Red­skins take their griev­ance be­hind closed doors

League’s salary-cap smack­down is proof that there’s no ‘I’ in N-F-L Date for ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing not set

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY RICH CAMP­BELL

If Dan Sny­der hadn’t filed a griev­ance against the NFL, Washington Red­skins fans might have filled out the pa­per­work them­selves. They might even have oc­cu­pied Park Av­enue, where the league makes its high-rise home.

Two weeks later, the Twit­ter­verse is still teem­ing with rage — and no small amount of in­credulity — that the Red­skins have been hit with a $36 mil­lion salary-cap penalty be­cause of the way they struc­tured con­tracts dur­ing the un­capped 2010 sea­son. It’s a con­spir­acy, the fans say. It’s col­lu­sion. It

Fair? Let me tell you about fair, be­cause that’s one of the things that seems to have been lost in this dis­cus­sion — the great lengths the NFL goes to to level the play­ing field for of its fran­chises, to make sure

of them have a chance win the grand prize.

It’s the cor­ner­stone of the league — and has

PALM BEACH, FLA. | Gen­eral man­ager Bruce Allen and other top mem­bers of the Washington Red­skins’ or­ga­ni­za­tion ap­pear de­ter­mined to fight their $36 mil­lion salary-cap penalty in pri­vate.

Allen, owner Daniel Sny­der and coach Mike Shana­han de­clined to pub­licly com­ment Mon­day on the team’s chal­lenge of the penalty levied by the league and agreed upon by the union.

How­ever, the Red­skins did ex­plain their case to 30 other teams dur­ing the first day of the own­ers’ meet­ings here, ac­cord­ing to an NFL Net­work re­port. The Dal­las Cow­boys, who sep­a­rately were pe­nal­ized $10 mil­lion, re­port­edly joined the Red­skins in that ex­pla­na­tion.

Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell dis­puted a Sports Busi­ness Jour­nal re­port that the other 30 own­ers voted to af­firm the sanc­tions.

Good­ell oth­er­wise de­clined to com­ment on the mat­ter, de­fer­ring to an in­for­ma­tional news re­lease the league dis­trib­uted Mon­day af­ter­noon.

The NFL, for the first time, con­firmed the Red­skins have been pe­nal­ized $36 mil­lion in salary-cap space. Half of that ap­plies to 2012 and the other half to 2013.

No date has been set for an ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing. The league con­firmed that clubs on Mon­day were ad­vised of the pro­ceed­ing’s sta­tus.

Mon­day’s si­lence fol­lowed Sun­day’s strong com­ments from New York

been for some time, much longer than it’s been a by­word in other sports. In the NFL, the motto isn’t: Ev­ery man for him­self. It’s: We’re only as strong as our weak­est mem­ber. That’s why the draft was in­sti­tuted in 1936, nearly three decades be­fore base­ball had one. It’s also why the NFL was the first to share its tele­vi­sion rev­enue (1962), the first to test for steroids (1987) and the first to have a salary cap that wasn’t rid­den with loop­holes (1994).

League­think, it’s been called, and it’s made the NFL the most suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise in sports his­tory. Ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, “the av­er­age team is now worth $1.04 bil­lion.” TV rat­ings, mean­while, are off the charts. And a lot of it is be­cause, on any given Sun­day or in any given year, any club can win, even the small-mar­ket Green Bay Pack­ers.

The Red­skins, as we’re all tired of be­ing re­minded, haven’t been to the Su­per Bowl in 20 years. In that time, though, 22 teams have gone, and five more have — un­like the Red­skins — reached the con­fer­ence ti­tle game. The NFL is the epit­ome of com­pet­i­tive bal­ance. Or to put it an­other way: In base­ball you have the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates, and in foot­ball you have the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers. If an NFL club loses sea­son af­ter sea­son, it isn’t be­cause the deck is stacked against it; it’s be­cause it doesn’t have the slight­est idea what it’s do­ing.

But the league counts on its own­ers to be able to see be­yond their own lux­ury boxes, to un­der­stand that when the greater good is put first, ev­ery­body ben­e­fits. Take the pool­ing of tele­vi­sion money. Who had more to lose by evenly di­vid­ing the pie than the Mara fam­ily, whose New York Gi­ants fran­chise is in the largest TV mar­ket? The Maras could have re­sisted the no­tion of shar­ing and, in­stead, fol­lowed the base­ball Yan­kees’ model of World Dom­i­na­tion. But if they had, would the NFL be what it is to­day, or would it be some lesser ver­sion over­run by a hand­ful of big-mar­ket bul­lies?

So the Red­skins aren’t get­ting much sym­pa­thy from the Gi­ants’ John Mara, chair­man of the Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee that took away their cap dol­lars. In­deed, Mara is feel­ing be­trayed that Sny­der and Dal­las’ Jerry Jones, who also was pun­ished, couldn’t be­have them­selves for a sin­gle un­capped year, couldn’t re­sist the urge to put them­selves be­fore the league. What, you don’t think other clubs, clubs with an av­er­age value of $1 bil­lion, couldn’t have writ­ten checks for $21 mil­lion and $15 mil­lion if they’d wanted to game the sys­tem (as the Red­skins did with Al­bert Haynesworth and Dean­gelo Hall)?

Let’s face it, there was a cer­tain amount of des­per­a­tion in what Sny­der and Jones did. Af­ter all, the Red­skins, as pre­vi­ously stated, haven’t made the NFL’S Final Four since the 1991 sea­son, and the Cow­boys haven’t got­ten that far since ‘95. So they jumped on the op­por­tu­nity, even though the league dis­cour­aged it, to front-load con­tracts dur­ing the un­capped year. It was

(and, in Dan’s case, the lat­est in a suc­ces­sion of short­cuts that never seem to get the club any­where).

It’ll all come out in the ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing, pre­sum­ably. For in­stance, is the league guilty of col­lu­sion? Did it re­ally tell teams to keep their spend­ing down? Or did it merely tell them not to seek ad­van­tage by load­ing cap dol­lars into the un­capped year? Big dif­fer­ence there.

There was noth­ing, cer­tainly, to pre­vent the Red­skins from spread­ing the pay­ments to Haynesworth and Hall over a longer pe­riod of time. But for Dan Sny­der, it wasn’t about fair­ness. It was about what was best for And the NFL didn’t get to be the NFL by putting in­di­vid­ual self-in­ter­est ahead of col­lec­tive goals.

Fi­nally, there’s this whole idea that some­thing got from the Red­skins. But is that what re­ally hap­pened? Or did the league sim­ply say: “You’ve al­ready spent this $36 mil­lion. We just aren’t go­ing to let you spend it twice”? If it’s the lat­ter, then the “penalty” isn’t quite as harsh as it’s been por­trayed, is it?

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dan Sny­der’s Red­skins stated their case to 30 other NFL teams at the own­ers meet­ings. The Cow­boys joined the Red­skins in that ex­pla­na­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Quar­ter­back Tim Te­bow fields ques­tions from more than 200 me­dia mem­bers dur­ing his first news con­fer­ence as a mem­ber of the Jets.

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