Sounders majority owner Joe Roth spoke publicly for the first time today about the possibility of the league’s players going on strike next week.
Here’s my story for the Wednesday paper, and here were the highlights:
*His bottom line is that the players should continue to negotiate at a table while league play goes on. He said that a strike would be at the least a shame … and at the most it could sink the league.
“From an entertainment standpoint, we haven’t made enough of an imprint on the national psyche,” he said. “… I don’t think there will be a national outcry like with the NFL if somehow we wouldn’t be out there for a year — which would be terrible. Everyone would lost their jobs, we would all lose our franchises, and that would be that. I just don’t think that we can afford, in terms of the public’s eye, that we can take a year off.”
He also said:
* An MLS strike could play out like to a recent writers strike in Hollywood, where no one benefited from that and many lost out.
To try to solve this dispute through a strike “is misguided, somewhat romantic and a terrible idea,” he said.
* The league is still a baby, and one that survives because of the single-entity system that allows it to survive.
* The idea of a strike is particularly badly timed because the general state of the economy makes this a time when “everyone is taking a haircut.”
* Most of the “lifestyle and dignity” issues have been resolved in the players’ favor through mediation.
* The Sounders play the $30 million entry fee basied on the exisiting system. He added that it’s no coincidence that it is the recent franchises — Toronto and Seattle — who look most like major league franchises. The earlier franchises, he said, paid their dues in harder times. He said every franchise needs to try to step up its game, but that there is no division between the haves and have-nots or the big markets and the small.
*A strike during a World Cup year “feels destructive.”
* There are issues to revolve and the CBA can be improved, but a radical restructuring is a bad idea.
* He said the union “may not believe” the financial situation of the owner. But after a follow-up question he said he thinks it isn’t just a matter of the owners asking the players to believe and that he understands that some hard figures have been made available.
* Roth says he gets updates on the situation every day. He said he was optimistic until recently, but became pessimistic after a recent call.
* He stressed that while not speaking for the league, he personally would be willing to leave resolution to binding arbitration. That came in response to a question about why the players should believe that they can negotiate a solution without the treat of a strike when that’s what they’ve been trying to do — unsuccessfully — since the end of last season.