CBA rhetoric gets aggressive as players react to MLS owners
The San Jose Earthquakes and
Houston Dynamo played to a 0-0 tie in their exhibition match Wednesday evening.
The lack of scoring, however, belied plenty of action off the field as Quakes
owner Lew Wolff and his players traded volleys in what looks to be the latest
phase of the MLS’ collective bargaining talks:
The PR war.
After the players’ union
received a shower of media attention last week in the wake of its vote to
authorize a strike before the season begins on March 25, MLS owners have
launched a counteroffensive in the last 48 hours meant to highlight their side
of the story.
“As much as we want to portray
ourselves as guys who are looking for simple rights and not money-hungry guys,
[the owners] are going to try to paint a picture in their own way, to reflect
things good on themselves,” Jason Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com after anchoring
San Jose’s back line. “That’s just the art of negotiation.”
Tim Leiweke, chief executive of
AEG, the firm that owns the Los Angeles Galaxy, told Reuters on Tuesday that
the league will “never, ever agree to change” the single-entity system that
players find odious and owners deem necessary—even if that means losing an
Real Salt Lake co-owner Dave
Checketts was quoted in The Deseret News on
Wednesday saying that in the event of a strike, owners “will take action that
will make life very difficult” for players.
And Joe Roth, majority owner of the
Seattle Sounders, suggested that a year-long strike could have a truly devastating
effect on the league.
“If somehow we wouldn’t be out
there for a year . . . Everyone would lose their jobs,” Roth told The Tacoma News Tribune. “We would all
lose our franchises. And that would be that.”
Wolff continued the blitz on
Wednesday afternoon, releasing a 658-word statement that repeatedly put the
onus of a work stoppage—and any damage it might cause MLS—wholly on the
“We do not support or even think
about a ‘lock-out’ and we hope that he players will not assume that a strike
will be to their benefit or to the benefit of the sport we all love,” Wolff
A strike at this point in time
would be especially painful to the Quakes. Wolff’s carefully worded statement
was equally carefully timed, coming the morning after the club received a green
light from the San Jose City Council to move forward with their plans to build
a $60 million stadium near the Mineta San Jose airport.
“Without labor being a
cooperative partner, our plans for a new venue and expansion of our youth
program will be set back for a period that certainly does not benefit the
current or future players,” Wolff said.
For their part, Wolff’s players took
the opportunity to highlight their own cohesion in the face of the impasse.
“Everybody knows what’s at
stake,” Hernandez said. “Everyone understands all the different details that
are being thrown around. I can’t speak for everyone else, but in the San Jose
Earthquakes locker room, everyone is really unified and really united and ready
to step up to the challenge if need be. . . . It’s important that the players
show the media, show the fans and show the league that we’re together. And we
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon and
defender Chris Leitch caught a red-eye flight to Washington, D.C. after the
game to join in a meeting of the union’s representatives that begins Thursday
and could run until Sunday, depending on how negotiations play out.
“I think we’re asking for
reasonable things,” Cannon told MLSsoccer.com. “Our bargaining points and the
things that we’re striving for . . . we all feel that it doesn’t do anything to
affect the (business) model that’s brought us here. Obviously, both sides look
at it differently, and so be it. That’s just the way it is. There’s always two
sides, especially in this country. Maybe there needs to be more.”
As the possibility of a strike
looms, both sides are aiming to win the hearts and minds of fans who would
undoubtedly be disappointed if that does come to pass.
“We just want them to know
what’s going on,” Chris Wondolowski said. “I think if they did, and followed us
day-in and day-out . . . they would see our side, and kind of see where we’re
“It’s not necessarily for us.
It’s for the generations that hopefully come behind us.”