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Drew Brees blasts NFL owners Dan Leberfeld

This week in Sports Illustrated, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees laced into NFL owners over the lockout.

“Ever since Gene Upshaw passed away — I’m just going to lay it all out there — the owners saw blood in the water,” Brees¬†told SI writer Jim Trotter.¬†“They felt like, ‘This is our opportunity to take a significant piece of the [financial] pie back at all costs, a piece that we will never have to give back again. This is our chance, while they don’t have leadership, while they’re scrambling to find a new executive director. This is our time.’

“I can point to about five different things to prove to you that they were ready to lock us out. They opted out of the last year of the [CBA] deal; they hired Bob Batterman [who oversaw a lockout of NHL players]. They tried to take the American Needle case to the Supreme Court to basically give them an antitrust exemption or single-entity status, but were defeated 9-0; they established new TV deals to pay them in the event of a lockout, but we were able to put a freeze on that money because they did not negotiate in good faith and broke the law. And they had an internal NFL document that was leaked — a decision tree — that said smack dab in the middle of it ‘financial needs in a lockout.’ That was in 2008, OK? So you’re telling me that they had no plans to lock us out and really wanted to get a deal done? I don’t think so.

“Their philosophy was, We’re going to give you a very subpar deal, a slap-in-the-face deal, and hope that you’ll accept it because hopefully we’ve intimidated you enough into thinking that this is a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and you’re just going to succumb to the pressure,” he said. “Well, guess what. We’re a lot more informed and educated than in the past, and we’re much better businessmen than you think and we’re going to stand up for what is right and what is fair. Fifty-fifty is fair. It’s been fair for the last 20 years and I think the game has done pretty well over the last 20 years. I think franchise values have gone up at a pretty good rate over the last 20 years. So you can’t sit here and tell me that the system is broken.

“If we miss football games because of this lockout, it would be the dumbest thing ever. It would be detrimental to this game. We’ve built the most popular game in the country; I mean, football means so much more to fans than just a form of entertainment or a game. You can walk around on any street in this city and pull a random person aside and ask him what the New Orleans Saints and football have meant to this town, and you’ll see tears and you’ll see how important it is.

“We know that bond, and we understand that football transcends just the playing field. By missing games, I think you’re making a huge mistake. I hope the owners understand that, I hope the NFL understands that. This lockout needs to end and we need to get back to playing football. We are always open to continued settlement discussions to end this antitrust case, but in the meantime the NFL needs to stop this lockout. That’s why we’re in court right now — to stop the lockout and get back on the field.

“We can argue all we want about the 2006 deal, but it was good for both sides. Our point here is, in our offer to them we took pretty good setbacks in a lot of areas. The emphasis that we made in our counterproposal to them all had to deal with money that was going to the retired players’ pension as well as player health and safety measures, future medical care.

“We told them that over the next four years, in our proposal, you’ll get a lot of money back in your pocket, and then after four years we’ll reset [the revenue split] back to 50-50. They don’t want the reset. After four years they want to keep it at their 60 percent and we’re at 40 percent, which over the course of four years, if you do the math at 8 percent growth, which is what the league has experienced for the last decade, that’s $4 billion that they get back. I can tell you that as part of our deal to them, at 8 percent growth, they would get about half of that — with no financial justification for anything.

“What we were basically saying was, ‘You know what? You haven’t given us any information to really show us proof of your situation, but we’re willing to make this work, so we’re willing to step out here for you.’ Yet for three years they’ve done everything they can to [prepare to] lock us out. They’re going to follow through with it. That is their goal, that is their objective. But they’ve lost four court cases in a row, not including a temporary stay. The fact of the matter is, when you break the law and do things that at the end of the day are not right and not fair, you get caught.”