Fay Vincent, the former Major League Baseball commissioner who presided over a players lockout in 1990, said Pittsburgh Steelers president emeritus Dan Rooney may be instrumental in negotiating a labor deal between National Football League players and owners.
In an interview with Erik Schatzker on Bloomberg Television’s “InsideTrack,” Vincent, 72, said Rooney may play a role similar to that of Steve Greenberg during the 1990 baseball negotiations. Greenberg, the league’s deputy commissioner for four years, negotiated an end to the lockout before any regular-season games were missed. He now is a managing director at Allen & Co.
“One wonders whether (Rooney) will not be the avuncular gentleman that stands in the back of the room that eventually says to (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell, ‘Make this deal. I will deliver the owners and this is what you should do,’” Vincent said.
NFL owners voted in 2008 to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement after this season. The owners want to expand the regular season to 18 games from 16 and create a rookie salary cap, while the players are seeking improvement in health care and an increased share of league revenue.
Negotiations are set to resume tomorrow at the Super Bowl site in the Dallas area, the first full-scale talks between the two sides since late November.
Rooney, 78, is the United States ambassador to Ireland. He was the president of the Steelers from 1975 to 2002, when the team made the playoffs 17 times and won three Super Bowl titles.
“He is a man of great prominence and standing, and the franchise is very strong,” said Vincent, who was commissioner from 1989-1992.
According to Vincent, a prolonged labor struggle will financially damage both the players and owners, and Rooney’s presence may neutralize that of owners such as the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, who has taken the lead role in pressing management’s position.
“I just don’t know what the Jerry Joneses of the world and some of the owners are up to,” Vincent said. “They may be very hawkish, and that will make Roger Goodell’s job very hard.”
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