Retired players in Eller v NFL to submit settlement proposal
At the May 25, 2011 meeting of retired players’ representatives in the Carl Eller v NFL case, the representatives came to a consensus and finalized a comprehensive retirement plan that was to be submitted to the NFL.
Carl Eller did a masterful job of pulling all of the various advocacy groups together to get this accomplished. He explained the rationale for the lawsuit in a recent article by Patrick Donnelly of Fox Sports North.
Due to confidentiality agreements that were signed by myself and other retired player reps, I cannot divulge the specifics of the proposal, but I can tell you that we took into consideration all of the comments and recommendations that were solicited from former players.
In a May 26 press release we said it was time for the owners to listen to the voice of retired players.
Now that they have heard our voice…….it is time for them to act.
Roger Goodell and the owners said that everyone needs to “focus on negotiations” because “there is a deal to be made.”
NFL Counsel, Jeff Pash said “The chief judge is doing an excellent job in terms of pushing the parties to think about their positions and think about the broader issues that are at stake here.”
The fact is, retired players would not even be at the table discussing the broader issues like retired player pensions, vesting, medical services and disability plan reforms, if it weren’t for the Carl Eller lawsuit and the work of the litigation team headed by Mike Hausfeld, Dan Mason and the law firms of Zelle Hoffman and Hausfeld LPP.
I know the League has told us that litigation is not the answer, but does anyone really think that the lawsuits are not the motivating factor in getting everyone back to the negotiating table?
The owners have the upper hand right now, but they also understand that the antitrust lawsuits will not go away and they will lose those battles in the long run. The only thing that allows them to violate the law is a Collective Bargaining Agreement – one that should require the union to re–certify.
We have heard DeMaurice Smith say that he may not re-certify the Union, but that is just a strategic move designed to increase negotiating leverage and convince the courts that the decertification was not a sham.
The active players should never go down that road, because even though they would probably win the battle, they would lose the war.
Roger Goodell said it best; “Is this the NFL that players want? A league where elite players attract enormous compensation and benefits while other players—those lacking the glamour and bargaining power of the stars—play for less money, fewer benefits and shorter careers than they have today? A league where the competitive ability of teams in smaller communities (Buffalo, New Orleans, Green Bay and others) is forever cast into doubt by blind adherence to free-market principles that favor teams in larger, better-situated markets?”
There is no way that the NFL owners will agree to a new CBA without requiring the active players to end their antitrust litigation.
So what happens if DeMaurice Smith and the active players agree to a new CBA and then – as part of the agreement – are asked to drop their antitrust litigation?
They can’t do it……not without the court’s permission.
Why? Because the Carl Eller retired player lawsuit was combined with the active player lawsuit!
We are joined at the hip, or as DeMaurice Smith likes to say we are “One Team, One Locker Room, One Voice™. ”
The only problem with that trademarked saying, is that I don’t think DeMaurice Smith really believes that we are one team. His rhetoric is not backed up by his actions.
From the very beginning, DeMaurice Smith has wanted the owners to deal with retired players separately and pay for our benefits “outside of the salary cap” so that it would not reduce the overall pot of money that was available to active players.
Has the Carl Eller litigation changed DeMaurice Smith’s strategy in negotiations? Although he has talked about sharing league revenue with retired players under a new rookie pay system, he may see our lawsuit as an opportunity to focus exclusively on getting what he can for the active players and letting us fend for ourselves through our own litigation.
I hope the NFL owners do not let that happen. Roger Goodell has consistently told former players that he will not sign a CBA that does not increase retired player’s pensions.
In an April 4, 2011 letter to retired players, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy – both former NFL players and members of the NFL’s negotiating team said “We do not know what the NFLPA may seek for current players, but we will not set aside your needs. Your voice needs to be heard, and we will listen.”
A majority of former players have supported the active players in their lawsuit. I hope they show the same level of commitment to our lawsuit.
Right now, retired players have a certain amount of leverage being combined with the active player case.
When a CBA is finally reached, will the NFLPA (trade association) ask the court to sever the active player and retired player cases and drop us like a bad habit?
Will the active players abandon us?
I guess we will find out if we really are One Team, One Locker Room, One Voice™…… or if we will be a voice in the wilderness.