In the wake of labor talks with the NFL Players Association not working out as the players’ union decertified, filed an antitrust lawsuit and the owners locked out the players, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II weighed in on the business dispute and expressed frustration with what has transpired.
He’s on the NFL management council executive committee and ownership that was part of the talks.
Like his NFL brethren, Rooney pointed the finger at the NFLPA.
"It was frustrating," Rooney told the Steelers’ official website. "There was a lot of down time, a lot of time in separate rooms. Last Friday – March 4 – when we did the extension for one week, I felt like we may have a chance to get something done. So when I went to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 9, I went down there with the idea that we were going to work hard and see if we could get something done.
But we made very little progress, in fact there was very little bargaining that really even took place.
"It was emotional. There wasn’t a lot of yelling and finger-pointing, but there was some. More than anything, it was frustrating in that there just wasn’t a lot of movement. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of interest on their side in getting something done and we just came away from it with the impression that this was their plan all along – to decertify and take this thing into the courts."
Rooney also expressed sadness that there is no collective bargaining agreement in sight.
"I was certainly disappointed that we didn’t get a deal done, and I was even more disappointed that we never got into any real bargaining," Rooney said. "The players never really moved off their position, and looking back at the whole mediation, while there may have been a couple of points where there was progress, overall we really never made any progress. In my mind, they never really used the process to get a deal done."
And like his fellow owners, Rooney said the NFLPA made a premeditated decision to decertify and become a trade association.
"They’ve been planning this for a long time apparently," Rooney said. "At this point it certainly seems like that has been their Plan A, and we’ve filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board where we ask the Board to review the decertification because we think it’s a sham. We don’t think that’s the way collective bargaining should be done. They’ve done this – decertification – once before, and they came back and became a union again. We just don’t think it’s a legitimate bargaining tactic, and we think the NLRB will find in our favor."
Rooney took issue with the union declining to accept less than full financial records from the league.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith requested a decade of detailed financial data from all 32 clubs.
The NFL was unwilling to go that far.
"That was one of the strange things in the negotiations, because the previous week when that subject came up, we said – after a long time of not being willing to provide anything and really feeling like it was one of those things that wasn’t going to lead to anything – then we felt like, OK, maybe if we agree to give them something and try to provide them some insight into what has happened to the teams, maybe that would lead to a breakthrough," Rooney said. "So we offered to provide them some financial information through an auditor, we offered to go through a third party and have a third party look at the information. It was a very strange reaction. They didn’t take the information, after asking for it.
"They said it wasn’t good enough. I don’t even know how you can make that judgment without accepting what was offered. Certainly we would not have been surprised if they came back after they had seen it and had questions. But they never even looked at it. To me, that was a little bit of a tip-off as to where they were really headed with this thing. Maybe they thought we would never offer anything, but it was a very strange reaction on their part to not even accept what we offered."
Rooney also released the following statement on the Steelers’ web site on Saturday.
"I am very disappointed that we were not successful in reaching an agreement with the Players Association in the round of mediation that the Players Association walked away from on Friday. The NFL Owners put a very fair offer on the table that we felt provided the framework for completing an agreement."
"The NFL is willing to negotiate an agreement that is fair to the players, our teams and our fans. We do not believe the decertification of the Players Association is a legitimate bargaining tactic, and we have asked the National Labor Relations Board to review the conduct of the Players Association."
"I can assure our fans that we are committed to negotiating an agreement that will allow us to get back to football as soon as possible. I remain optimistic that eventually cooler heads will prevail and we will be back at the bargaining table in the near future."