Below is a transcript of the press conference following today’s NFL meeting in Atlanta. At the meeting, NFL clubs approved the terms of a comprehensive settlement of litigation and a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.
NFL press conference at league meeting in Atlanta
July 21, 2011
Commissioner Goodell: Good afternoon. The clubs approved an agreement that was negotiated with the players this afternoon. In addition to approving that agreement, we also approved a supplemental revenue sharing system for the next 10 years. With this ratification and with the ratification of the NFLPA board, we will be prepared to open the training facilities beginning on Saturday, this Saturday. We will then be prepared to start the new league year next Wednesday subject to the full membership of the players ratifying the agreement and recertifying as a union. Obviously you know that we’re all under a time constraint. That’s one of the reasons we worked to get this agreement completed tonight.
We are unfortunately going to have to cancel the Hall of Fame Game this year. The time is just too short and we feel that it’s important for all 32 teams to be operating with the same number of preseason games and also starting camp at the same date or near the same date. Unfortunately we will not be there to play the game this year, but of course the (induction) ceremonies will go on. Hopefully we can all work quickly, expeditiously and get this agreement done. It is time to get back to football. That is what everyone here wants to do. We will allow our chairman, Mr. (Jerry) Richardson, who did an outstanding job, to say a few words. Before I do and before we take questions and hear from Mr. Richardson, let me just tell you how hard I think everybody in the NFL, how hard the players, how hard DeMaurice Smith worked. They’ve done an outstanding job. I think we’ve crafted a long-term agreement that can be good for the game of football. It’ll be good for the players, good for the clubs, and most importantly good for our game and for our fans. We really are anxious to get back to football. Hopefully today’s development and the developments of the NFLPA over the next few days will ensure that. I’ll hand it off to Mr. Richardson.
Jerry Richardson: Thank you, Commissioner. We all know this journey began in May 2008. It’s been long. At times it’s been very, very difficult. We’re happy to say and we feel very good about the fact that we’re confident that the players and the teams have arrived at a good place. We think we have a fair, balanced agreement. It has been a joy for me personally during these negotiations to have close contact with the players. They have been tremendous. We’ve ended up, we feel, in a very good place. Thank you.
On the situation with the NFLPA’s impending recertification as a union:
Goodell: Those are decisions that ultimately have to be made by the union about what their process is going to be and their timeline. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a sense of urgency to this. We want to have a full 2011 season that includes the four preseason games, and we’re up against the wall. I think that’s indicated by the unfortunate cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game.
On whether or not there were conversations with the NFLPA about the owners’ vote:
Goodell: Yes. I just spoke to DeMaurice probably 20 minutes ago. He’s going to go take care of his business.
On whether or not he’s “relieved” or in “wait-and-see” mode:
Goodell: I think maybe the word is exhaustion. We’ve all been working very hard. The members of the CEC, Jeff Pash, who was our lead negotiator for the owners, it’s been an incredible effort. As we indicated earlier, the players have worked equally as hard, and I think have done a fantastic job of coming up with an agreement that’s sensitive to their issues, strikes a balance between what I think are very important issues with player health and safety and the work rules, putting together the right kind of agreement that works for our retired players and also works for the growth of our game going forward and encouraging investment in our game. I think it’s an outstanding agreement from that standpoint.
On the final issues that needed to be resolved today:
Goodell: Well, you work through it like you do any other issue. You address them. You try to understand the issues, and you try to come up with a resolution. We’ve essentially had the core of an agreement for well over a week, as you all know. What we tried to do is make sure our ownership fully understood that today. They understood all ramifications, put in a supplemental revenue sharing system that I think will be good for all clubs that will continue to have the competitive balance that the league is famous for and make sure we continue the great game of football.
On what his message is to fans who have been waiting for this to be resolved:
Goodell: I understand their frustration. I hope they understand that we’re working hard to get that agreement that is going to secure the game of football for the future. We have a 10-year agreement, which I think is going to be great for everyone involved in the game, number one our fans. So I guess I’d say to them, we’re getting close to getting football back, and that’s what we want. We want to get started with football.
On whether or not this agreement will run through the 2020 season:
Goodell: That is correct.