Here is the transcript that I gathered with another writer in an interview with Kasey Keller about the ongoing labor dispute surrounding negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
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(On seeing similar situations around the world)
I’ve never seen it before. It’s not something that truly exists. There’s a set of rules set by FIFA that the rest of the leagues are basically governed by and, for some reason, the U.S. doesn’t abide by those. The rest of the leagues all kind of have a few small rules that are their own, but for the most part they go by FIFA guidelines, and the U.S. doesn’t.
(On being troubling potentially missing time at this point in your career)
No, not necessarily. It’s something that the players are 100-percent behind, that they need to have better rights than what they have right now. And I understand where the league was coming from 5-10 years ago, where it was really up against the wall if we were going to still have a league. Well that’s no longer the case and some of the things they were able to get away with just can’t happen anymore and there’s not going to be a start of the season without a new CBA. And I know that there’s plenty of talks taking place in the next week or two and I think on both sides everybody hopes that something can get done in time. But the players are all 100-percent committed to making sure that things move in a more positive direction.
(Were you surprised at the vote total?)
Not at all. I was actually surprised that there was two people that didn’t, to be honest. From some of the things that the guys have had to deal with in this league, it really surprised me that anybody would think that the status quo is OK. And I understand, one person truly didn’t count because he wasn’t a contracted player, but the other guy… I mean I understand that there are personal issues and people are going to be in trouble, but I think people have been preparing for it as well. For a while.
(What are some of the issues that the holding things up for the players’ perspective?)
I don’t want to get into specifics but there are little things. For example let’s talk about the guaranteed contracts situation. How can I explain this the best way so you can understand it.
Let’s say you work at Starbucks. And you say, ‘Hey my job’s not guaranteed.’ But let’s say maybe you realize there isn’t an assistant manager (position available), there’s already a manager, so I’ve already capped off where I can go at this particular store. I have kind of looked around in the area and I have kind of talked around, but there’s really no place in the other Starbucks stores. But a friend of mine worked at Tully’s. And there’s an assistant manager position available at Tully’s. I can put in my two weeks notice and go double my pay to become an assistant manager at Tully’s. Well, (in current MLS rules) I’m bound and I can’t leave. I can’t have a job offer from a different team that’s going to pay me two-, three-, ten times what I’m making right now. I have to stay. But they can cut me whenever they want. With no compensation. But I can’t leave. But they can cut me and I can’t go anywhere else.
So that balance of power isn’t quite right. Now if you’re saying to me, ‘Look you’re in a contract.’ No problem, I’ve agreed to stay with you for three years, we’ve agreed to that.
Now the other issue is, I have a contract and I’ve agreed to play for you for three years. That three years is up. Now you’ve got four options on me? I’m still not free to go talk to another team? After we’ve both agreed that we have three years? So there’s all those little things where there needs to be a slide back to where fair is fair. And right now it’s not fair. It’s way overskewed in one direction. And, like I said, maybe that made sense 5-6-7 years ago, when it really was a case of maybe this league is going to fold and that the ownership was at a huge risk, but that’s no longer the case.
I think the other thing the players want to get out there is this isn’t a league where it’s a bunch of guys making 10 million dollars who want 15. This is a case of guys that truly could make more money going out and getting a job, but they’re trying to live the dream. They’re trying to hopefully take that risk of making a very moderate salary and then saying, hopefully I can make a good living out of this one day. And I think that’s very apparent in what the players are for: a very moderate rise to the salary cap. It’s at 2.3 (million) and we’re not going it’s got to be eight (million). It really is 20-percent.
Like I said, everyone’s back at the table. There’s going to be a lot of meetings before that first day happens, but the players are 100-, 99-percent to say this needs to improve.
(Feeling optimistic you’ll be out here on the 25th?)
I think everybody hopes that there is no stoppage, both from the players and from the ownership. Like I said, the players need to see something change.
(Fans for the most part of sympathizing with the players, does having the public support help?)
Of course, but if you look at Washington State law, it’s illegal – in the right to have a job. And in that statute, what we’re working on is basically illegal in Washington State law. So, yeah, I can’t see how there could be any non-sympathy. But once again we are very privileged, we understand that we play a sport for a living. It’s a great life. There are obviously some different issues, but I fully understand someone saying, ‘Hey, I’ll give up my job tomorrow to go play a game.’ And we fully appreciate that and what we’re trying to do, but you have to understand that there are a lot of guys in this sport who would make more money if they did that. So it’s not truly a money issue. And I think that’s very difficult for a lot of people in pro sports in America to understand. That this is not the NFL, this is not the NBA, this isn’t a case of every team full of multimillionaires trying to be a little bit bigger of a millionaire. This is truly some guys trying to get things done the right way.