Washington Post: Lobbyists will make NFL players’ case to Congress

Written by admin on April 14th, 2011

This olderWashington Post story illustrates the firepower being brought to bear in the current NFL lockout.

Washington Post

The union that represents pro football players has hired a coterie of new lobbyists and public-relations officials in recent months to help make its case to Congress that the NFL owners are acting unfairly in labor talks. The NFL Players Association and its backers say lawmakers can step in because of a congressional antitrust exemption that allows the league to negotiate lucrative broadcast rights.

The lobbying efforts include visits scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday by more than 30 players and their families, who will meet with lawmakers and legislative staffers. The players plan to emphasize the potential economic impact that an NFL shutdown could have on local communities, according to union officials.

“The most important thing that can happen for us on Capitol Hill is to just level the playing field,” Domonique Foxworth, a Baltimore Ravens cornerback and a member of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, said in a recent conference call with reporters, noting that the NFL “has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for a number of years now.”

“It’s important that they see our faces too and realize another team is also playing in the game,” Foxworth added.

But the NFL, which has its own sizable lobbying operation in Washington, says Congress should stay out of what amounts to a private-sector business negotiation.

“This deal will be reached at the negotiating table, not in the halls of Congress,” said chief NFL lobbyist Jeff Miller, a former counsel to Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.). “We don’t think a third-party intervention, whether it’s for Congress or anyone else, helps you get a deal here.”

The NFL’s lobbying expenditures are expected to exceed $1.5 million in 2010, including payments to Democratic-leaning firms Elmendorf Strategies and Glover Park Group, according to records and officials. The league’s political-action committee also showered more than $600,000 in contributions to members of both parties in the 2010 cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finances.

The players association does not have a PAC and only spends about a third as much on lobbying as the league. But the union has been attempting to close the gap in recent months, hiring Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock to join its main lobbying firm, Patton Boggs. The players association has also enlisted the help of Singer Bonjean Strategies, a bipartisan public-relations firm with close ties to Congress.


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