NFL players' union leaders air concerns over Pro Bowl location, timing, money
By Sarah Talalay
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In South Florida to help kick off the Pro Bowl, leaders of the NFL Players Association expressed frustration with the league changing the game's location and positioning it before Super Bowl.
Players Association President and Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the union's concerns include moving the game from Hawaii — its home for the past 30 years — and depriving Super Bowl players from starring in their All-Star game. They're also not pleased Super Bowl players must attend the game to receive their Pro Bowl pay.
"How many of them show up, I don't know," Mawae said at an event at Carol City Elementary School, where the union gave the school $5,000 for its vegetable garden and encouraged the kids to eat healthfully and be active. "Some of those guys voiced their frustration because they want to be with their teams when they travel here on Monday, which is part of the Super Bowl experience. Some of those guys will probably come on Sunday, fly back to their home teams and fly back again on Monday."
Mawae's comments echoed those of Super Bowl-bound Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian who earlier this week called moving the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl a "disruption" for his players.
"We'll practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They'll have off Saturday. If it weren't for the Pro Bowl disruption, they would have the weekend off, but they can't because we have to send those players to Miami to do Lord knows what," Polian told 1070 the Fan radio in Indianapolis on Monday. "We'll come back and practice on Sunday, and the Pro Bowl players will go and do whatever they have to do, and then the team will leave on Monday."
Mawae said he isn't sure the best solution but would have preferred the union have a more active role in negotiating the change. "It being a p layer issue, we really wish we had a bigger say so. I think it's something we could have given a little more insight to."
But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the union and its player advisory council were included before the Pro Bowl change for 2010 was announced in December 2008.
"Our office had been discussing this initiative with players and union for a number of years," McCarthy said. "They were supportive."
Smith, who was named the union's leader in March after the Pro Bowl decision had been made, said the union wasn't consulted.
"We love the state of Florida, we love the opportunity to play," Smith said. "The players did not like the fact it wasn't a decision between the NFL and the union."
Pro Bowl sells out
Some club seats and a few single seats are still available, but the Pro Bowl has officially been declared a sellout with about 70,500 tickets sold, NFL officials said.