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As mediated talks continue, union takes case to Ustream


Tom Curran joined Monday’s PFT Live to talk about various issues, including the current labor negotiation. The fact that they’re talking is good. And the fact that they’re talking has kept them from sniping at each other.

Indeed, no new postings have been added to, the league’s labor site, since the bargaining sessions resumed on Friday, February 18, other than an item regarding the agreement to mediate and to honor the mediator’s request for silence.

We assumed/hoped to see a similar absence of recent items at the union’s equivalent site,

We assumed/hoped wrong.

On Monday, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah and former players Nolan Harrison and Scottie Graham produced a live video on Ustream aimed at answering fan questions and discussing various issues confronting the league and the union. Though Atallah, Harrison, and Graham were careful to avoid saying anything that could disrupt the negotiations, the best way to actually avoid saying anything that could disrupt the negotiations would have been to cancel -- or at least postpone -- the session.

Early topics in a discussion that extended for more than an hour included an explanation from Harrison that the players want “what I view as reparations” for players who were in the league before 1993. “These teams have had their franchises increase over 500 percent,” Harrison said. “But at the same time guy’s pensions [and] benefits, they haven’t gone up at all.”

Harrison contends that the league continues to make “millions and millions of dollars” off of the men who used to play the game, via NFL Films videos played on ESPN Classic and NFL Network, and he believes that the players who helped create those highlights should get a cut of the money.

We prefer to think of it not as compensation for income generated by old highlights, but as an acknowledgment of the fact that the men who came before today’s players helped build the game to the point it now occupies. The challenge is to decide how any efforts to take care of past players will be funded. If, as Harrison believes, a sport that generates $9 billion per year and consists of franchises worth $1 billion each has a responsibility to take care of former players (a point on which we agree), the question becomes whether the money will come from the profits generated by the businesses, the players’ cut of the revenue, or a combination of the two.

Given that today’s players are making what they’re making because of the efforts of past players, we believe it should be a shared commitment to former players. But with the two sides struggling to come up with a way to share the pie, we’re concerned that the process of saving a slice for the former players could present an insurmountable challenge, especially since former players don’t have a true and genuine seat at the table.

Later in the video, Atallah reiterates the union’s request for the league to open the books, saying that it’s not a negotiating ploy but an effort to obtain justification for the league’s effort to get the players to give back a large chunk of the money they currently receive.

Through the first 40 minutes of the video, we’ve heard nothing that could possibly disrupt any momentum that the two sides may (or may not) be developing via mediation. Most of the things they’re saying are things we’ve already heard, in some cases multiple times. If we hear anything significant during the balance of the video, we’ll add an update.

UPDATE: In response to a fan question regarding the biggest dispute between the league and the NFLPA, Atallah was concise. “One billion dollars,” he said, referring to the extra money per year that the league currently hopes to take back from the players.