“I felt like we were close. That was a week ago. Yesterday, we thought there was some hope but, at the end of the day, the players felt their best route was to follow the litigation route,” Murphy told packers.com on Saturday.
As negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement broke off between the NFL and its players on Friday, the players association decertified as a union and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in Minneapolis district court, where Judge David Doty is expected to preside over the proceedings. Doty has long been involved in litigation between the NFL and the NFLPA and has often ruled favorably for the union.
“I think that’s a source of a lot of confidence they have. I think they feel an antitrust suit gives them the greatest leverage,” Murphy said of taking their plea to Doty.
The case has been assigned to another judge, but it’s expected that it’ll be transferred to Doty on Monday, “because he has so much experience and background with the players association and the NFL,” Murphy said.
“It’s pretty clear they weren’t committed to bargaining; they wanted to decertify and file a lawsuit. It’s disappointing. The offer we made yesterday, I felt, was very fair.”
The NFL released a statement on Saturday morning that provides many of the details of the league’s offer to the players. Here is the statement: CLICK HERE
“Having been on both sides of this, this is really disappointing,” said Murphy, who was a player in the league for eight years and also served as an assistant executive director of the NFLPA. “To me, this takes us back to where we were in the ’80’s. It’s a shame. We’ve all benefitted from the relationships we’ve had.”
The NFL experienced player strikes in 1982 and in ’87. The one in ’87 resulted in replacement players and was thought to be the strike to end all strikes. A work stoppage this year would come in the form of a lockout. It’s thought the players will pursue the litigation route in an attempt to block the owners from locking them out. Individually, most of the current players have contracts with their various teams.
“Their hope is to prevent a lockout,” Murphy said.
At the epicenter of the issue is a CBA to which the owners agreed in 2006 that they regretted having done two years later. It was a CBA that introduced a total football revenue model of sharing money and the players received about 60 percent of the gross.
“We’re trying to correct an agreement,” Murphy said. “Since 2006, our financial position really shows the problem with that agreement. More teams than not had declining profits.”
Other areas of the owners’ concern not addressed in the 2006 CBA are:
The absence of a rookie pay system.
The need to assist NFL alumni in addressing medical needs.
The failure to recognize increased team costs for growing the game: stadiums, training facilities, etc.
The players’ mantra is “show us the money.” They want the owners to open the books.
“We did offer to open the books. Our books are always open,” Murphy said.
As the NFL’s only publicly-owned franchise, the Packers’ books are open for all to see.
“The union has access to them. We have offered transparency. We offered what the players wanted,” Murphy added.
The NFL’s argument to the National Labor Relations Board is that decertification is a bargaining tactic by the players union.
“They don’t want to stop being a union. They want to use this to get a bargaining agreement,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s hope now is that at some point cooler heads will prevail and the Packers and their fans can get back to the pleasurable business of celebrating their Super Bowl XLV championship.
“At the end of the day, I think we’ll come to an agreement with them,” he said.
Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.