Archive for April, 2011

Commissioner Goodell: “We need to get together and solve our problems face-to-face”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the need for negotiations in an interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen prior to the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.

“We need to get together and solve our problems face-to-face and negotiate these issues, and get to the point where we can remove the uncertainty, get an agreement that works for everybody,” Commissioner Goodell said. “That’s only going to happen through collective bargaining.”

“Our game is in such a great place,” Commissioner Goodell added. “If we can work together to address these issues, we can make the game better. You know I’m a big believer in this game. I love the game of football. And I think we have so many great things ahead of us, and if we can address the issues and make our game stronger, invest in our game, use innovation, continue to create the competitive kind of game, that’s where we’re going to be. And what worries me about this litigation is a lot of the end-game for the attorneys on the players’ side is to take at risk what we’re doing tonight – the Draft – that’s not only made the NFL so successful, but it’s also made other sports. We’re seeing threats to the free agency issues and the salary cap issues, and the balance that that’s created. So what does that do for the game of football? I think that puts that at risk and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s interview on NFL Network:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen

April 28, 2011

Rich Eisen: “An actual football event.”

Roger Goodell: “Aren’t we looking forward to that.”

Eisen: “Where we just talk football tonight. But obviously things with the labor situation will no doubt creep in on occasion about trades and whatnot. I have to ask you where you think things stand right now in the National Football League? Your thoughts as we enter what seems to be a very uncertain night in an uncertain period?”

Goodell: “The thing that’s so troubling about it is that we’re in this litigation phase here which none of us control, whether it’s the timing or the decisions, and it has an impact on what we’re doing. We need to get together and solve our problems face-to-face and negotiate these issues, and get to the point where we can remove the uncertainty, get an agreement that works for everybody. That’s only going to happen through collective bargaining.”

Eisen: “But how do we get to that point? If this is Point A, how do we get to Point B?”

Goodell: “Well, unfortunately we had 17 days of mediation back in February and March, and the owners made a proposal at the end of that period which I was hopeful would be at least the basis for continuing those negotiations, and the union pursued the litigation strategy. I understand it, I get it. Everybody’s about leverage in a negotiation, but it’s going to be harder to do once this litigation goes because there will be aspects of it that will be uncontrollable. And I’m concerned personally as Commissioner of where some of that litigation can take us. Some of the challenges to the foundation of the game were things that I’m troubled by.”

Eisen: “In terms of – as you say leverage is part of a negotiation – it seems it’s putting the league and you in a position of wanting the game to be shut down to gain leverage in whatever negotiation is going on. I assume you don’t want to shut the game down, but it seems right now we’re waiting for a stay to try and gain leverage so the owners can gain leverage back. Is that a proper reading of the sitation?”

Goodell: “That’s the issue. We’re in a labor dispute here. Labor disputes usually get resolved through negotiations primarily. If you’re unsuccessful, there’s a strike or a lockout. Now litigation seeps into that and that’s just one other element that adds uncertainty to it. I think it’s unfortunate because it’s just going to delay the ultimate solution, and that is not going to happen until we have a negotiated settlement.”

Eisen: “Is there any discussion from the league side about the strategy to this point and its effectiveness? Has there been any discussion about that?”

Goodell: “You always have discussions about your strategy, your negotiating strategy, what can transpire, and that’s why I kept pushing that this really needs to get resolved by March 4. After March 4, it becomes much more complicated because there will be decertification, which they made it clear. There will be litigation and that’s the trouble of the circumstance that we’re in. We’ve got to get back into that negotiation.”

Eisen: “So you and the league have no issue with the strategy to this point? From the league and the owners’ side.”

Goodell: “No because the strategy is always to negotiate. When you’re thrust into litigation you have to obviously make sure that you’re prepared to deal with that litigation, and the owners are defending that.”

Eisen: “When can there be talk? When do you think there can be you and the owners on one side, and the players on the other side?”

Goodell: “I think that’s important to get back to that. We do have mediation scheduled for May 16 with the mediator in Minneapolis. We look forward to that time, and that’s the type of things that should happen, where there’s real bargaining across the table addressing the issues that need to be addressed.”

Eisen: “But you don’t think there will be any more litigation-led leverage grabs that will still be necessary to be played out on May 16?”

Goodell: “I think the litigation unfortunately can go on for some period of time. It’s usually not the fastest. It’s usually not the most direct route, and it’s one of the reasons it doesn’t really solve differences at the end of the day.”

Eisen: “When do you think the league year might start? What are the discussions internally?”

Goodell: “We’ve given instructions today to open up the doors tomorrow morning to allow players to come in, meet with coaches, start some of that preparation workout, use the facilities. And then we’re also working on the plan for player transactions. But we’re also waiting for judgments from another court – the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals – and we’ll have to take those decisions into account also.”

Eisen: “So when do you think you might hear something from St. Louis, from the judges in St. Louis?”

Goodell: “It’s totally their decision, Rich. I understand the stay is pending their decision and they’ll make that determination when they’re ready to do so.”

Eisen: “Is it possible that the rules of engagement for tonight’s first round of the draft, that there could be different rules set tomorrow based on league year opening up and things of that nature? Has that been discussed?”

Goodell: “You have many considerations here. First, you have to be respectful and cooperative with the rulings of the court, and we got that last night. Second, you have to continue to operate your business and make sure that you’re doing it in an orderly fashion. And third, you have to consider the competitive issues of running a league and that’s critically important to us. So all of those things are being factored in as we make decisions about how we proceed on the court order.”

Eisen: “How are you personally with this? Are you ticked? Are you angry?”

Goodell: “I’d say exactly what I said to the fans and what I sense from the fans last night: frustration. It’s frustrating because we have so much potential. Our game is in such a great place. If we can work together to address these issues, we can make the game better. You know I’m a big believer in this game. I love the game of football. And I think we have so many great things ahead of us, and if we can address the issues and make our game stronger, invest in our game, use innovation, continue to create the competitive kind of game, that’s where we’re going to be. And what worries me about this litigation is a lot of the end-game for the attorneys on the players’ side is to take at risk what we’re doing tonight – the Draft – that’s not only made the NFL so successful, but it’s also made other sports. We’re seeing threats to the free agency issues and the salary cap issues, and the balance that that’s created. So what does that do for the game of football? I think that puts that at risk and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Eisen: “So how do we get you guys to talk? How does this happen? Can I help?”

Goodell: “Well, you know we sat on this set a couple of years ago and there was a prediction that’d we have an agreement so let’s get back to it. You may be right.”

Eisen: “Well whatever I can do to offer.”

Goodell: “And I feel the same way. Whatever I can do to make sure we get this done, it’s in the best interest of everybody.”

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NFL statement on post-injunction operations

The NFL clubs have been notified that we have requested from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals a stay of the preliminary injunction issued late Monday afternoon by the Federal District Court. Pending further guidance from the Eighth Circuit, we believe it is appropriate for clubs to take additional steps in response to the preliminary injunction. The clubs were informed of the steps below that will be effective on Friday at 8 am ET following tonight’s first round of the NFL Draft. Clubs are free to contact players immediately to advise them of the hours that the facility will be open for their use, to schedule medical and rehabilitation activity, and to arrange meetings with coaches or related activity, such as film study or classroom work.

  1. Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the club.
  2. Clubs will be permitted to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players. 
  3. Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed to players under item 2 above, as well as the club’s off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps, Organized Team Activities (“OTAs”), and other similar matters.
  4. Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction, may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 CBA and Appendix L.  Participating players will be paid $130 per day, provided the player fulfills the club’s reasonable off-season workout requirements.  Such workouts will count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.
  5. On days during which no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled under item 4 above, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on his own on a voluntary, unpaid basis during normal business hours, or such other hours as may be set by the club, provided: (i) there is no participation or supervision by any coach, trainer or other club personnel; and (ii) the club has first verified that the player has an existing medical insurance policy in place.  Players without such personal coverage should not be permitted to work out at the club facility on an unsupervised basis under this item 5, but may do so under item 4 above.  Unsupervised workouts will not count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.  This item 5 will apply both prior to and after the commencement of the club’s official off-season workout program.
  6. Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 CBA.
  7. The league office will promptly make arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs.  We will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.
  8. Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community relations events.

With respect to player transactions (such as signings, trades of player contracts, terminations, tryouts, etc.), we plan to distribute to all clubs, likely tomorrow, a comprehensive set of procedures governing such transactions. This will include the timing for the commencement of the 2011 League Year, free agent signings and other customary player transactions.

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Commissioner Goodell: “Sooner we get rid of the uncertainty the better”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said today that resuming negotiations with the players is critical because the NFL’s uncertain labor situation is unhealthy for players, teams, and fans.

The commissioner spoke with media today after participating in the NFL’s Play 60 Youth Football Festival with 100 New York City fourth- and fifth-grade students and 13 of the top prospects in New York for the NFL Draft.

“We are in a period of uncertainty and that is something you want to remove,” Commissioner Goodell said. “It’s one of the things I don’t think is healthy for the players, the clubs and most importantly our fans. So the sooner we can get rid of that uncertainty the better.”

“We’ve said from the beginning that you have to be prepared for every contingency,” Commissioner Goodell added. “Our hope is to still get back to the negotiating table. That’s where it should be resolved. Litigation is not going to resolve this matter. And the sooner we can get back to the table and start discussing the issues, we can get an agreement. That’s where it’s going to come from – the two parties. And the judge made that clear.”

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s media briefing:

 

COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

NFL PLAY 60 YOUTH FOOTBALL FESTIVAL

April 27, 2011

On status of your request for a stay:

Some motions were filed this morning with some more motions filed later this afternoon. I don’t think we have any indication of when she’s going to rule on those.

If she rejects request for a stay, will league year start right away or will you wait for a ruling from 8th Circuit?

I think we have to wait until we hear what the judge’s ruling is first and then try to understand what her instructions are and then we’ll deal with it from there.

On players asking for a $1 billion bond if a stay is granted:

It’s all part of the process.

Are you prepared to start the season whenever you have to?

We’ve said that from the beginning that you have to be prepared for every contingency. Our hope is to still get back to the negotiating table. That’s where it should be resolved. Litigation is not going to resolve this matter. And the sooner we can get back to the table and start discussing the issues, we can get an agreement. That’s where it’s going to come from – the two parties. And the judge made that clear.

Are you worried about the image of the NFL in a state of confusion?

I’m not because [our clubs understand what it is]. But we are in a period of uncertainty and that is something you want to remove. It’s one of the things I don’t think is healthy for the players, the clubs and most importantly our fans. So the sooner we can get rid of that uncertainty the better.

Did the league reach out to the Giants after they let players work out yesterday?

We’ve been in touch with all clubs in the last 48 hours. Again, just trying to inform them of what the rules are so that we can be clear with the rules. You want an orderly process here. We have to react to when judgments are made and then we are obviously going to comply with those judgments. But we also want to make sure it’s done in an orderly fashion.

Did you guys need to talk to the Giants about those workouts?

Someone on the staff may have. I haven’t been in touch with them.

On the elimination of the Draft and salary cap simply being part of the union’s litigation strategy but not in negotiations:

But that’s the issue. In negotiations they haven’t, but in their lawsuit they are pursuing things that I think fundamentally made this game great. I love the game of football and I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to promote the game and keep the integrity of the game. And some of the aspects that they are challenging — future drafts — that’s part of the competitive balance of our league. That’s good for the players from my standpoint because there are many rules in there that benefit the players. It’s good for the teams and the competitive balance. It’s great for the fans, because that’s what they want — they want hope. And it’s great for communities. We want to make sure teams can continue to be successful in New Orleans, Green Bay and Jacksonville and our system has allowed that to happen. We don’t have to change the entire system of the NFL and that’s what’s being challenged and that’s when I get protective over the NFL.

Do you think they are just throwing this into the lawsuit and then dialing it back as part of negotiations?

You’ll have to speak to them. I don’t know about that. They are pursuing this litigation and that’s where this litigation goes.

On concern that if free agency hits before the Draft we would not have order:

I think whenever the judgment comes down, and we don’t know when that judgment will come down, we want to have the opportunity to understand it and communicate it properly and make sure that we do it in an orderly fashion. When we get those decisions, we’ll have to deal with them.

On operating the league without running afoul of anti-trust laws:

The surest way of doing it is having a collective bargaining agreement. By having a collective bargaining agreement you have an agreement where the players benefit from that, the clubs have a way of operating and a system that is good for the quality of what you are doing, the game of football. And that’s the best way. That’s how we’ve been successful, that’s how other leagues have been successful and it should continue that way. So the sooner we can get out of the courts and out of the litigation and back in to having discussions about structuring that kind of a labor agreement, that’s when we’re going to be successful.

On slippery slope of operating without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement:

That’s part of having to deal through this litigation phase. You have to try to understand what system they are asking you to implement. That’s why we have to take it one step at a time and understand what the rulings are and we’ll have to adjust as we go.

How is it a work stoppage if the owners locked the players out?

That’s a work stoppage. A work stoppage is a lockout or a strike or whenever you have the uncertain situation we are in.

On players throwing their baseline concussion tests:

It’s always been an issue we have to address. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve stated and make sure players understand the seriousness of the injury because it’s not in the best interests of their long-term health.  You would hope players would understand that. That’s why we try to educate them on that.

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NFL’s Jeff Pash: “It depends on the scope of the injunction”

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash spoke with media today about the NFL’s legal position following yesterday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

“We remain confident in our legal position,” Pash said. “We are taking steps, and already have taken steps, to put the process of review by an appeals court into place.  Last night we filed a notice of appeal.  As a first step, that appeal has already been docketed with the court of appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  The clerk’s office will, I’m sure, be in touch with the parties to set up a briefing schedule.  We will certainly suggest that the review be expedited so that we can get the guidance from the appeals court at the earliest possible time.  We also filed a motion last night with Judge Nelson asking that she stay the injunction that she entered pending review by the appeals court.  She directed earlier today that the players respond to that tomorrow morning.  Once that response is in, we expect that she’ll consider the briefs before her and give a ruling.  Then we will address whatever that ruling is either directly or with the court of appeals.”

Following is a transcript from Pash’s media briefing:

 

NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT JEFF PASH

MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

 

Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m just going to speak very briefly and then respond to your questions.  Obviously, yesterday’s decision was not what we were looking for.  We reviewed it.  We remain confident in our legal position.  We are taking steps, and already have taken steps, to put the process of review by an appeals court into place.  Last night we filed a notice of appeal.  As a first step, that appeal has already been docketed with the court of appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  The clerk’s office will, I’m sure, be in touch with the parties to set up a briefing schedule.  We will certainly suggest that the review be expedited so that we can get the guidance from the appeals court at the earliest possible time.  We also filed a motion last night with Judge Nelson asking that she stay the injunction that she entered pending review by the appeals court.  She directed earlier today that the players respond to that tomorrow morning.  Once that response is in, we expect that she’ll consider the briefs before her and give a ruling.  Then we will address whatever that ruling is either directly or with the court of appeals.  I’ll stop there and take your questions.

On what kind of guidance the NFL would be looking for from the courts:

There are a couple of things going on in that respect.  One is obviously the stay motion and establishing a schedule from which the stays will be considered and the briefing in the appeals court.  The second is a request that the players filed last night with Judge Nelson asking – it’s called a motion for reconsideration – basically asking that she enter a new and different form of injunction, which would give a much broader form of injunction than was entered by the judge yesterday.  So that’s obviously something that needs to be addressed as well.  I think both sides need to have clarity as to what the court’s order is, whether a stay is in effect and the like.  That’s really what I had in mind when I talked about seeking that kind of guidance.

On what type of rules would be put in place if free agency is ordered to begin by the court:

I think again that depends on what the scope of the injunction is and whether there is a stay.  If the players got the injunction they requested last night, that would suggest a different set of rules.  If that request is denied or the underlying injunction is stayed pending appeal, then that would dictate a different response.  There’s a considerable degree of uncertainty about what exactly the scope of the relief is in light of the filing by the players last night.  I think we don’t agree on all that many things, but I think Jim Quinn said it well last night when he said, ‘What we need to do is let the dust settle for a day or two,’ I think those were his words, and see if a stay is put in place.  Then we’ll all know more and be able to go from there.
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NFL statement:

We are going to proceed in an orderly way that is fair to the teams and players and complies with court orders. Players are being treated with courtesy and respect at club facilities. We do not believe it is appropriate for football activities to take place until there are further rulings from the court. Under the last set of proposals made to the NFLPA, teams wouldn’t even be into offseason programs yet. We need a few days to sort this out, as NFLPA attorney Jim Quinn indicated last night.

Commissioner Goodell: Litigation endangers NFL’s success

Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, stating thatthe union-financed lawsuit attacks virtually every aspect of the current system including the draft, the salary cap and free-agency rules, which collectively have been responsible for the quality and popularity of the game for nearly two decades. A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.”

“Is this the NFL that players want?” Commissioner Goodell continued. “A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?”

“Is this the NFL that fans want?” Commissioner Goodell added. “A league where carefully constructed rules proven to generate competitive balance—close and exciting games every Sunday and close and exciting divisional and championship contests—are cast aside? Do the players and their lawyers have so little regard for the fans that they think this really serves their interests?”

Following is the Commissioner’s full op-ed:

By ROGER GOODELL

Late Monday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued a ruling that may significantly alter professional football as we know it.

For six weeks, there has been a work stoppage in the National Football League as the league has sought to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement with the players. But Judge Nelson ordered the end of the stoppage and recognized the players’ right to dissolve their union. By blessing this negotiating tactic, the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.

What would the NFL look like without a collectively bargained compromise? For many years, the collectively bargained system—which has given the players union enhanced free agency and capped the amount that owners spend on salaries—has worked enormously well for the NFL, for NFL players, and for NFL fans.

For players, the system allowed player compensation to skyrocket—pay and benefits doubled in the last 10 years alone. The system also offered players comparable economic opportunities throughout the league, from Green Bay and New Orleans to San Francisco and New York. In addition, it fostered conditions that allowed the NFL to expand by four teams, extending careers and creating jobs for hundreds of additional players.

For clubs and fans, the trade-off afforded each team a genuine opportunity to compete for the Super Bowl, greater cost certainty, and incentives to invest in the game. Those incentives translated into two dozen new and renovated stadiums and technological innovations such as the NFL Network and nfl.com.

Under the union lawyers’ plan, reflected in the complaint that they filed in federal court, the NFL would be forced to operate in a dramatically different way. To be sure, their approach would benefit some star players and their agents (and, of course, the lawyers themselves). But virtually everyone else—including the vast majority of players as well as the fans—would suffer.

Rather than address the challenge of improving the collective-bargaining agreement for the benefit of the game, the union-financed lawsuit attacks virtually every aspect of the current system including the draft, the salary cap and free-agency rules, which collectively have been responsible for the quality and popularity of the game for nearly two decades. A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.

In the union lawyers’ world, every player would enter the league as an unrestricted free agent, an independent contractor free to sell his services to any team. Every player would again become an unrestricted free agent each time his contract expired. And each team would be free to spend as much or as little as it wanted on player payroll or on an individual player’s compensation.

Any league-wide rule relating to terms of player employment would be subject to antitrust challenge in courts throughout the country. Any player could sue—on his own behalf or representing a class—to challenge any league rule that he believes unreasonably restricts the “market” for his services.

Under this vision, players and fans would have none of the protections or benefits that only a union (through a collective-bargaining agreement) can deliver. What are the potential ramifications for players, teams, and fans? Here are some examples:

No draft. “Why should there even be a draft?” said player agent Brian Ayrault. “Players should be able to choose who they work for. Markets should determine the value of all contracts. Competitive balance is a fallacy.”

No minimum team payroll. Some teams could have $200 million payrolls while others spend $50 million or less.

No minimum player salary. Many players could earn substantially less than today’s minimums.

No standard guarantee to compensate players who suffer season- or career-ending injuries. Players would instead negotiate whatever compensation they could.

No league-wide agreements on benefits. The generous benefit programs now available to players throughout the league would become a matter of individual club choice and individual player negotiation.

No limits on free agency. Players and agents would team up to direct top players to a handful of elite teams. Other teams, perpetually out of the running for the playoffs, would serve essentially as farm teams for the elites.

No league-wide rule limiting the length of training camp or required off-season workout obligations. Each club would have its own policies.

No league-wide testing program for drugs of abuse or performance enhancing substances. Each club could have its own program—or not.

Any league-wide agreement on these subjects would be the subject of antitrust challenge by any player who asserted that he had been “injured” by the policy or whose lawyer perceived an opportunity to bring attention to his client or himself. Some such agreements might survive antitrust scrutiny, but the prospect of litigation would inhibit league-wide agreements with respect to most, if not all, of these subjects.

In an environment where they are essentially independent contractors, many players would likely lose significant benefits and other protections previously provided on a collective basis as part of the union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreement. And the prospect of improved benefits for retired players would be nil.

Is this the NFL that players want? A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?

Prior to filing their litigation, players and their representatives publicly praised the current system and argued for extending the status quo. Now they are singing a far different tune, attacking in the courts the very arrangements they said were working just fine.

Is this the NFL that fans want? A league where carefully constructed rules proven to generate competitive balance—close and exciting games every Sunday and close and exciting divisional and championship contests—are cast aside? Do the players and their lawyers have so little regard for the fans that they think this really serves their interests?

These outcomes are inevitable under any approach other than a comprehensive collective-bargaining agreement. That is especially true of an approach that depends on litigation settlements negotiated by lawyers. But that is what the players’ attorneys are fighting for in court. And that is what will be at stake as the NFL appeals Judge Nelson’s ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Goodell is commissioner of the National Football League.

NFL statement on today’s ruling:

We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree.  But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.

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Commissioner Goodell: Draft “fundamental aspect of making NFL competitive”

Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed a wide range of topics with USA Today NFL writer Jarrett Bell for a Q&A which appeared in this morning’s paper.

Among the issues covered were the NFL Draft – which kicks off Thursday night in primetime (ESPN and NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET) — and the player personnel system which NFLPA attorneys are taking aim at in court. The 2011 NFL Draft is the 76th in the league’s history and is the longest-running draft in U.S. professional sports.

“[The Draft] is a fundamental aspect of making the league competitive, and it is not just the NFL,” Commissioner Goodell said. “Every other league has some form of a draft. It has been fundamental to the success of professional sports. When you see that kind of an attack, as someone who is responsible for the integrity of the game and the popularity of the game, it is troubling to me.”

“What is being pursued by the union attorneys is a completely different vision for the NFL than what I have,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “They are challenging fundamental aspects that have made the league successful and popular with the fans. They are going after the Draft, as an example. They are pursuing the Draft as being illegal. They are pursuing free-agency restrictions as being illegal. They are pursuing aspects of the salary cap as illegal. That is what they are saying. We don’t believe that. It has been negotiated. We think they have been good for the clubs, for the players and most importantly, for our fans. It is what has created this successful product. The union attorneys are attacking everything we think has made the league successful.”

Following is the transcript of Commissioner Goodell’s Q&A with Jarrett Bell:
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Commissioner Goodell holds conference call with 49ers fans

Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with San Francisco 49ers season-ticket holders last night in the second of his two conference calls with fans yesterday.

Among the topics was the impact of the economy on fans and labor negotiations.

Asked one fan, “I want to make sure that you guys don’t give in to these players and then you turn around and punish and pass the price on to the season-ticket holders. Because obviously if you have to pay them extra money, the money has to come from somewhere. So has there has been any talk about this economy and passing the cost on to the season-ticket holders?”

“It’s been a big source of our discussions,” Commissioner Goodell replied. “Everybody has been impacted by this economy and most importantly, our fans and we know that. We hear that from the fans directly, we hear that through our clubs and we recognize that’s happening and that’s one of the things that we have to address here. We cannot continue to push the rising costs of either player costs or the other costs that we have to our fans. There’s a limit to what you can do there and that’s one of the things we’re trying to address because our costs have risen more than our revenues and that’s obviously an unsustainable model. And we recognize that we have to be responsive to what our fans our going through.

“It’s one of the reasons that we’re trying to slow the growth of player costs so that we can continue to deliver our high-quality product,” the Commissioner continued. “The proposal we made on March 11 had the players’ salaries in 2011 slightly higher than last year’s and at the same level as 2009; and growing 14% over the next four years. I think that as you are pointing out, I think that’s a pretty healthy increase. I know a lot of our fans and a lot of us would be pleased with, so that’s something that we’ve got to continue to work with, with our players.”

Following is the transcript of the Commissioner’s conference call with 49ers fans:
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Commissioner Goodell holds conference call with Giants fans

On the first of two fan conference calls today, Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with New York Giants season-ticket holders this afternoon. Commissioner Goodell will speak with San Francisco 49ers fans tonight.

In addition to the NFL labor negotiations, the Commissioner discussed yesterday’s release of the 2011 schedule which includes the first Sunday of games on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“All of us that live in the New York area, Washington area, or western Pennsylvania as well as everyone across our great country knows the impact 9/11 had on us,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We want to honor that 10-year anniversary in a way that’s appropriate. We thought putting the schedule together the way we did, where we can have a game in New York and a game in Washington — the Jets playing in New York and the Giants in Washington – would be an appropriate way to do it. We will also have a proper recognition in western Pennsylvania.

“It’s the right thing to do. Our country should be recognizing the tragedy that occurred 10 years earlier. We know that we play a big role in doing that appropriately. We think we played an important role in not playing the week after the 9/11 incident so that the country could properly deal with the issues we had to deal with. We want to make sure that we do this respectfully, so we’ll be announcing plans on that front in the coming weeks.”

Following is the transcript of the Commissioner’s conference call with Giants fans:
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