View Full Version : THE INFLUENCE GAME: NFL players lobby Capitol Hill

07-15-2009, 03:54 PM
THE INFLUENCE GAME: NFL players lobby Capitol Hill

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/art ... AD99F2DPO0 (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5htJs0_ynHa8VDqxsR6sAiXo6zFnAD99F2DPO0)

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER 53 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) NFL players swarmed Capitol Hill Wednesday, asking key lawmakers to take a tough look at team owners' profits as delicate talks begin over how the two sides will divide millions in television revenue.

As part of a daylong series of lobbying visits, the new head of the players union also urged members of Congress to consider the impact of labor trouble on retired and disabled players, who he said could lose health and other benefits if a deal is not reached soon.

The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, noted that even though the contract doesn't expire for two years, only one more season will have a salary cap. Once that goes, he said, so does the league's responsibility for funding its share of the benefits for retired and disabled players a charge the league denied.

In a meeting with Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and several players, Smith said that he didn't have the "luxury" of putting off a deal because of the impact on former players.

"I don't think it's morally right when a league makes $8 billion a year" for retired and disabled players to have their benefits cut, he told a sympathetic Sanchez.

However, NFL Vice President Joe Browne said in an e-mail that "there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that terminates pensions or disability benefits to our retired players in an uncapped year and it wrong to suggest that this may occur if there is an uncapped season in 2010."

Two years ago, Sanchez held a hearing highlighting problems that retired players had in fighting through red tape of both the league and the union while overcoming multiple surgeries, dementia and homelessness.

Sanchez told Smith that his predecessor, the late Gene Upshaw, seemed more concerned with current than retired players. Smith responded that the union has a "moral obligation" to retired players, adding, "We've all embraced change."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Sanchez.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel told the congresswoman that in choosing a new executive director, the union sought someone who could help bridge the gap between the current and retired players.

Smith also asked for congressional help in getting the NFL to open its books, saying it's hard to negotiate a deal without knowing how much each of the teams makes. He said that Congress has leverage over the league because of the benefits it provides, such as the antitrust exemption for broadcasting contracts. That allowed the NFL to sign TV contracts on behalf of all its teams, helping to transform the league into the economic powerhouse it is today.

The NFL's Browne responded: "Congressmen understand and passed laws to keep labor talks such as ours at the negotiating table and out of the halls of Congress."

In all, about 20 current and former players were walking Capitol corridors in three teams, following a negotiating session a day earlier between players and owners on a new collective bargaining agreement. Players fear that owners are setting the stage for a lockout and hope Congress can use its influence to help prevent that.

Last year the owners voted to opt out of the current agreement in 2011, raising the possibility of a work stoppage in two years. Owners argue that the current agreement is too favorable for players, who get about 60 percent of revenues.

The players have countered with a union-commissioned study that showed the average value of the teams has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion over 10 years, an increase of about 14 percent a year.

It may be hard to conjure up much sympathy for football players making seven-figure salaries. But the union is trying to connect with lawmakers by stressing the plight of retirees, many of whom played before the era of big money, as well as stadium workers.

After a meeting with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Smith acknowledged the perception of highly paid athletes. "If I were working for the NFL, I'd want to portray these guys as overpaid gladiators," he said, surrounded by half a dozen players as he spoke to Lee aide Christina McWilson outside the congresswoman's office. Rather, he said, they're husbands and fathers who care about much more than football.

Smith's group also met with his own congressman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., assistant to the speaker, who told The Associated Press after the closed meeting: Congress is going to want to keep itself apprised of the situation "and make sure that nobody's abusing the privileges that they've received."

Other players on the agenda include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee; and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who has taken on the NFL on various issues.

Players in the lobbying effort include Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

07-20-2009, 05:43 PM
This is going to get ugly. The last deal was an 11th hour, barely got done squeaker of a compromise, and that was with Upshaw and Tags having a longstanding working relationship. New union head wanting to make a name for himself, new commish not wanting to back down, a $ $ hat owners like Jerry Jones and Danny Snyderbrenner wanting the league to revert back to the every man for himself, "Yankees spend $1/2 billion on free agents" free for all idiocy of baseball, and, IMHO, a cataclysm is coming. It's been over 20 years since the NFL had a stoppage... the other pro sports leagues have all had VERY damaging labor disputes in the interim... the institutional memory that has helped avoid this sort of thing in the NFL is gone... I hope we win this year, because I'm not sure how much football we'll see after.

Uncle Rico
07-20-2009, 06:10 PM
I'm still trying to figure out why a bunch of millionaires need a union. Absurd. :roll: