NFL: Two weeks after they filed a complaint over their lack of involvement in the labor talks between the NFL and players, and as those talks appear to be gaining traction toward a new collective bargaining agreement, a group of retired football players sent the league a letter asking to be a part of the negotiations.
The letter was sent Thursday and a copy of it was provided to The Associated Press by Michael Hausfeld, an attorney for the retired players.
In it, the players refer to a letter they received from Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Packers CEO Mark Murphy that said improving benefits and retirement plans were a “top priority.”
“Richardson and Murphy admitted that ‘some former players have struggled financially’ and it was incumbent upon the League and owners ‘to reach a new agreement’ to provide the retirees with the well-being they earned,” the retired players wrote.
A group of retired players, including Hall-of-Famers Carl Eller, Marcus Allen and Franco Harris filed a complaint on July 4 alleging that the NFL and NFLPA “have conspired” to set low retiree benefit and pension payments. They say the disbanded players’ union does not have the right to negotiate for them and are pressing to have a seat at the table.
• Sources claim progress in labor talks: Significant progress on a major sticking point in the NFL labor impasse – soaring rookie salaries – during marathon talks in New York has raised hopes that a tentative agreement in principle could perhaps come within 24 hours, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.
They cautioned that other key issues remained for owners and players to resolve, including free agency and new offseason workout rules.
Owners and players met for nearly 15 hours Thursday. They will meet again today.
• Harrison apologizes for some remarks: Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison has apologized for using an anti-gay slur to refer to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in an interview with Men’s Journal, and says his critical statements about teammates were taken out of context.
In the article, the Steelers’ star criticized Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Rashard Mendenhall for their play in last season’s Super Bowl loss to Green Bay.
Harrison’s harshest words in the article were aimed at Goodell, whom he also called a “crook” and a “devil.”
Six top leaderboard at Viking Classic
Golf: Tim Petrovic shot a 7-under-par 65 in the first round of the Viking Classic in Madison, Miss., joining John Mallinger, Brendon de Jonge, Peter Lonard, Sunghoon Kang and Bobby Gates in a six-way tie atop the leaderboard.
Nine players, including 50-year-old Kenny Perry, were one stroke back at 6 under.
Spokane native Alex Prugh shot a 2-under 70 to remain in the mix.
League denies layoffs are result of lockout
NBA: The NBA laid off about 114 people over the last two days, planned cost-cutting moves that a league spokesman said are “not a direct result of the lockout.”
Spokesman Mike Bass told The Associated Press the layoffs are “not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue; that is, the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues.”
“The roughly 11 percent reduction in headcount from the league office is part of larger cost-cutting measures to reduce our costs by $50 million across all areas of our business,” Bass said.
Pistons narrow coaching search to two: The Detroit Pistons have narrowed their choices for a new head coach to Lawrence Frank and Mike Woodson, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
NCAA makes ruling on Georgia Tech
Miscellany: The NCAA put Georgia Tech on four years of probation, fined the school $100,000 and stripped its ACC title game victory from the 2009 football season for violations that also included problems in the men’s basketball program.
The NCAA said receiver Demaryius Thomas should have been declared ineligible after he accepted clothing in ’09 from former Yellow Jackets quarterback Calvin Booker, who was working for a sports agent at the time.
The basketball violations involved a youth basketball tournament held on campus in 2009 and again in 2010. A graduate coaching assistant helped administer both tournaments, violating NCAA prohibitions on scouting, and in 2010 an academic adviser for the team “evaluated prospects and reported his observations” to the coaching staff.
The NCAA said the violations were considered major.
• Winds topple outfield wall in Georgia: High winds toppled part of the outfield wall in the Augusta, Ga., minor league baseball stadium shortly before an Augusta GreenJackets game.
No injuries were reported as workers began making repairs.