NFL owners express disappointment


A day after the NFL Players Assn. decertified as a union, and the NFL officially locked out its players, several team owners Saturday issued statements expressing their disappointment that the labor fight has gone this far.

“I am very disappointed that we were not successful in reaching an agreement,” Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II said, adding, “The NFL owners put a very fair offer on the table that we felt provided the framework for completing an agreement.”

John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, echoed that in a letter to his team’s fans, writing: “The impatience and the displeasure we know you are feeling is completely understandable. … The last thing we wanted is for the business end of our sport to play out this way. We know people frankly don’t care how owners and players manage their business. These negotiations distract and detract from what is most important to all of us: the game.”


At the same time other owners were issuing similar apologies and statements of disappointment, the league was gearing up for what could be a lengthy battle in the federal courts.

Shortly after the union announced it was dissolving — becoming a trade association and therefore launching a stiff challenge to the league’s ability to make a player lockout stand — a group of players filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging the league conspired to deny their ability to market their services.

The NFL announced Saturday it has retained high-powered attorneys David Boies and Paul Clement to join league lawyer Gregg Levy in fighting that antitrust suit. Boies is founder and chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner — which recently obtained a $4-billion settlement for American Express in an antitrust case — and Clement is the former U.S. Solicitor General.

Last month, the NFL filed a preemptive complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the expected union decertification was a sham. The union, meanwhile, repeatedly asked for complete financial information from NFL teams but said they didn’t get nearly enough to make a decision whether to honor the league’s request for a giveback of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I would dare any one of you to pull out any economic indicator that would suggest that the National Football League is falling on hard times,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told reporters. “The last 14 days, the National Football League has said, ‘Trust us.’ But when it came time for verification, they told us it was none of our business.”

As for NFL fans, they are divided over whom to blame. The popular website conducted an informal poll asking fans who is at fault. As of Saturday afternoon, 38.5% of voters blamed the players (9,852 votes), 24.5% blamed the owners (6,286), and 36.7% blamed both (9,399).