If Commissioner Roger Goodell believed his letter to the NFL players would be a positive way to resume dialogue, it clearly backfired. One player, linebacker Brady James of the Dallas Cowboys, said he believed Goodell’s intention was “to divide us,” and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel objected to Goodell’s use of the word “union” in the last sentence of the letter.
So the posturing continues. And rather than finding a common ground that might cause the league and the players to get back to the negotiating table, Goodell may have done the opposite.
The players responded to the letter by saying their decision to decertify as a union was a last resort. “We start by reminding you that we were there at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA's status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players,” the letter said. “The players took this step only as a last resort, and only after two years of trying to reach a reasonable collective bargaining agreement and three weeks of mediation with George Cohen of the (Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service). At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal. The NFL representatives at the mediation did not, and the owners were mostly absent.”
The players proceeded to counter some of Goodell’s points, saying, “Your statements are false.”
The letter was signed by all 11 members of the NFL Players Association executive committing, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth and Vrabel.
In response, NFL negotiator Jeff Pash wrote back to the players. The text of that letter: “We are pleased now to have received a reply to the comprehensive proposal that we made eight days ago. The points made in the players’ letter are precisely the kind of points that collective bargaining is intended to address. Debating the merits of the offer in this fashion is what collective bargaining is all about. But we would note that three facts we have consistently identified over the past week are ignored and we therefore assume acknowledged. First, the proposal called for player costs of between $19 and $20 billion over the next four seasons; second, the player cost figure in 2011 was above the actual cash spending for 2009 and 2010; and third, the economic offer, combined with other elements of the proposal, was a substantial move by the clubs to keep negotiations going and avoid a work stoppage and related litigation.
“This letter again proves that the most sensible step for everyone is to get back to bargaining. So we again accept Mike Vrabel’s suggestion that the union’s executive committee meet with our negotiating team, including Jerry Richardson, Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones, to resume bargaining. If Mike will let us know when and where he and his colleagues would like to meet, we will be there. We are ready.”
Will that happen? Probably, but there’s a lot of repair work to do, given all that’s been said the past week.