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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Williams on Woods: 'I've wasted two years'-Owners approve proposed labor deal -

Williams on Woods: 'I've wasted two years'
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Steve Williams isn't a particularly complicated guy.
As a suburban sherpa, he carries a golf bag for a living, commands more than a modicum of respect among his peers and has earned the right to be rewarded for his loyalty. Despite what many people think, he's an honest man with far more integrity than most folks these days.
Which is doubtlessly why, if you've heard the audio clip of Williams venting about his firing by fading and former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, he sounds annoyed, betrayed and a little angry.
"You could say I've wasted the last two years of my life," Williams told Television New Zealand, sobering remarks that are now airing on the BBC and other outlets.
He was in Tiger Woods' wedding. They were thick as thieves. They worked out together, dined together, drove to the course as a twosome. As a result, everybody assumed that when Woods was caught up in the seamiest sex scandal in sports history, Williams had to be complicit. He insists that he was as clueless and shocked as the rest of us.
Many who follow the circus that is the PGA Tour -- despite occasional friction with Woods' longtime bag man and enforcer -- believe him, too, without much hesitation. If you heard the confusion and anger in his voice in the audio clip, it only underscored that belief.
After a record-shattering start in their 12 years together, Williams said he stuck with Woods lately through thick and thin. That's a charitable way of phrasing it. More like thin and thinner.
"I've stuck with Tiger and been incredibly loyal," he said. "I'm not disappointed I've been fired -- that's part of the job -- but the timing is extraordinary. I am extremely disappointed, given that the last 18 months has been a particularly difficult time.
"With the scandals, a new coach, a swing change, I've stuck with him through thick and thin and been incredibly loyal -- and then this happens. I wouldn't ditch someone when the chips are down. I've stuck by Tiger and put myself and my family in a difficult position."
That's because most people assumed Williams was aware of Woods' tomcatting. But that just doesn't compute. Williams takes a dim view of cheating in any fashion -- he was a caddie at the overseas tournament years ago where Vijay Singh was accused of cheating. Williams still hasn't forgotten, and maybe hasn't quite forgiven, put it that way.
Remember the awkward incident two years ago when Williams popped off about Phil Mickelson? He characterized Mickelson as a fake and said had little time for such people. In other words, Williams is a black-and-white guy with a very hard head.
Turns out, Williams was the guy working for the biggest fraud in golf history. Yet, even after he knew it, he remained an employee out of sheer loyalty and against the better judgment of many, because his family and friends were suggesting that he quit as the taint continued to spread. With a bad taste in his mouth, some thought Williams might walk away from the most lucrative second-banana job since Ed McMahon worked for Johnny Carson.
What did loyalty get him? A pink slip.
What did Williams know and when? Don't assume you know the answers.
Williams' wife, Kirsty, was a close friend of Elin Nordegren, Tiger's ex-wife. For Steve to have had knowledge of what was taking place with his boss and his bevy of women might have meant the end of his own marriage, too. Kirsty Williams and Elin Nordegren were inseparable on the course while watching their husbands ply their strange trade.
After 20 months of enduring a scandal that just refuses to end, watching Woods trash his swing, lose millions in endorsements and an immeasurable amount of credibility, Woods summarily ditched Williams without publicly bothering to say why.
"I'm a very big stickler for loyalty and I stuck with Tiger through his difficult period when a lot of people thought I should have left his side," Williams said. "That was the most difficult period that I've ever been through in my life. I'm pretty hard-headed and took it probably a lot better than my wife and family did, but there's no way that I should have been put through that."
For months, while Woods hid from the media and licked his many public-relations wounds, Williams was painted with the same broad brush of guilt by association. Other Woods associates were linked to both the trail of women and ensuing coverup. Williams was left to twist in the wind.
"My name should have been cleared immediately," Williams said. "It wasn't and that's what makes it even more disappointing what's transpired."
When Woods returned at the Masters last year, the body language between him and Williams had changed. The camaraderie that had always been self-evident took a hit. There was a professional distance.
Now we know why.
"I, along with a lot of people, lost a lot of respect for Tiger and I pointed out before his return at the Masters at Augusta in 2010, that he had to earn back my respect," Williams said.
Actually, that week, Woods said he wanted to be judged by his actions going forward. So be it -- he just fired one of his last remaining allies in Williams.
Williams always insisted that when his gig with Woods ended, he'd go home to New Zealand and never caddie again. But given the midseason abruptness of his termination, he had already started to work with popular Aussie Adam Scott -- Woods gave his assent beforehand. Williams says he will continue to work for Scott, who in terms of personality and temperament is the perhaps polar opposite of Woods.
"Through time, I hope he can gain my respect back," Williams said of Woods. "He definitely needs to earn my respect again, that's for sure."
In that regard, Williams is standing in the longest of lines, isn't he?

Owners approve proposed labor deal
sal espn.com

NFL owners approved a proposed 10-year labor agreement with the NFL Players Association on Thursday, putting the potential end to the league's lockout in the hands of the players -- who might cast their own vote Thursday night.
Owners voted 31-0 to accept the proposed collective bargaining agreement, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining, after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel.
In an email to the player representatives of the 32 NFL teams, the NFLPA said the league's finalized settlement requires that players re-establish their union and provide evidence by Tuesday that a majority of players have signed union authorization cards.
"Hopefully, we can all work quickly, expeditiously, to get this agreement done," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "It is time to get back to football. That's what everybody here wants to do."
The league also required that players vote by Tuesday to ratify the proposed labor agreement, which would contain virtually all of the provisions of the old CBA along with the non-CBA items that class counsel and the NFL have agreed to in the Tom Brady mediation.
Under said conditions, the players would then have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week to try to bargain any changes to the old CBA. Any changes would have to be agreed to by the owners in order to be incorporated into the agreement, which would then become final July 30. If the NFL does not agree to the players' proposed changes, the old CBA terms on issues such as benefits, discipline and safety will remain unchanged for another 10 years.
In a letter sent to all players after owners cast their votes, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said issues still remain that must be resolved.
"As you know from yesterday, issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open, other issues such as workers compensation, economic issues and end of deal terms remain unresolved," Smith said. "There is no agreement between the NFL and the Players at this time."
Multiple owners, however, insisted both sides had reached an agreement.
"That's baffling to me," Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "We believe we have handshake agreement with the players."
"We believe we have an agreement," added New York Giants owner John Mara. "Now it's up to the players."
Shortly after results of the owners' vote was announced, Smith told ESPN that team representatives would examine the agreement.
Earlier Thursday, the NFLPA had scheduled an 8 p.m. ET conference call with its executive committee and player reps to decide whether to accept an approved settlement from owners, and how to start the voting process for the 1,900 players who have to decide if they want to vote in a recertified union.
A high-ranking NFLPA executive committee member told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the owners' approval "puts the onus on players to make a decision to agree -- paints us into a corner with fans. We'll discuss tonight but the idea of reconstituting as a union has never been a slam dunk as the owners have already assumed."
Said another high-ranking NFLPA official: "We are not happy here. We had to honor to not vote on an agreement that was not final (Wednesday). This is not over. This actually takes away incentives from players to vote yes tonight."
Goodell said team training facilities would open Saturday and the new league year would begin Wednesday, contingent on the NFLPA's recertification. The likely start of training camps is estimated to be Aug. 1, sources said.
The proposed CBA has no opt-out clauses for either side, meaning there would be labor peace until 2021 if the NFLPA ratifies the deal.
Goodell also announced cancellation of the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame preseason game between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears.
"The time was just too tight," Goodell said. "Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to play the game this year."
Smith and Goodell on Thursday were working to impose certain conditions to immediately lift the lockout if the two sides approve a deal tonight, according to sources.
The NFL lockout began March 11, but an end appears near. ESPN.com Topics keeps you up to date on all the latest on the labor situation. More »
NFLPA sources say league lawyers Bob Batterman and Gregg Levy were pushing for the condition that the lockout remain in effect until the players recertify as a union. However, there was more dialogue between Goodell and Smith throughout the day to build a trust that in the event the players approve the agreement later Thursday, the lockout could be immediately lifted if the players also agree to recertify as a union.
Smith said the decision to recertify as a union wouldn't be taken lightly, just as the choice to decertify in March was taken seriously "because we were a real union" -- taking a shot at owners' claims that the NFLPA's decertification was a "sham."
"The decision to decertify as a union was a significant one," Smith said. "Every individual person has to make a decision on whether they want to become part of a union. The individual decisions are something that our players take extremely serious."
The players were unable to negotiate a one-time only application of the franchise tag, which is something that was of particular interest to the plaintiffs in the Brady vs. NFL antitrust case.
An NFLPA official said: "Are we happy with that result? No. Is it worth hanging up a deal with 1,900 players? No. The tag has had very few multiple uses and does carry some financial rewards for players. Not allowing more transition tags, via right of first refusal, was a big victory. That would have impact more free agents than franchise tags."
On abstaining from the owners' vote, Raiders CEO Amy Trask told NFL.com: "We had profound philosophical differences of a football and an economic nature," adding, "we voted the way we thought was appropriate."

Highlights Of Proposed CBA

Details of the proposed collective bargaining agreement that would need to be ratified by NFL players:

• Ten-year deal, through the 2020 season

• New league year would begin on Wednesday

• Players receive 48 percent of revenue in first portion of deal

• $120 million salary cap; team minimum 89 percent ($106.8M) as long as league spends 99 percent ($3.8B)

• Veterans earn free agency after fourth season

• Four-year rookie contracts, with team option for fifth year

• Lower rookie salaries, with cap on team spending for rookies

• Later training camps, no more full-contact, two-a-day practices

• Offseason team activities (OTAs) reduced from 14 to nine

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