Charlie Batch expects NFL lockout in March
On the Steelers: Batch expects NFL lockout in March
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Charlie Batch is worried, and it has nothing to do with where he fits in the pecking order of the convoluted Steelers quarterback rotation, nothing to do with Ben Roethlisberger, nothing to do with the Steelers' prospects for 2010.
It has to do with the future of the National Football League, particularly the 2011 season.
Batch, the Steelers' representative to the NFL Players Association, believes the owners will lock out the players, and he believes it will happen in nine months.
"As we speak today, I think it would occur in March," Batch said Tuesday.
Batch has been sounding the warnings for one full year. He said last June at an NFL rookie symposium that he felt there was a 100 percent chance the owners would lock the players out in 2011, and he said Tuesday he has seen no progress since then.
"Nothing has changed. We're still there," Batch said. "The players continue to hear nothing different than what I've been relaying over the last year, and that's players anticipate a lockout."
He said NFLPA officials have advised the players to put money away for a work stoppage in 2011.
There has been no progress reported in what little negotiations have taken place to extend the collective bargaining agreement that expires at the end of the current NFL year in March. DeMaurice Smith, the new executive director of the union, has warned players of the chance of a lockout, saying the week of the Super Bowl that "on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 14."
The current CBA was negotiated in 1993 and has been extended several times, most recently in 2006. In 2008, the owners voted unanimously to open up the CBA (an option for either side) and try to negotiate a new one before its March 2011 expiration. As part of the CBA, 2010 is an uncapped year in which team payrolls have no floor and no ceiling, and there are other new restrictions that have gone into place.
The players are now guaranteed 60 percent of the NFL's total gross revenues, and they want to keep it that way. The owners want to cut it back, saying their expenses have increased dramatically, and they no longer can afford the mandated 60 percent. Smith said that would mean an 18 percent pay cut for players.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has disputed that, saying player salaries will continue to increase as revenue does. The owners maintain that, because the players receive such a huge slice and their expenses have eaten into their profits, the incentive to "grow the game" has diminished.
"The principal issue is ensuring that the agreement is structured in a way that provides incentives for the clubs to invest, innovate and improve the game for the benefit of the fans over the long term," reads a statement on NFLlabor.com, produced by the league.
"The NFL clubs earn very substantial revenues. But they also have very substantial expenses. The largest of these expenses is player compensation. The clubs have been obligated by the CBA to spend more than half their revenues on player salaries and benefits. In addition, the clubs must spend significant and growing amounts on stadium construction, operations and improvements to respond to the interests and demands of our fans.
"The current labor agreement does not adequately recognize the costs of generating the revenues, the majority of which go to the players; nor does the agreement recognize that those costs have increased substantially -- and at an ever-increasing rate -- in recent years. As a result, under the terms of the current CBA, the clubs' incentive to invest in the game has been diminished."
Steelers president Art Rooney II, like his father before him, is on the NFL labor committee. Owners, however, are not permitted to comment on labor discussions and can be fined heavily by the league if they do.
Not so with the union and its members. Batch and others have pointed out ominously that the NFL hired outside counsel Bob Batterman, who handled negotiations for the NHL when that league shut down the entire 2004-05 season.
"It's clear where their stance is," Batch said.
"I've been telling people for over [a year], warning our players of a lockout, and there are no signs that say we're closer, and we're not. You can see by the comments from our executive director where he thinks the labor negotiations are. One thing DeMaurice has done, he's gotten the message out to the players so they're not hearing it through the media. He's trying to do everything in his power to get a deal done."
But that is not likely any time soon. Batch once thought the owners might wait until the regular season was set to start in September 2011 to lock them out, but now believes March is the key. That is when players begin collecting roster bonuses, delayed bonuses and, under normal circumstances, signing bonuses on new contracts and for free agents.
"I would like to think not because nobody wins in that situation," said Batch, citing all the revenue that would be lost not just by players but restaurants, stadium workers, etc. "Everybody should be trying to put a fair deal on the table. Both sides have to be honest as possible. It's not happening."
Batch's annual summer basketball camp for boys and girls ages 7-18 opens in his hometown of Homestead today and runs through July 24. Project C.H.U.C.K is the largest of the Best of the Batch Foundation programs, with 350 youths involved in the four-day-a-week basketball camp. ... Former Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend will hold his football/cheerleading camp and health fair Saturday at the Green Tree Sportsplex, open to youths 7-18. Several Steelers will serve as instructors, and the health fair is free and offers screenings for diabetes, vision, hearing and blood pressure. Call 412-551-8712 for more information. ... The Steelers swapped long snappers, signing Matt Stewart and releasing Jared Retkofsky. Stewart, 30, also has been a backup linebacker in the NFL. Veteran long-snapper Greg Warren has missed parts of the past two seasons with separate ACL knee surgeries but has returned to practice this spring. ... Troy Polamalu rejoined his teammates for OTAs, which took the form of bowling at a local lanes instead of practice Tuesday. Polamalu, whose last practice with the team was May 2, will finish out the week of OTAs, which end Thursday.
"The players continue to hear nothing different than what I've been relaying over the last year, and that's players anticipate a lockout."
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Re: Charlie Batch expects NFL lockout in March
NFLPA asks arbitrator to put NFL's TV money in escrow in event of 2011 lockout
Jun 09, 2010
The NFLPA is seeking to block the NFL from using revenue from TV contracts as operating income in the event of a work stoppage next year.
On Wednesday, the union announced it is asking Special Master Stephen Burbank to place in escrow any money the league generates from its TV partners -- the NFLPA estimates it at $4 billion -- if there is a lockout after the current CBA expires following the 2010 season.
NFL'S RESPONSE: Union's move is 'meritless' and a 'distraction'.
The league has acknowledged that the TV contracts with NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN and DirecTV continue to pay even in the event of a lockout. But NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in February such payments constitute a loan and must be repaid.
The union is taking aim at the TV contracts, which NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith has cited as one of the main reasons he thinks NFL owners will lock players out next season.
"It appears that the owners bought a strategy to lock players and fans out and nonetheless financially protect themselves," said Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth, a member of the NFLPA's executive committee. "The players want to leave no stone unturned to make sure that CBA negotiations proceed in good faith and that next season is played in its entirety."
The union will argue to Burbank that the league has abandoned its duties to the players by not negotiating its TV contracts to extract maximum value. It claims the league's deal with DirecTV didn't seek increased payments from the company until 2011 after the expiration of the current CBA.
The TV contracts effectively have given the league lockout insurance, the union contends. Seahawks WR Sean Morey, also an NFLPA executive committee members, said the owners "went out and obtained financing to take a whole year off."
Re: Charlie Batch expects NFL lockout in March
On further review, the union has a point regarding the TV deals
Posted by Mike Florio on June 10, 2010
On Wednesday, the NFL Players Association made a surprisingly aggressive challenge to the league's most recent round of television contracts, which contain beefed-up language aimed at ensuring that payments worth multiple billions of dollars per year will continue in the event of a work stoppage. (The league has called the allegations "meritless.")
When I saw the posting on my Sprint device during a Cracker Barrel break somewhere between Chambersburg and Harrisburg, I suspected that the effort simply reflected the union's frustration that the owners have found a way to ensure that payments can still be made on the significant debt from the purchase of franchises and/or the construction of stadiums in the absence of games actually being played.
But then it occurred to me during the early portion of the second act of Jersey Boys, when the guys were trying to figure out how to pay off Tommy DeVito's $150,000 debt to Norman Waxman. The entire player compensation model arises from the league's ability to generate revenue. So the league arguably -- if not actually -- has a fiduciary duty to maximize revenue. By securing leverage-building terms like ongoing payments during a work stoppage, the league necessarily has failed to maximize revenue, since the right to ongoing payments in the event that games aren't being played has an inherent value that could have been converted to dollars and cents paid to the league, and shared with the union.
The posting at the union's website demonstrates that, indeed, the NFLPA has made that very argument.
As we see it, one potential flaw in the union's position comes from the timing of the action. A provision of this nature has appeared in the league's broadcast contracts for as long as 30 years. The union's failure to challenge the tactic at some point since the establishment of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement structure (it arose as the settlement agreement to the Reggie White antitrust lawsuit) arguably means that it's too late to do so now.
Even if the union successfully can argue that the renegotiation of the broadcast contracts re-sets the clock to zero, they can't sit on their hands indefinitely. Accounts of so-called "lockout insurance" appeared in connection with the league's extension with DirecTV, which was finalized nearly 15 months ago. It's quite possible, then, that the union simply has waited too long to advance its current claim.
Of course, the ultimate decision will come from Special Master Stephen Burbank and then from U.S. District Judge David Doty, whom the league tried not that long ago to have bounced due to an alleged bias in favor of the union. Whether or not such a bias exists, the league wouldn't have tried to disqualify Doty if the league generally were pleased with his rulings in controversies arising under the CBA.
Speaking of biases, we need to point out that, yes, we have a partnership with NBC, one of the networks that has agreed to pay the league during any work stoppage. Our analysis of the present situation does not reflect -- and should not be interpreted as -- any sort of admission or acknowledgment by NBC that the league's actions constitute bad faith and/or a breach of any legal duty, fiduciary or otherwise. We're merely fulfilling our duty to the audience to apply logic and common sense (or our closest impersonation thereof) to situations like this in an effort to help football fans understand what's going on.
Bottom line? If the union wins this argument, guys like Jerry Jones won't be able to afford a lockout -- or a strike. And so the pendulum would swing strongly in the players' favor.
Given the league's recent experiences in the StarCaps case and American Needle, we suspect folks are feeling a little nervous right now at 280 Park Avenue.
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