|NFL Lockout, Day 3: Kraft family issues statement||03.14.11 at 11:32 pm ET|
A roundup of lockout news at the end of Day 3 of the NFL work stoppage:
•On the heels of his statement he issued over the weekend regarding the lockout, Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent a letter to season-ticket holders that seemed to intimate that the final proposal to players last Friday offered some wiggle room to the players, but added more of his trademark optimism that a deal will be done sooner rather than later. Here’s the full letter:
“As a Season Ticket Holder, you hold an elite position among Patriots fans, so we wanted to communicate directly with you regarding the recent expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement — the contract between the league and the labor union representing the players.
“As you may know, for the past three weeks, the NFL and the players’ union have been in mediation working to ensure a healthy future for the National Football League. Going into the negotiations, we remained very optimistic that an agreement could be reached if both sides were committed to negotiating.
“Last week, the league and the owners presented the players’ union with a comprehensive proposal that we believe was fair and benefited both parties. We hoped it would serve as a basis to continue negotiating in good faith toward a final agreement. This proposal gave the players many benefits and off-season scheduling changes that they had been seeking. It also offered a 14% increase in compensation, representing a total of $19-20 billion over the next four seasons. Unfortunately, the players’ union walked away from mediation and the ongoing negotiations last Friday, without responding to this proposal. Rather than working collaboratively, they chose to initiate litigation against the clubs.
“While disappointed by their action to decertify and file a lawsuit, we remain confident that an agreement will be reached and that the 2011 season will be played. The NFL, the owners and the New England Patriots organization remain committed to collective bargaining and reaching a new agreement with the players’ union.
“We know that many Season Ticket Holders are feeling frustrated by our inability to finalize a deal with the players’ union. We apologize for any role we played in that. Please know that we are working diligently to assure that NFL operations get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible.
“As always, we greatly appreciate your support of the Patriots and will continue to keep you informed of any developments as they arise. We encourage you to stay up-to-date on the progress of these negotiations via www.nfllabor.com. If you have any other questions, please contact the ticket office at 508-543-1776 or e-mail email@example.com.
“Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
•The NFL has announced a league-wide policy for ticketholders regarding possible canceled games:
1. We will provide you a full refund for any canceled preseason or regular season home games.
2. If any games are missed, refunds will be paid no later than 30 days after final determination of how many games will actually be played during the 2011 NFL season.
3. You may choose to receive your refund either in the form of a check or credit. We will contact you if any games are canceled to determine how you would like to receive your refund.
4. Simple interest, calculated at an annual rate of 1% will be paid on refunds. Interest will be calculated for the period beginning on the date that a game is canceled through the date that the refund is processed.
•The next big date to mark on your calendar is April 6 — that’s when a request by NFL players to keep the league and its teams from locking them out will be heard by a federal judge, it was learned Monday. The players filed their request last week, hours before the lockout took effect Saturday, along with an antitrust lawsuit that bears the name of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The case is currently assigned to Judge Patrick Schiltz — however, the players would prefer it reach the desk of Judge David Doty, who has overseen NFL labor matters since the early 1990s and issued a number of rulings in favor of the players. However, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the idea that the players would prefer Doty to handle the case is overblown.
“To us, that’s not an issue,” Brees said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “That was something that the owners seemed to be very concerned about and focused on. For us, it’s about the facts and it’s about the law. And we believe those are on our side. We’re not concerned about that.”
•The players are attempting to organize a boycott of the NFL draft by the top prospects. According to ESPN, the NFLPA already has contacted 17 top prospects who ordinarily would have received an invitation to attend the draft and informed them not to go.
“We plan to invite the 15-20 top prospects and their families to New York as we normally do for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, as always, it is the decision of the players and their families as to whether they attend,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said in response to the report.
•While the owners tried to spin the lockout story with their own coordinated spin effort over the weekend (which included a statement from Kraft), the players had their turn on Monday. In a conference call with reporters, several players ripped into the owners, saying their final offer on Friday was “all a front,” in the words of Brees.
“I think it was all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, other than just to say they made a proposal — that was no different than anything else that they proposed over the last couple years, couple months, couple weeks,” said Brees.
They also dismissed the idea that the two sides were nearing some sort of accord as the Friday deadline ticked closer.
“The perception is that we were really, really close,” said the players’ lead spokesman, George Atallah. “The reality is we really, really weren’t.”
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