Unresolved Labor Dispute Jeopardizes Start of NLL Season


The start of the National Lacrosse League season is in jeopardy, according to a letter written by league commissioner Nick Sakiewicz to Professional Lacrosse Players Association president Peter Schmitz.

“In light of your repeated advice to me and the League, both in writing and orally, that the players of the PLPA on your instructions will not be (and have not been) attending training camps or submitting to physicals until and unless an agreement on a new CBA is reached, and with the impending commencement of the 2018-19 season now only three weeks away, we obviously must face the reality that we are unable to operate our league as scheduled,” Sakiewicz wrote in a letter dated Nov. 12 and tweeted by Calgary Roughnecks transition player Zach Currier.

Sakiewicz gave the players a hard deadline of Wednesday to agree to the league’s last offer, proposed on Oct. 31. The PLPA countered with a one-year proposal that would act as a stopgap while both sides continue to negotiate a long-term deal, which the NLL reportedly rejected.

“Unfortunately, Wednesday, November 14 is the last possible date that we can make the necessary arrangements to fly players in for training camps and formulate rosters necessary to commence the season,” wrote the commissioner. 

“Accordingly, we are unfortunately constrained to advise you that unless the PLPA agrees to the League’s proposal of October 31, 2018 by 5:00 PM EST, Wednesday, November 14, 2018, the first two weeks of the seasons and all games contained therein must be and will be immediately and irreversibly cancelled.”

The news is the latest in a dispute that started when the players opted out of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in November of 2017. Training camps have already been delayed around the league, while multiple scrimmages have been canceled.

The 2018-19 season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1 with three games: Saskatchewan at Georgia, Toronto at Buffalo and Calgary at Colorado.

The NLL released a statement following the release of the letter, while Schmitz responded in an appearance on Lax Sports Network.

“We believe we must create a partnership for growth with the players, but we must grow together with a strategy that fits within a reasonable business model,” the league wrote. “A guaranteed 400% increase in expenses without a corresponding guaranteed revenue increase is not something as stewards of the league we should be doing.”

Schmitz told LSN the Oct. 31 proposal offered the players ticket-based revenue, while the players want to benefit from other sources as well.

“Not just tied to ticket revenue, which is what’s been offered, or drop count, which is essentially turnstile count, which is essentially just one of the five buckets of revenue that’s generated off the players’ backs, we want that expanded to the other four, which includes sponsorship, concessions, parking and merchandise sales,” Schmitz said.

The NLL has never canceled games due to a labor dispute. That perfect streak appears close to ending.

“We’re certainly hitting the danger zone for the first couple of games,” Schmitz said.

The complete NLL statement appears below.

National Lacrosse League Statement

“The League has been negotiating with the Professional Lacrosse Players Association (PLPA), which is the exclusive bargaining agent of our players, and we have always comported ourselves in a professional, above board and good faith manner.

“We believe we must create a partnership for growth with the players, but we must grow together with a strategy that fits within a reasonable business model. A guaranteed 400% increase in expenses without a corresponding guaranteed revenue increase is not something as stewards of the league we should be doing.

“We have put a very good and fair offer on the table, which includes a 25% increase in salary and benefits for the players. It is a significant improvement from where the players were at the beginning of their last employment agreement and a testament to our ownership’s commitment to continuing to invest heavily in our business to grow the League.

“Additionally, in order to address the concerns expressed by our players that they not be left behind as the League grows, as well as our owners’ desire to share in lacrosse related revenues including team generated revenues such as parking, food and beverage and merchandise concessions, the League proposed a fair calculation of bonuses to be paid to the players based on attendance growth plus a percentage increase each year to account for growth in all those attendance-related revenue streams. That, combined with the fact the players already receive a percentage share of all League revenues including, national sponsorships, television, expansion (which no other league shares with their players) and even payments for an All-Star Game, regardless of whether an All-Star game is even played, we believe the current offer on the table for the players is extremely fair and generous given where the League has come in a short 35 months since new management took over.

“We are running a business which is growing successfully. This nascent growth will only continue if ownership, management, and players all work to achieve it.

“We must come together to collectively grow the game. This is a long-term proposition to make the National Lacrosse League the preeminent league of choice to propel our world’s best lacrosse players to new levels of brand recognition and relevance. We, along with the players, have built a strong foundation to position the sport for continued success, but the work must continue in a realistic fashion. As stewards of the League, we must remain fiscally responsible and employ a business model focused on continued growth for the success of all involved, including the players today and the players in the future.

“At this point, we are extremely disappointed that we have not reached a fair and equitable agreement for both the NLL and the players.

“We continue to be available and open to meet with the PLPA to resolve this issue in earnest and hope we can get back to playing lacrosse and providing you, the fans, the best entertainment experience in professional sports. Thank you for your patience.”

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