WASHINGTON – Well, this isn’t exactly what you want to see about 24 hours from the deadline to reach a new collective bargaining agreement: a verbal slap fight between the National Football League and the players union.
But that’s exactly what just went down.
- Nine NFL owners were in town for the first time since last Wednesday and the players didn’t get to meet with them. They didn’t like that.
- Not only that, but while the NFL owners were holed up all afternoon either among themselves or with mediator George Cohen, the union was told they’ll be called to come back around 5 p.m. No call was made, so they, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, left for home about 6:30 p.m.
- They didn’t like that either. “We had players, executive committee members here, or entire negotiating team has been here all day as we have for the past two years and we are still hopeful that there’s some positive activity (last night),” said George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs. “But we can no longer keep our players, that have been ready for two years to get positive movement, in a holding pattern.”
- A little bit later, lead NFL negotiator Jeff Pash talks to the media and basically accuses the union of not wanting to negotiate. “I’ve said it many times, if both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done,” Pash said. “I don’t know if both sides have an equal commitment. You’ve heard plenty of what I’ve heard as well. If that’s the case, if both sides have that commitment, there’s a deal to be made…Obviously we have the commitment. No question about it.”
- Was he saying the union wasn’t interested in bargaining? “I’m not suggesting anything about the other side,” Pash said. “I’m saying if there’s an equal commitment on both sides, there’s a deal to be made.”
- Um, ok.
- You can figure out how that went down with the union and in case you needed to know they were furious, Smith all of a sudden reappeared in front of the mediator’s office to rebut Pash.
- “Obviously we saw Jeff Pash’s comments a few moments ago and instead of driving home (I decided to address) the commitment of our players to this process....We had staff meetings with non-owners of the National Football League. Our players stood around and waited until 6 o’clock. The owners left and we were told to come back at 10 a.m. (tomorrow). We’re committed to this process. We have been committed to this process. But for anyone to stand and turn to the American people and question that…Look, I understand that there’s probably some things Jeff Pash just has to say. But this is the truth. We know that as early as March of 2009 from the discovery in the television case that the National Football League engaged in a strategy to get $4 billion of television money to lockout our fans and lockout our players even if the games weren’t played….(The court decision) talks about how they were going to go about securing television money and I quote, “for cash during a lockout.” So with all due respect, when someone wants to stand up and say that he questions or doubts one parties commitment to the negotiation process, all I would ask is for all of you…to stick to the facts and take the document. We’re going to be back here tomorrow because we want football to continue.”
- Um, that’s not good.
- The back and forth continued on Twitter between Atallah and league spokesman Greg Aiello.
- Atallah: “I would like to request an expense credit from the owners on the last 3 hours of my life.”
- Aiello: “While George is at it, ask him when is union going to respond to our 150 pages of draft CBA provisions.”
And with that, the NFL is a little more than 24 hours from the CBA expiring.
Tomorrow should be interesting.