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NFPLA Presents Their Case To Congress

The resumption of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement will continue between the NFL owners and the players union, and in an abundance of caution, new union chief, DeMaurice Smith and 20 current and retired players heads to Washington to drum up support with congress. The move is a wise one and will hopefully buy them some political capital on Capital Hill, in case of a lockout.

Union head, DeMaurice Smith, said the group will remind lawmakers about the “gifts” Congress bestows on the league, such as an antitrust exemption for broadcasting contracts. That might be a hard sell, when players are making 7-figure salaries, but Smith hopes that the thought of job loss for stadium workers will probably bring a more convincing argument.

Smith said that he was not- sure whether a business that generated $8 billion in revenue last year should be contemplating putting people out of work during a lockout.

Last year, the owners voted to opt out of the current agreement in 2011, raising the possibility of a work stoppage in two years. Owners argue that the current agreement is too favorable for players, who get about 60 percent of revenues.

The players have countered with a union-commissioned study that showed the average value of the teams has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion over 10 years, an increase of about 14 percent a year.
NFL vice president Joe Browne noted that the sides just finished their second negotiating session. “We’re hopeful that matters can be resolved,” he said. “It’s a little premature to talk about putting stadium workers out of work in 2011.”

Congress has jurisdiction over the NFL in several areas, including a 1961 law granting leagues antitrust exemption for broadcasting. That allowed the NFL to sign TV contracts on behalf of all its teams, helping to transform the league into the economic powerhouse it is today.
In selecting Smith this year, the union chose Washington smarts over football experience. Smith, a Washington lawyer, served on the Obama transition team and also worked for Eric Holder before Holder became attorney general.

The NFL has also ramped up its Washington presence, hiring a full-time lobbyist and creating a political action committee to make federal campaign donations last year.

Congress has a history of taking a close look at sports leagues during work stoppages. After the 232-day strike wiped out the 1994 World Series, several lawmakers introduced legislation to take away MLB’s coveted antitrust exemption.

We can only hope that talks between the owners and union will progress in a positive way, because I love my NFL. Hopefully DeMaurice Smith’s Washington savvy will rub off on congress.

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