Ravens players prepare for lockout, reaction from fans

As players union decertifies, the only thing players know for sure is that some fans will blame them

March 11, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

When decertification became a reality for the NFL Players Association, Derrick Mason braced for what comes next: lockout, court battle and lots of disgruntled fans.

Speaking from his home in Nashville, Tenn., Friday night, the Ravens' veteran wide receiver and player rep talked about the greed that pushed the NFL to the verge of its first work stoppage since 1987.

"That's just killing the golden goose," Mason said of the owners' demand for a giveback in total league revenues. "It might not be all the owners that think that way, so I'm not going to classify all owners that way.

"[But] there's probably a few that say, 'I want more.' That's why we're in the financial situation we're in, because of greed. If they see something is profitable and they see they can get more, they're going to try to get more."

Although the owners lowered their demands at the 11th hour from $1 billion to $500 million in added revenue, they did not acquiesce to the union's request for 10 years of profit statements. At about 4 p.m., DeMaurice Smith, the union's executive director, made the legal move to decertify the union and render all further negotiations pointless.

From here, the labor fight will go to the court room, starting with U.S. District Judge David S. Doty's in Minneapolis, where the union has won a string of favorable decisions.

That's not the court that worries Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson, though. His concern is the court of public opinion.

"The general bias against the players is going to work against us," he said. "People don't know what the owners make, because they are behind the scenes. But they see us all the time. They know what we drive in, where we live. There's already a bias against us for the amount of money we make.

"If this stays in the media, in my opinion, we're at a disadvantage. But if it goes to the court system and we show what happens to players when they retire or get hurt, then it's in our favor."

Johnson has been in Alabama visiting family since the end of the season. Already, he has felt the misperception of some fans.

"When people come up to me to talk, they don't ask about the lockout," he said. "The first thing 90 percent of them say is, 'Why are you guys striking?' When I tell them we're not striking, they ask, "What's a lockout?' That's the perception of us, that we're out driving our Ferraris, making the salaries we do."

Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens cornerback who has been involved in many of the labor talks, did not return calls for comment Friday, but he did send a tweet: "Fans: I'm sorry we didn't get a deal done it wasn't lack of effort. We are going to try other ways to ensure that there's football next year."

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti did not return a message seeking comment Friday. Team president Dick Cass declined to comment as well, saying, "We're going to let the commissioner [Roger Goodell] or Jeff Pash [the NFL's lead negotiator] speak for us."

In a 10-minute news conference after decertification hit, Pash painted the owners' last offer with an artistic brush, saying the league gave in to several union requests and that it agreed not to play an 18-game season without the players' approval.

"You can banter back and forth with what they said they offered us," Mason said. "But if you're truly trying to do it in good faith, then open the books."

For the union, any giveback that leads to a new collective bargaining agreement starts with financial transparency.

"I hated — we all hated — that it had to come to this," Mason said. "But it had to because, as a whole, we want to play. … This CBA has been lucrative for both sides. We did not choose to walk away from this situation. Now we have to do what we need to do in order to keep this game going."

Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington voiced concern about losing games or even the 2011 season.

"I'm hoping the players did what the NFLPA has been telling me to do the past two years, and that's save your money," Washington said. "At this point, we really don't know if we're going to have a season this year.

"We don't know how long this legal process could take. There's no telling when you go to the court."

Mason expects a lockout by the owners, but he also expects to play this season.

"I'm very optimistic that we will," he said. "Cooler heads will prevail. I think a deal will get done. What's hurt most in this is the fans. They really enjoy watching football. For there to be a possibility of football not being seen on television, it's going to hurt the fans, and it's going to hurt people who work on Sunday more than anybody.

"To the fans, I say, 'Be patient, we'll get something worked out.' We apologize to the fans. We never wanted to get to this point. Hopefully we'll get a deal and have football next September."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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