Jeff Pash on DeMaurice Smith: “A very skilled leader”

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash was asked Thursday on Sirius XM NFL Radio for his perception of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

“I think De is a very skilled leader, I think in a short period of time he has unified his people. He’s passionate about the game. He cares about the men he represents. He’s a very effective advocate on their behalf,” replied Pash to Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan.

“I find him a good guy to work with,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to getting back to the negotiating table with him. I think when we get through this phase which is difficult and contentious for sure, I think he’ll be a good partner. I hear things, people say, this is about a war, you’re going to the mattresses and stuff like that, and I sort of laugh and I say, ‘Yeah, I think I need to be afraid when I go through a toll booth or something.’ The reality is this is so far from that, it’s a business negotiation. Business negotiations can be contentious and they can be heated sometimes but the one thing we know with absolute certainty, this is going to end, it’s going to end in an agreement. Once that agreement is forged we’re going to work together as good solid partners for hopefully decades to come. De is a real contributor.”

Following is the complete transcript:

NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF

LABOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL JEFF PASH

MOVIN’ THE CHAINS with PAT KIRWAN & TIM RYAN

SIRIUS XM NFL RADIO

 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

 

On reasons for optimism in the labor negotiations:

I believe there is going to be football.  I believe the way to get to football is through negotiation.  We need to be sitting down with our players and we need to be working together towards a solution.  The way we are going to accomplish this is by doing what we have always done.  It is more difficult this time – absolutely that is the case – but what we have always done is sit down and make an agreement for the good of the fans and for the good of the game and that allows for both of us to grow together.  We can get that kind of a fair agreement.  We can have an agreement that will pay players very well, will take care of retired players, will keep the competition strong on the playing field and continue to deliver a great product for fans.  I believe we can do that.  If I didn’t believe we could accomplish that, I would really be discouraged but I am not.  I know it is difficult but I am not discouraged.

On everyone gaining financially if a proper agreement is reached:

That is right.  When you are doing your budget, paying your bills and things like that, you are not looking at a percentage.  You are looking at how many dollars you have in your checking account.  If we can continue to have the kind of growth that we have had over the past 10 or 15 years and can do that going forward, which I totally believe we can do, there is no question that every player in the league will have rising income, rising salary and rising salary.  There is a lot we can do both while the players are in the game and also for the men who helped build the game and need some assistance and to help the current players make that transition more effectively.

On anticipating a counter proposal from the players following the NFL’s two most recent offers:

This is the perfect time for both parties to be making proposals to one another because right now there is risk.  There is economic risk and there is legal risk.  Instead of focusing all of our attention on the next court date, which is not going to be definitive and is not going to resolve anything with finality, the solution lies at the bargaining table.  It does not lie in the courtroom.  If getting a solution requires one side or the other to make some new proposals, we both have to be willing to do that.  We shouldn’t be standing on ceremony.  Don’t even call it a proposal.  What is an idea?  What is a concept?  What are some new thinking or some fresh ideas and ways to look at this?  We shouldn’t let ourselves get hung up on who did what last.

On if the group of owners attending mediation can agree to a deal with the players without a vote from full ownership:

Yes, a group on both sides can go in and come out with a handshake deal.  Obviously, the players will need to get a deal ratified by the body of players as a whole and the owners will need to have a deal approved by the ownership as a whole.  The ownership at large has a tremendous amount of confidence in the committee.  They have a tremendous amount of confidence in Commissioner Goodell.  If the committee and the Commissioner come out and are recommending a deal, I believe it will be approved by the membership.  That should be the least of anybody’s concerns.

On if the NFLPA would need to re-certify to agree to a new CBA:

I assume that in the context of signing a collective bargaining agreement you have to have a labor union back in place.  We all believe the notion that the National Football League Players Association has disappeared for all time is a little farfetched.  We expect that we will have a labor agreement.  We know that we have to have a comprehensive agreement that covers the full range of issues.  We know that the only way 1,800 players can have the kinds of benefits that they have now and that they all can participate fairly in the growth of the game going forward is through a labor agreement that contains minimum salaries, injury protection, pension, medical benefits and post-career benefits.  Those things cannot be negotiated on an individual basis and they are not going to be resolved in a courtroom.  The only way to do those things is through a comprehensive labor agreement.  That is what we would assume we have at the end of the day.

On if the players will continue to litigate in the class action or ultimately as individuals:

In the near term, it is probably more likely that we will be dealing with the litigation in Minneapolis in so far as we are dealing with litigation.  The point you are making goes right to the reason why we have to have a labor agreement because otherwise individual players will be litigating and perhaps in some cases forced to litigate their circumstances under widely varying state laws.  You will never have any certainty over what rules apply.  The only people who will benefit from that are the attorneys.  While I don’t have anything against attorneys, I also know that the goal here is not to make lawyers rich.  It is to have an agreement that brings long-term labor peace, allows the game to grow and allows the fans to get the kind of high-quality entertainment that they have come to enjoy.  It can be done in a way that is good for fans, players and clubs but we are not going to do that by litigating a series of cases in 50 states under widely differing circumstances.

On how long of a deal do you want on next CBA:

Well this has been fun, we’ve enjoyed it. I think we can all manage to get our arms around a pretty long-term agreement. We had long-term labor piece and it worked pretty well and I think that’s what we need to get back to. We need to have stability and predictability and I think that would be in everyone’s interest. I think we would be looking for a long term agreement and I think that players would be as well.

On his perception of DeMaurice Smith:

I think De is a very skilled leader, I think in a short period of time he has unified his people. He’s passionate about the game. He cares about the men he represents. He’s a very effective advocate on their behalf. I find him a good guy to work with. I’m looking forward to getting back to the negotiating table with him. I think when we get through this phase which is difficult and contentious for sure, I think he’ll be a good partner. I hear things, people say, this is about a war, you’re going to the mattresses and stuff like that, and I sort of laugh and I say, ‘Yeah, I think I need to be afraid when I go through a toll booth or something.’ The reality is this is so far from that, it’s a business negotiation. Business negotiations can be contentious and they can be heated sometimes but the one thing we know with absolute certainty, this is going to end, it’s going to end in an agreement. Once that agreement is forged we’re going to work together as good solid partners for hopefully decades to come. De is a real contributor.

On whether the league would put together a new proposal if no agreement is signed before June 3:

I think you always have to assess where you’re at as a economic matter. Certainly one of the points we’ve made consistently — and I think the players accept this — I don’t think there’s any question about this. As time goes on the uncertainty works against all of us in the form of lost revenue. If there are significant revenue losses, that has to be reflected in the final terms of an agreement. So when I say economic risk is a big part of what I mean by that, it’s not wine. It doesn’t get better with age, we need to get together now sooner rather than later and reach an agreement before we experience really significant revenue losses. We’re seeing it now, we’re seeing the effects of the work stoppage in the market place. Obviously if we get down the road, another 60, 90 days and games start to be lost and thing like that, then you’re talking really significant impacts. You wouldn’t do something to be punitive, you wouldn’t do something to be a tough guy, but you do have to have your bargaining positions correspond to what your economic circumstances are.

On cap numbers:

I think the first point is that the revenues are, the risk to the revenue at least in the near term is more on the downside then on the upside. The TV contracts are in place for the next three years. There aren’t going to be any new stadiums coming online in the next three years. I think if you look at our current economy and the experience that clubs have had, it’s more and more difficult to have significant price increases. There’s a lot of resistance to ticket price increases. There’s not a naming rights deal in New York or Dallas, and I would guess nobody would have predicted that a few years ago. I think there’s more risk in the near term to the downside then there is to the upside. I think the revenue projections for ‘11, ‘12, ‘13 are reasonably firm and not subject to much variation, certainly on the upside.  When you get to 2014, there will be some new television contracts.  What those television contracts will provide, we don’t know yet.  Obviously, if there are significant increases in revenue, it is something that could be reflected in your overall player cost figure, even in 2014 or in subsequent years, whether in salaries or benefits or whether for current players or retired players.  There are a lot of ways to divide that money up.

The other thing to keep in mind is part of our proposal has always been to address rookie compensation.  Even if the cap number stays at a certain level, if the distribution of that cap as between rookies and veterans changes in favor of the veterans, which we have agreed it would and have committed it would do, the veterans will continue to see steady increases in pay to reflect their contributions and their years of service.

If an increase in the league’s TV money could lead to an increase in revenue for the players as well:

I think you’re open, in the context of a negotiation, to all kinds of things, and the question always is, what’s the rest of the package?  Absolutely, it could be talked about [today], and it should be talked about. What kind of support are we getting to help build new stadiums, and to help improve stadiums, and to cover the cost of operating stadiums? What is the rookie system? What are we doing in terms of playing 16 regular-season games versus 18 regular-season games? What are the international programs? Are we playing a full slate of games in countries all over the world to help grow the fan base and develop new television markets and new consumers of NFL products? So there are a lot of things that could be looked at as part of an overall package that would be good for players and good for clubs, and, we think, good for fans.

On what can be negotiated for a former player who can’t get medical insurance because of his NFL history and heart disease and diabetes:

We’ve developed and have put in place a number of specific programs. So for that player in particular, I know you’re just using him as an example, but as it happens, we have a cardiovascular screening program where those players can get free cardiovascular screening referrals and expert care. We have Medicare supplement policies that are covered largely by club contributions to allow people to obtain that extra medical care that is not covered by the government programs, and we have the Player Care Foundation, which can help players get specialized medical care and help cover the costs of that care. We also have put into place just this year for retired players long-term care insurance which is a terrific benefit where retired players can get long-term care insurance at 100% covered by the clubs and their spouses can obtain that insurance at a substantial discount as well. So that’s a brand new benefit for retired players.

Is there a website where we can find that benefit?

Yes. I believe it’s called mygoal.com, but I don’t have it right in front of me. But that is a new benefit, as I say. It’s just being rolled out. It’s being offered through the TransAmerica Insurance Company, which is one of the leading providers in the country, and the entire cost of it is covered by ownership.

On what will happen to free agency and the free agents who could be in a bad place if an agreement isn’t reached soon:

I completely understand that, and that, honestly, is one more reason why we should be working to get this done sooner rather than later, because if we get an agreement sooner and we restore the system that we had in place with the salary cap, we could restore the free agency process at an earlier date and with better economics. Because you’ve got two things working against you: one is the calendar, with respect to a free agent signing period, which is a very important point, and the second is the potential economic losses the longer this work stoppage continues. So it is incumbent on us, and keeping in mind the interest of those hundreds of players to get together and try to make an agreement as soon as possible so we can end the lockout, bring the players back, minimize to the maximum degree possible the revenue losses, and have a meaningful free agent signing period so those players have an opportunity to get new contracts and as many clubs as possible have an opportunity to participate in that market.

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