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, "...one 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE INFORMED OF PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION INTENT TO STRIKE
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PLPA STRIKE AGAINST NLL BUILDS MOMENTUM
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.