Goodell Urges NFL Players to Return to Bargaining Table

March 18, 2011

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), has urged players to return to the bargaining table, saying each day there’s a work stoppage “puts our game and shared economics further at risk.”

The league enforced a lockout of its players a week ago after failing to agree on how to divide US$9bn in annual revenue with its players’ union, who subsequently decertified. Players began a class-action lawsuit against owners to block a lockout after the union announced it no longer would represent players at labor talks.

Goodell outlined the league’s last proposal yesterday in an e-mail to players, a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg News by the NFL and stated: “The offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations, allowing the new league year and free agency to begin, and growing our game in the years to come.”

The letter said the league proposed a salary cap of $141m per club in 2011, rising to $161m by 2014; allowing free agency for players with four or more accrued seasons; reducing the offseason by five weeks, and retaining the 16-game regular season for the next two years.

NFL’s Seattle Seahawks player Chester Pitts message, “I’ve told my guys to take the letter and set it on fire. We’re not that stupid,” was relayed to ESPN by NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah.

Other elements mentioned in Goodell’s letter included guaranteeing as much as $1 million of salary in the second year of a contract for any injured player who cannot return to action. Players and their families were also offered the right to purchase medical coverage after retirement and pension benefits would increase by 60 percent for more than 2,000 retired players, the letter said.

Goodell added: “We are prepared to negotiate a full agreement that would incorporate these features and other progressive changes that would benefit players, clubs and fans. Only through collective bargaining will we reach that kind of agreement.”