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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