Though it was somewhat expected, Friday brought the disappointing news that the NFL and the league’s Players Association were unable to reach on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Not long before the CBA was set to expire, the NFLPA decertified as a union, a move that the league called a ‘sham.’
The league as we know it could all hinge on the ruling of a judge now. For example, a salary cap and other rules that foster parity in America’s favorite league could be banished altogether. That may not be likely, but it’s definitely a possibility. At the end of Friday’s negotiation sessions, Roger Goodell, league lawyer Jeff Pash, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and New York Giants owner John Mara all gave statements to the media. Pash then fielded several questions from reporters about the week’s developments and what comes next in the immediate future.
The NFL’s communications office has provided transcriptions, part of which I’ve shared below.
Roger Goodell: We had 17 days of mediation here. We certainly want to thank George Cohen, Scott Beckenbaugh and the entire staff here. We worked hard. We didn’t reach an agreement obviously. As you know, the union walked away from the mediation process today to decertify. We do believe that mediation is the fairest and fastest way to reach an agreement that works for the players and for the clubs. And we believe that ultimately this is going to be negotiated at the negotiating table. They’ve decided to pursue another strategy and that is their choice. But we will be prepared to negotiate an agreement and get something done that is fair to the players and fair to the clubs.
Jerry Richardson: This is a time for our fans not to be discouraged. We’ve worked very hard. I view it as a bump in the road. In due course we will have an agreement. As the Commissioner alluded to, we’ll have to negotiate an agreement. I would also like to add there has been no anger and friction between the players and the teams and has been actually a real learning experience for all of us, and in due course we will have an agreement.
John Mara: This obviously is a very disappointing day for all of us. I’ve been here for the better part of two weeks now, and essentially during that two-week period the union’ s position on the core economic issues has not changed one iota. Their position has quite literally been ‘take it or leave it’ and in effect they have been at the same position since last September. We made an offer to them today to basically split the difference between the two sides. We made that approximately at 12:00 pm and at 4:00 pm they came back and said it was insufficient and they have apparently decided to decertify. One thing that became painfully apparent to me during this period was that their objective was to go the litigation route. I believe they think it gives them the best leverage. I never really got the feeling in the past weeks that they were serious about negotiating. And it’s unfortunate because that’s not what collective bargaining is all about. I think eventually we’ll be back at the table, but unfortunately now we will have to go through this process where we are in court.
Jeff Pash: As you know we’ve been here for the better part of three weeks, fully engaged and fully committed to this process. I said yesterday that an agreement could be reached if there was a shared commitment on both sides. I was disappointed and all of us were disappointed that at the very time we were face-to-face with the union and its executive committee, they had already made the decision to decertify their union. We were meeting with them after 4:00 pm this afternoon to talk about the offer that we tendered them. And an hour later, we got letters that as of 4:00 PM they had given up their status as a collective bargaining representative.
So I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate as we said all along. And that’s unfortunate because all it means is the eventual resolution of this business dispute is going to be delayed. We will have an agreement and we will have a system that is good for fans, good for players and allows this game to grow.
Will you lock the players out tonight?
Decision has not been made.
How do you plan to get back to the negotiating table when you are so far apart?
What do you say to the fans?
I can say to the fans as I’ve said before, the absence of an agreement is a shared failure and I think they should be disappointed, I think they should be unhappy and I understand that. I will only say that we will not waiver for one moment, for one day, in trying to get an agreement that works for fans, that works for players and that works for clubs. That’s what we want. It doesn’t do us any good to shut down our business. That was never our goal. It’s not our purpose today. No one is happy with where we are right now. We will continue our efforts. This is a part of the process, but it is not the end of the process. I think that’s the most important thing to remember. On many things, I don’t think we are that far apart. That’s my point. We accepted the union’s position on a wide range of issues in an effort to bridge the gaps, in an effort to get to an agreement. Evidently that was not good enough for whatever reason.