On the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith officially settled the NFL labor dispute. The two ceremoniously signed the 300-page Collective Bargaining Agreement, a 10-year plan that should prevent any further labor strife until at least 2020.
"We're all relieved because football is back," Goodell said. "That's what our fans want, and that's what we all want, and we're thrilled that we got it done."
The ratification of the CBA on Thursday, and the signing of it Friday morning, officially ended the NFL's longest work stoppage. The NFL owners had locked out the players since the end of the previous CBA in March.
With the possibility of no NFL season in 2011, Goodell and Smith, in a joint appearance on the NFL Network following the signing ceremony, stressed the importance of a small group of players and owners. "There was a tremendous amount of respect and an attempt to find solutions," Goodell explained. "Once we understood each other, and we understood that that was what we were there for, we got it done."
Interestingly, not every team was behind the new CBA. The Pittsburgh Steelers voted "No" on the agreement. "We felt it was shoved down our throats," described Pittsburgh defensive tackle Willie Colon. Pittsburgh players rep Ryan Clark added that, although he would not comment on the actual vote, he would state that several of the Steelers players were unhappy with the new CBA, specifically the continuance of Goodell as the sole man responsible for issuing, and hearing appeals on, suspensions and fines for player conduct.
But, no matter how the Steelers players feel, ten years of labor peace has been officially signed. Going forward from here, Goodell added, "I think the most important thing is always listen to one another and find solutions. One of the things I think we understand is that we're better off working together, we can create a better environment for everybody, most specifically the game and our fans."
Hopefully the NFL and the NFLPA remember that lesson a decade from now.