NFL players say Goodell tried to ‘divide’
MARCO ISLAND, Fla.
NFL players and their leadership tried to make a few things perfectly clear Friday:
They consider the letter commissioner Roger Goodell sent them a day earlier an attempt to create “dissension.”
They refute the league’s contention that the union walked away from negotiations.
They dispute the owners’ depiction of their last-minute offer made last Friday. They say it wasn’t close to acceptable because it would have made salaries a fixed cost and eliminated the players’ chance to share in higher-than-projected revenue growth. They say the proposal would cut players’ take of more than $9 billion in annual revenues from 50 percent to 45 percent in the first year of a new contract.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, his team’s main representative, called it “probably the worst deal in sports history,” echoing words used by NFLPA chief executive DeMaurice Smith in a radio appearance.
“If the union had a problem, the best course of action would have been to make a counterproposal, continue to discuss the issue, or explain the problem,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “They were in such a hurry to get out of the room last Friday and file their lawsuit that they never mentioned this ... issue.”
A hearing on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the lockout is scheduled for April 6 in Minneapolis, and there appears to be little chance of a return to bargaining before then.
Smith said he does not consider Goodell’s letter — e-mailed to all active players Thursday — an attempt to engage in good-faith negotiations. The league, he said, could attempt to restart talks by writing, instead, to lawyers representing the players now that the union has dissolved.