View Full Version : NFL ushers in new era the lockout

03-13-2011, 08:58 AM
NFL ushers in new era the lockout
By Scott Brown and Carl Prine, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Joining the NFL's 31 other franchises in a lockout, the Steelers on Saturday barred players from Heinz Field, the team's South Side headquarters and upcoming events with fans.

Saying "everything is put on hold," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said letters were sent to players explaining that they are locked out: No athlete "may enter any club facility or the stadium" unless it's a "non-club event" or designed to aid a charity; no coach will return calls from athletes or their agents.

Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said offseason workouts, hearings over grievances and fines, player meetings and practices are suspended indefinitely.

Steelers executives cannot sign or talk to incoming rookies after the NFL draft in April draft or sign undrafted rookies to contracts. Lauten said players drafted by the Steelers will speak to the media alongside club personnel, but then the front office won't talk to athletes or their agents.

The lockout the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 also froze negotiations on 495 unrestricted free agent contracts, including that of Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor.

NFL letters to players indicate teams have stopped drug and steroid testing, substance-abuse therapy, legal aid, health insurance and payouts for players recovering from nonfootball related injuries.

In a written statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said season ticket holders nationwide won't lose money if the labor strife continues.

"We know we will reach an agreement at some point," Goodell said. "We all want football without interruption, but our fans are entitled to know now that they would receive refunds if any games are cancelled."

Lauten said no current players are scheduled for the April 30 "Steelers Fan Blitz" at Heinz Field, although retired Steelers will be on hand.

Steelers co-owner and team president Art Rooney II said coach Mike Tomlin's assistants will be paid through the summer, but their contracts let him trim wages "if things go on very long."

Rooney held out hope that both sides will ink a new collective bargaining agreement. He said the federally mediated talks in Washington "had a long way to go" before players stormed out on Friday and he wasn't sure when they would return.

"It's really hard to predict," Rooney said. "You never know what's going to cause people to come back and bargain, and we certainly hope that happens sooner rather than later, so I'd be hesitant to put some sort of prediction on it."

Labor pains

NFL Players Association leaders said they are filing notice with the U.S. Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Services to fold the union and reform as a nonprofit "business league" for federal tax purposes.

That cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit before U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis. Brought Friday by star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees; former Steelers linebacker Mike Vrabel; and six other plaintiffs, the suit claims the lockout hikes "owners' profits by forcing players to agree to a system of anticompetitive restraints and a massive reduction in player compensation."

It calls the owners' actions a "naked" and "egregious" breach of federal antitrust laws and calls on Doty to break the lockout.

A similar lawsuit won by now-deceased Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White in 1993 prodded owners to ink the CBA that bought labor peace until now. This time, NFL attorneys vowed to fight what they called a "sham" decertification.

Steelers wideout Hines Ward said the lockout won't stop players from practicing. He said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has proposed jetting to "everybody's city, maybe getting together and getting work in with all of the people."

Ward promised to meet Roethlisberger in Atlanta for sessions. He said Roethlisberger also tentatively slated workouts in Texas with receiver Emmanuel Sanders and New Orleans with Mike Wallace.

"They all can come down and stay with me if they want," Ward said. "I'm sure we'll all get together if it gets down to that point."

Financial fallout

Estimating that the lockout threatened to cost the 32 NFL cities a combined $4.5 billion in lost annual revenues, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka warned owners that 150,000 stadium employees, restaurant and hotel staff, police officers and other laborers nationwide would be affected in a lengthy lockout.

"Working people stand shoulder to shoulder with the players and their right to protect themselves and their families through antitrust laws that prohibit illegal and greedy corporate behavior," he said in a written statement.

NFL officials called the union figures "fairy tales" but admitted that the clubs will lose $120 million this month and $1 billion if the lockout lasts through the summer. If no football is played this year, more than 90 percent of the projected $9 billion in annual revenues could disappear, the league said.

"The Steelers are prepared to weather any financial fallout from a lockout," Lauten said.

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