This is normally the time of year Saints quarterback Drew Brees begins his off-season workouts to prepare for the upcoming season. Instead, he’s preparing to go against the NFL as one of 10 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that Brees hopes will eventually result in a new collective bargaining agreement.
Speaking publicly today for the first time since filing the lawsuit, as well as an injunction to block an NFL lockout that began at midnight Friday, Brees said he was acting on behalf of past, present and future players by taking the NFL to court. And he expressed frustration that the league seemed unwilling to meet the players’ demands to prevent a lockout.
“I’m one of the lead plaintiffs because it’s important to me,” Brees said on a conference call with reporters. “I represent not only the 1,900 players in the league now, but guys that played before us whose shoulders we’re standing on. They’re the ones who created what we have in this league. We represent the guys that are coming to [play] after us.”
Brees said he’s confident the lawsuit will lead to a positive outcome for the players. “I feel very strongly about our case, and the facts and the law,” he said.
Brees also said the league’s final proposal on Friday, in which the NFL was willing to drop its initial demand for a $1 billion giveback from the union to $320 million, was too little too late to avoid the union’s decertification and lockout scenario that ultimately materialized.
“I find it convenient for them that their last proposal came a couple hours before the deadline on Friday, and it was an unreasonable proposal,” he said. “It was probably part of their strategy. Their intention was to lock us out. We knew that coming to us with an unreasonable and unrealistic offer was probably so they could go to the media right after to say they offered a fair deal. It’s been a part of their media strategy all along. For us as players, we’re not about mudslinging. We’re about getting the facts out to the media and the fans, and they know our main goal is to work toward a fair deal.”
Former Jets, Seahawks and Titans center Kevin Mawae, president of the NFL Players Association (now a trade association after Friday’s decertification), accused NFL of misrepresenting the union’s decision to decertify. Executive director DeMaurice Smith announced shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday that the union intended to dissolve itself, which set the stage for the antitrust litigation Brees is now pursuing.
“The fact they said we walked awawy from the negotiating table, I think that’s a complete lie,” Mawae said. He also attacked the NFL’s lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, saying that the league’s “paid attorney is lying, not just to us but to the fans of the NFL.”
Pash said on Friday the players walked away from the table on Friday after the owners had made a significantly better offer during negotiations.
Mawae added that the league’s offer to defer an 18-game season until 2014 at the earliest was a nonstarter. “We cannot justify it,” he said. “It’s not gonna happen” and “never will be” part of any proposal."
*** NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to comment on an ESPN report that said the association had urged any elite draft-eligible players to decline an invitation from the NFL to attend next month’s draft in New York. it