NFL labor negotiations mark 15th day of mediation

As the clock wound down Thursday on the NFL’s labor negotiations, the tension rose between the league and the players’ union, an indication that the NFL Players Assn. could make good Friday on its threat to decertify as a union.

“This can come together quickly. Things can fall apart quickly,” NFL attorney Jeff Pash said Thursday night, after the 15th day of mediation with the union in Washington. “I’ve said it many times: If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done. I don’t know if both sides have an equal commitment.… Obviously, we have a commitment.”

Anticipating decertification — a move that probably would ensure owners could not lock out the players — the NFL weeks ago filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that any such move by the union would be a sham. Whichever path the NFL or NFLPA chooses from this point, it will be important to both sides to prove they negotiated in good faith and tried to strike a deal.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, had left the mediator’s office for the day before Pash made his comments. Upon hearing them, Smith returned to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office and gave an impromptu news conference.


“We have been committed to this process,” he said. “But for anyone to stand and turn to the American people and say they question that?

“Look, I understand that there’s probably some things Jeff Pash just has to say, but this is the truth: We know that as early as March of 2009 … the National Football League engaged in a strategy to get $4 billion of television money … even if the games weren’t played.”

Smith was referring to the provisions the league negotiated into the latest round of TV deals that would ensure the owners would be paid even if players were locked out. Last week, U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL violated the collective bargaining agreement in securing those deals. That was a key victory for the players.

All members of the NFL’s labor committee except one were present at the FMCS offices Thursday, including owners Jerry Richardson of Carolina, Pat Bowlen of Denver, Clark Hunt of Kansas City, John Mara of the New York Giants, and Dean Spanos of San Diego, Art Rooney II of Pittsburgh, and Mike Brown of Cincinnati. The only member who wasn’t there was New England owner Robert Kraft, who participated by telephone from Israel.