposal has the NFL trimming the pre-season by two games (from four to two games). Union President Kevin Mawae appreciates the value of an 18 game schedule, and seems prepared to use it as leverage.

"It's nearly an impossible sell for the players," Mawae said. "It's not about the finances, it's not about the payment. It's about the body and the wear and tear a player takes. ... There would have to be a lot of give from the management and the NFL side to get the 18 games."

Test for HGH

If you want to test for HGH, which is a banned substance in the NFL, you need to take a player's blood. There is currently no urine test that can test for HGH. The owners would like to see testing for HGH. Don't hold your breathe though. It would be surprising to see the players agree to blood tests. If the NFL insists on blood testing, the players could strike.

The NFLPA wants to see proof that a reduction in the revenue sharing plan is required (open up the books they are saying). They also want benefits for retired players, and appeals of arbitration decisions to be decided by an impartial third party rather than Goodell.

The NFLPA is also threatening to decertify to force thge NFL's hand.

Brett Favre

Goodell is close to announcing whether the league will punish Brett Favre for allegedly sending inappropriate photos and phone messages to Jen Sterger, a former New York Jets game hostess. Goodell said Wednesday he received the league’s report about the case “last week and I expect that some time in the near future I will make a decision.”

This is going to be a real balancing act for the NFL as they have a lot of things they need to consider before making their decision.

First, some background. Under U.S. Federal law, sexual harrassment occurs when a person engages in a pattern unwanted sexual advances. Sterger is alleging that advances were made. Favre says the voice messages are his, but the photos are not. The voicemails by themselves aren’t great for Favre, but the photographs, if traced back to Favre, would make things worse. While the NFL may be able to confirm the pictures came from Favre’s phone, they may not be able to prove the Favre sent them. While it’s reasonable to conclude he did send them since it’s his phone, you still need to prove it. It could be argued that someone else sent them.

At the time of the incidents, Favre was employed by the Jets. Sterger may have been an employee of the Jets (employed as a hostess) or an independent contractor; it's not clear. In the context of a sexual harassment claim, though, it won't make a big difference.

It is open to the NFL to discipline Favre pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy. The Policy provides as follows:
"All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.” This requirement applies to players, coaches, other team employees, owners, game officials and all others privileged to work in the National Football League.
As far as sanctions,
Discipline may take the form of fines, suspension, or banishment from the League and may include a probationary period and conditions that must be satisfied prior to or following reinstatement. The specifics of the disciplinary response will be based on the nature of the incident, the actual or threatened risk to the participant and others, any prior or additional misconduct (whether or not criminal charges were filed), and other relevant factors.
The NFL won’t banish Favre. For banishment they would need Favre to have engaged in a pattern of misconduct in the face of repeated warnings to stop. Remember Michael Vick was only suspended - and he went to jail.

However, there is more for the NFL to consider. They are targeting women as an emerging market. You might remember a few weeks ago the NFL honored breast cancer awareness month. Players wore pink apparel and the game ball had a pink ribbon on it just to name a few of the things the NFL did. The NFL will be sensitive to how women may react to any possible inaction/action it takes in this case. They will be mindful of that segment of the market.

The NFL also knows it remains open to Sterger to commence civil proceedings against Favre, the Jets and the NFL. The NFL will want to avoid litigation so they may take the necessary remedial steps to discourage the likelihood of legal proceedings. Sterger's lawyer has said his client would not pursue litigation if the league suspends Favre and puts a sexual conduct policy in place. While the NFL wants to avoid litigation, they won't just give in to Sterger's demands without evidence that a wrong has been committed.

As I discussed with Tony Marinaro in October, it would not be unreasonable for the NFL to put a sexual conduct policy in place or amend its existing Personal Conduct Policy. A suspension and fines are also possible.

A sexual conduct policy is something the NFL may consider (or amending its current personal conduct policy). It is possible that unwanted sexual advances may not be unique to just a couple of players in the NFL. So the NFL may like the idea of a policy so they can set a clear standard while also being able to point to the policy if they are challenged in the future as not doing enough to discourage this type of behavior.

There is one more thing for the NFL to consider: Brett Favre's legacy. There are few players that are as loved by teammates and opposing players as Brett Favre. He's also posted some of the most impressive numbers in NFL history and is headed to the Hall of Fame. As well, the Brett Favre brand is something the NFL will want to exploit when Favre retires. This all means that the NFL may well do its best to protect Favre's legacy and brand. However, we do know one thing: the NFL of late doesn't seem to play favorites.

Based upon the available information, my guess is the NFL fines Favre and puts a new policy in place (or amend its existing Personal Conduct Policy). New information, though, could change things.

Move To Los Angeles & Tampering

Goodell has confirmed that an investigation is ongoing regarding a tampering charge between the Chiefs and Lions. Asked about a team moving to Los Angeles, Goodell said the CBA must first be resolved. Magic Johnson can be heard tapping his foot.

1 comment:

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Owners would say look no further than Sam Bradford, whose contract represented a seminal moment in the history of escalating rookie contracts. Bradford, who had never taken a snap in the NFL, signed a record contract that included $50 million in guaranteed money.