After spending a half hour or so on the phone with NFL Commissioner and lead negotiator Jeff Pash on Thursday, DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA and current San Francisco 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes did the same on Friday morning in an exclusive call with SB Nation. We were able to get DeMaurice Smith's reactions to various questions and information we received from the NFL and Jeff Pash on Thursday. Namely, Smith's exception with Pash's comments about the NFLPA only wanting to talk about money.
"Jeff Pash only has a casual relationship with the truth," DeMaurice Smith told SB Nation on Friday. "Jeff knows that the NFL's deal was an all-or-nothing deal. They did not present an a la carte menu to the players of the NFL. They didn't sit down with us and say, 'Why don't you select the things you like, reject the things you don't, and let's move forward.' Jeff knows that their deal was inextricably tied to every point on the deal," added Smith.
In essence, yes all the NFLPA wanted to talk about the money because the deal that was offered was an all or nothing thing, according to Smith. In order to agree to everything else proposed, the NFLPA also had to agree on the money. "Put it this way: if a deal that's being put to you is mutually contingent on all 16 parts, do you have the option of saying 'I like and we accept issues 8-16, but we don't like issues 1-7,' do you have a deal at that point? I'm very careful about language: do you have a deal if you don't like half the points that have been presented to you?" Smith quipped. "You don't," Smith said.
"The first point of the NFL deal would have been us to accept their economic proposal at the same time we would have to accept everything else," Smith continued. So, in effect the NFLPA was all about the money because that was the first big sticking point on the NFL's "all or nothing" deal, as DeMaurice labeled it. It's hard to agree to a deal like that, if you have issues with the very first point. It doesn't matter what the NFLPA thought about an 18-game schedule, a rookie wage scale, or anything else. According to Smith, those were not negotiable at all in the deal the NFL presented on the final day of negotiations.
Smith also didn't like at all how the deal was proposed to the NFLPA by the NFL. "The league knows that we have to let the court know by 5:00, so after two years of negotiation without one shred of audited financial data for all the teams, you present a deal to the players' association that for the first two years alone mandates that they write a $1.36 billion check back to the owners," Smith told SB Nation. "After two years of negotiation. Does that sound like good faith bargaining? Does it sound like, in order to use Jeff's words, we offered to 'split the baby'?" Smith asked.
While the focus was all about the money, as mentioned it was hard not to focus on the money in an all or nothing deal. If you were to accept it, you have to make sure the money is right. In Smith's opinion, it was far from it.
Part 2 of this story will detail the financial hang ups the NFLPA had with the NFL's last minute proposal.