Trouble in the NLL

Trouble in the NLL

Trouble in the NLL

Trouble in the NLL

For those who've been paying attention, the Professional Lacrosse Players Association's newly announced strike is not all that surprising. League officials were set to move ahead with the current season even with several of the NLL's top players still waiting for last seasons pay checks. To top that off, several players have informed us that with the current offer, rookies would actually be paying the NLL to play in their league. While it's inherent that indoor pro lacrosse is in no way a means of supporting oneself, there is money to be made and people other than the players have been making it.

While money is the main focus of the player's grievances, it needs to be known that this is in no way a matter of greed. NLL players have been hitting the turf for next to nothing for years and with multiple teams pulling close to sellouts every week, there's definitely no lack of funds. This year the league officials took it to another level however, as their salary offer for first year players was around $3200, a number the PLPA calls "nonsensical." While that number doesn't seem too low on it's own, factor in the point that this amount is to include all "practice pay, expense mileage reimbursement and missed work pay," and the total is suddenly bush league. League veterans for one team informed us that after working out the numbers for a 16 game season, each of their rookies would actually be losing money by playing in the NLL. While it's understood that lacrosse is still not one of the top moneymaking sports, forcing a professional to pay for their services is unheard of.

The other interesting point to mention in this mess, revolves primarily around NLL Commissioner Jim Jennings comments in the below press release. The commish stated that, “The NLL has no intentions of locking our players out. Our teams will begin signing players next week and the season will begin on December 26th as scheduled. We are confident that the season will go on—one way or another. The contraction of three clubs in the past two seasons has resulted in the loss of 69 jobs creating a significant amount of competition for roster sports.”

Did the words, " way or another" slap you in the face as hard as it did us. The only way to view that phrase is that Jennings is confident there will be a sufficient amount of professional players available for the start of the season; whether it's the usual NLL stars hopping over the boards is a completely different matter. Is he talking scabs? In the tight knit lacrosse world we live in, does he really expect to fill the rosters with quality players that will go behind their friend's backs? Aside from loyalty preventing this debacle, the teams have already made their cuts and pride could also become a factor. How many of those top players that didn't make the squads in tryouts would come crawling back when the NLL calls? We don't see either happening and if NLL officials actual manage to dig up enough of these players, do they really feel the fans will pay to watch.

The only conclusion we could come to is for the NLL to step it up and alter their "final offer." We're not talking huge double digit salaries for all, but at least enough to make a few bucks and cover all costs. We hoped to have official comments for this story however both sides have declined any requests, instead sending us press releases. The first is from the NLL, the second is from the players union.

December 4, 2003



The National Lacrosse League has received notice that the players association has called for a strike of players' strike effective Saturday, December 6, 12:01 AM Eastern. The vote to strike this Saturday was apparently taken by the association’s ten player representatives (one on each of the league's ten member clubs) and not all of the players.

The NLL made its initial proposal to the players’ association on July 31, 2003, the day the prior Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. The players’ association did not provide a counter proposal until November 8 and did not meet with league representatives until November 15. The league’s negotiating committee has notified the players’ association that they are available to meet everyday until an agreement is reached. To date, the players’ association negotiating team has only been available to meet on certain weekends and refused to meet over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The league communicated its latest proposal on December 3 to the players’ association, which included the following benefits for players:

- 54% increase in mandatory spending floor each team must spend.

- 40% increase in maximum individual player salary.

- Revenue sharing with players of league revenues.

League Commissioner Jim Jennings made the following statement with regards to the matter:

“We are most troubled by the refusal of union leaders to negotiate with us in a timely manner. The league made its initial offer to the PLPA on July 31st. The PLPA did not provide a counter proposal until November 15th, less than six weeks prior to the opening date of the 2003-2004 regular season. We have remained ready, willing and able to reach a new agreement.”

“The NLL has no intentions of locking our players out. Our teams will begin signing players next week and the season will begin on December 26th as scheduled. We are confident that the season will go on—one way or another. The contraction of three clubs in the past two seasons has resulted in the loss of 69 jobs creating a significant amount of competition for roster sports.”

December 8, 2003



General Counsel Ronald L. Jaros has designated one of the Association's PLPA/Regional Attorneys, Richard D. Furlong of Western New York, as Strike Coordinator. Labor Attorney Furlong has been instrumental in coordinating strikes for a multitude of Unions.

The PLPA has notified the National Lacrosse League and it's member clubs that there is to be no direct dealing with Players of the bargaining unit with respect to terms and conditions of employment.

The PLPA received the NLL's “last, best and final offer“ which the PA deems nonsensical. The owners have presented a complete re-working of the expired CBA that seeks substantial concessions from the Players which are unacceptable. The offer is approximately 38% less than what was available last season in total compensation to the Players.

The NLL stated a “54% increase in mandatory spending floor each team must spend.“ The PA determined this percentage would only apply if teams were stocked as all rookie teams. Considering this fact the 54% increase is not realistic. Revenue sharing with players of league revenues when analyzed would amount to next to nothing.

The League's plans to implement their final offer on Dec 8th, 2003 fueled the PA Executive Committee to call a strike vote which resulted in a unanimous decision to strike at 12:01am December 6, 2003. The PLPA is poised to file unfair labor practice charges later today challenging the leagues unilateral imposition of that final offer. The Players' Association voted in favor to play the Calgary at Vancouver exhibition game as a good faith measure to the community of Prince George and minor lacrosse.

The delay in getting to the negotiating table was brought on by the failure of the League to address tens of thousands of dollars that were owed to individual players and to the PLPA under the expired contract that needed to be rectified before discussion of future commitments. Those obligations included tens of thousands of dollars that had been taken from players' paychecks intended for PLPA dues and diverted instead by a number of clubs for their own use. Time and resources were spent chasing theses clubs and the League to force payment of these undisputed obligations. Among other things it was necessary for the PLPA to file charges with the federal government to recover misappropriated money. As late as the first week in November, players were awaiting payment of monies they were owed. The PLPA was at the bargaining table within days after that.

The League's comment that the PLPA was reluctant to meet on Thanksgiving weekend is misleading because it was totally impracticable to find convenient travel and lodging accommodations in New York during the Thanksgiving weekend because of the hoard of holiday travelers who descended on that city during that time.

The NLL's intentions to force term and conditions including compensation upon all players could force all rookies and many veterans to accept as little as $200 per player with practice pay, expense mileage reimbursement and missed work pay all being included.

This past weekend PLPA President Peter Schmitz met Saturday in New York with League Commissioner Jim Jennings to discuss and negotiate. The PLPA intends to send a counter proposal to the NLL and is positioned to continue talks this upcoming weekend of December 13 – 14th in Newport, Rhode Island.

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    by (#47133) on 12/08/03 @8:27PM
as true lacrosse fans we gotta do what we can to spread lacrosse all over the country, world, whatever so that these guys dont need to worrying about some crappy pay for a season or not getting a paycheck for over a year we gotta get the mll and nll up to the top of the sports world
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(no subject)
    by (#53971) on 12/11/03 @8:48AM
I agree...the sport of lacrosse needs more publicity. Somehow we need to get more NLL, MLL, college games and news nationally televised (or at least on ESPN). I live in Denver Colorado (the largest fan based city west of the Mississippi for lax) and Mammoth games sell out every home game. I would have never become interested until they moved into town. Owners/players/fans need to do marketing for the sport
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I agree... but...
    by (#21244) on 12/11/03 @1:56PM
I agree that we need more publicity, but when the players are losing money out of their pockets just to play, I think there's a problem. If the players were just playing for free and not having to cover other expences, I think a lot more players would be willing to stick around in hopes of their salaries increasing later in life. I think the NLL has the money to give them salaries right now, but they are too busy trying to make their personal fortunes that they aren't considering what they're doing to the players. I realize the people who run and own the NLL should be getting a lot of money but I have a strong feeling they're spoiling themselves rotton and going way overboard with their own salaries. That's my 2 cents. Later.
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Owners Suck
    by (#41662) on 12/08/03 @9:59PM
I'd like to see the owner's books and see why they can't pay their talent a somewhat decent wage. Philly sells out 20,000 seats 10 games a year, where's the money? Ridiculous. This may be the first strike ever where the players are totally in the right and have no greed. $3000 for a season?????? I make more coaching for the high school season. Crazy.
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(no subject)
    by (#5616) on 12/11/03 @3:14AM
10 games!!
bud its an 8-game home schedule and attendance count ranges from 12-16k per game.
i've been going to the wings for every year and they never got 20k. 18k+ vs the pittsburgh crossfire was the record count as i recall. but you just can't look @ philly, i have been to a ny saints, baltimore thunder and washington power games -- how come folks on this thread don't mention them?
if the prior cba worked so well then why wouldn't we still be looking at the ny saints, washgington power, columbus landsharks, montreal express, nj storm & albany attack. the nll has 4 successful teams with alot of unknowns. i would expect some revisions to the cba.
i'm certain that on both sides there are issues that can be thrown out. the nll was at fault by letting a festering wound in ny/cbs burst this summer. the players are at fault for not even seeing that some adjustments are needed to get the league-wide payroll in line w/ league-wide revenue. time was wasted over the summer and when you go to a work stoppage the initial days everyone just hardens their resolve. i hope that after a couple of days of this, folks on both sides tackle the real issues.

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Hey hair splitter-relax
    by (#41662) on 12/11/03 @7:54AM
20,000, 16,000, whatever, 8 regular season games, 10, whatever, the f-ing point I was making is that there are teams that are doing fine at the gate, more than well enough to pay its talent more than 3,500 dollars. Keep your eye on the ball buddy, we're not having players striking for millions of dollars here. $3,500 is not even enough money to justify the time off from your real job. And as for the Thunder and the Power, you must not be from the Maryland area. Its FIELD LAX territory, and the people down there don't care for Boxla. They had Gary Gait down there and it still didn't draw dick.
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Field Snobbery Not an Issue
    by (#61897) on 12/11/03 @10:17AM
The argument that the NLL failed in D.C. and Baltimore because of field snobbery is misinformed when you consider the fact that less than 15% of the league fan base plays or participates in lacrosse outside of going to NLL games. Those teams failed because they didn't market to the average sports fan who likes basketball and hockey (the other 85% of NLL fans). Quite simply: if you try to support an NLL team with only the support of the field community you will fail. You need the support of the average sports fan.
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Agree with Regassert
    by (#9821) on 12/09/03 @11:47AM
Its been understandable that pro lax has not been a big money making venture for many years. But some teams seem to be filling the stands just fine. I find it hard to believe that team owners/executives are making so little.
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    by (#10445) on 12/09/03 @8:11PM
$3500? Are you kidding me? How the hell can the players even survive with that kind of money? Sure they don't play 100 games like other pro sports do, but come on man? Not a lot of people will put their necks out for that kind of money .
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the nll is great
    by (#62528) on 12/11/03 @8:58PM
i am a big vancouver ravens is a joke how little nll players are getting payed.they are some of the hardest working athlets any where.
i just really hope this is fixed befor dec 26th because i have been waiting for the first ravens game for like 6 months.
ravens for life
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the strike
    by (#62765) on 12/14/03 @10:55PM
I doubt they will strike, you have to realize that the players are not playing for them money, and that it will eventually lean toward better pay for the players as popularity of the sport increases. I hope no one has a contradictory reply to this, because I know that I am right, and if you know lacrosse, you'll know that there will be no strike. By the way, Go Pennsbury Lacrosse!!!
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