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Blank updates fans on NFL labor dispute


Falcons Owner & CEO Arthur Blank, back from the NFL Owners Meeting in New Orleans last week, provides fans a status update to the ongoing labor impasse between the National Football League and the NFL Players Association. Below is the text of Blank's letter.

March 27, 2011

Dear Falcons Fans,

It's been a couple of weeks since my last letter to you regarding the break off of mediated talks with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the resulting lock out. In an effort to keep you up to date, I am writing to provide an overview of recent activities.

I attended our annual league meeting in New Orleans last week and, as you would expect, a good portion of it focused on the status of the union's litigation and our efforts to reach a new agreement with the NFLPA.

During the last day of our mediated discussions on March 11, the NFL clubs put a balanced and fair proposal on the table in a good-faith effort to resolve our differences. The proposal included payments to players of approximately $19-20 billion over the next four years, including a 14 percent increase from 2011-2014. In addition, there would be no pay-cut for our players – only a slowing in the growth rate of their compensation. The proposal also included a wide range of other improvements for both current and retired players. Further, we offered to share financial information that goes far beyond the requirements of federal labor law.

In my opinion, the NFLPA walked away from a deal that was more than fair, but I also recognize that they did it in order to file a lawsuit. So instead of working productively through collective bargaining, we are being stalled through the legal process. I can speak for the NFL and its owners in telling you that we all want a quick resolution of the current labor dispute, and we are ready to get back to the negotiating table at any time.

We have great respect for our players and want them to rejoin us in preparing for the 2011 season as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the NFL and the Falcons are moving forward with planning for the upcoming season.

As you may know, Falcons President Rich McKay chairs the NFL Competition Committee, which studies all aspects of the game and recommends rules and policy changes to NFL clubs. During last week's annual meeting, we discussed a variety of game rules changes, mostly with an eye on player health and safety. The decisions we made include moving the spot of kickoffs to the 35-yard line and allowing the kicking team only a 5-yard running start at the kickoff, and modifying instant replay so all scoring plays will be checked by the instant replay booth and reviewed by the referee if necessary. As a result, coaches no longer have to use their challenges on scoring plays.

We are also continuing to discuss how to best limit hits to the head and expand protection for players in a defenseless position. We are studying some additional rules changes to promote player safety, and these will be considered at our next meeting in May. We are committed to making the game of football safer and reducing player injuries. At the same time, Rich would assure you that football will continue to be a tough and exciting sport.

We're looking forward to the NFL Draft on April 28-30, when we expect to fill out our roster with skilled players who will also complement our locker room. You can watch our progress on ESPN or the NFL Network.

I will continue to keep you informed. In the meantime, I hope we can count on your support as we work through this difficult situation. While we're not where we would like to be at this point, we remain committed to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement that will guarantee the long-term future success of the NFL and the great game of football for its fans, players and clubs.

Warm regards,

Arthur M. Blank

Owner & CEO

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