Lockout Looming? NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith Provides Update on Labor Negotiations

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Lockout Looming? NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith Provides Update on Labor Negotiations
DeMaurice Smith speaks to reporters Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy Scott Huck, Cedarville University (used with permission).

CEDARVILLE, Ohio -- 150 days.

That's all the time that remains before the current National Football League collective bargaining agreement expires.

And NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith doesn't want to think about what happens next, namely the possibility of an owners' lockout if a new agreement isn't signed.

"I'm happy to do whatever we can to try and make sure that this lockout doesn't have the disastrous impact on our game and on our team's cities," Smith told reporters here Friday afternoon.

"The rough economic impact on every team's city in America is about 140 million dollars in lost jobs and lost revenue if this lockout occurs."

Smith described Tuesday afternoon's negotiation session with the league as a "good meeting", adding that "any time we're engaged in negotiations where the league is making concrete proposals and the two sides having a discussion, I think that's a good thing, not only for the players of the National Football League, but for the fans who love our game."

Smith went on to say that the union would "look at the proposal and get back to them very quickly."

Asked about the possibility of an 18-game regular season, which Colts owner Bill Polian alluded to on his radio show earlier this week, Smith didn't have much to say.

"We just saw a proposal last week: we'll take a look at it and make a response," Smith said of the prospect of an elongated regular season.

The NFLPA chief asked fans to "be aware and understand" the issues, referencing key topics such as health care, rookie wages, stadium construction, pensions, and the like.

"If you understand it and embrace this game, understand and embrace the business of football—work with us to keep our traditional teams in traditional cities, work with us to make sure that the people who work in our stadiums aren’t adversely impacted by a shut-down lockout," he said.

Throughout his comments, Smith was adamant in pointing out that the owners, not the players, opted out of the previous agreement.

"The players didn’t ask for this; the players work for a living," Smith said of the potential of a 2011 work stoppage. "So everybody in this room who works for a living, if you came to your office the next day and your door was locked, how far have you taken it? You’ve taken it to the point where somebody’s locked you out of your job.

Smith also reiterated his union's desire to see the owners' financial records, stating that "nobody's hurting in the National Football League."

"To this day, the owners still refuse to tell us whether or not profits generally are up or profits are down," Smith said.

"We have said if the owners turn over profit information and we see that over the last 5-10 years, profits are going down rather than going up- if the players get financial information that shows that this business is not moving in a profitable direction, we are business partners.

"We have an obligation to make sure that not only is this league vibrant and growing, but we also have an obligation, I think, to make sure that fans every day are able to enjoy the great things that I enjoy as a fan, where a dad can take his four-year-old boy into RFK Stadium and afford to sit and watch a game."

Smith referred to the decades he's been attending Redskins games with his family as he discussed how fans of each team feel a sense of ownership in their franchise. While Smith was quick to note that he roots for all teams equally in his current position, "there's no bigger burgundy and gold fan in the world than my parents," he said with a smile.

"I know they believe that the Redskins are theirs. So the idea of the game shutting down and being taken away from them, they make it abundantly clear to me that I'm never far from the way fans love our game.

"I think any movement that we would have to take this game away and even the threat of it, in some way, will start to cost us sooner rather than later," he said. "It seems to me that the best Christmas present in America for a sports fan would be for Roger Goodell and I to sign a deal on December 23rd."

Smith characterized his relationship with Goodell as "tremendous", adding that he believes "both sides are committed to effective negotiation."

Smith also said that the next meetings with the owners should take place "sometime within the next two weeks", but when asked if there was any reason for fans to be optimistic, his answer spoke volumes.

"I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that since 2007, the league has been preparing for this lockout," Smith responded.

"In 2007, they hire the lawyer who locked out hockey for a year. They negotiated television contracts to give them four billion dollars even if the games are not played. They’ve negotiated new contracts with all of the assistant coaches to give them less money in event of a lockout. So from a fan perspective, if you took all three of those data points, and understand that those data points are true—whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, the fact is the fact is the fact."

 

For more sports coverage from Bleacher Report writer Tim Cary, follow him on Twitter at @TimCary.

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