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Thursday
Mar032011

Clock Is Ticking for NFL Labor Talks

Photo Courtesy - Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The clock is ticking for the NFL and the NFL Players Association to reach a deal on a new labor contract -- and they may need a Hail Mary pass to save the upcoming season.
 
At midnight Friday, the current NFL labor contract expires. It appears likely that the team owners will move to lock out the players, keeping them out of work.
 
That means no spring practice, no free agency deals and, potentially, no 2011 season.
 
Both sides have been meeting in Washington, D.C., for more than a week, trying to reach a compromise and avert the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. A federal mediator stepped in late in February to lead the negotiations.
 
 The players still have a final option before the midnight deadline. They can decide to decertify, or dissolve the union. That would prevent the owners from locking them out, but the players would give up their right to collectively bargain. It also doesn't ensure that a deal will be reached so that football can be played again in the fall.
 
The standoff between the league, team owners and players centers on two key issues.
 
First, there's revenue sharing. NFL players currently receive 60 percent of the league's $9 billion in annual revenue, but team owners say that's unsustainable given the economic downturn. They want to take an additional $1 billion for themselves, reducing the players' share by 9 to 18 percent.
 
Second, there's the schedule. The league wants to add two more regular season games, for a total of 18. Players say that would increase their risk of injury, and they deserve compensation.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that there are "no deal breakers," but that the status quo is "not acceptable."
 
Goodell emphasized over the last several weeks that the league and owners understand that a work stoppage would hurt the clubs, the players, the game, the fans and the league's corporate sponsors.
 
"If we are unsuccessful [in negotiations], uncertainty will continue," he said during a press conference before the Super Bowl last month. "That uncertainty will lead to a reduction in revenue, and when that revenue decreases there is less for us to share," he said, adding that would make it harder to reach an agreement.
 
Goodell has pledged to reduce his salary to $1 if there is a work stoppage.
 
The NFL players are highlighting what a work stoppage would mean for the economy in NFL cities.
 
"This Congress is concerned about jobs, jobs, and jobs," said Pete Kendall, a former offensive lineman and now a permanent representative on the union's negotiating committee. "A lockout will affect the local economy, not just those who attend the games but those who provide services at the games.
 
"We're not talking about penalizing players only," Kendall said. "This is going to hurt your parking lot attendants, your restaurants, your hotels. Everybody in your city hurts when this happens."

The NFL insists the changes it is pushing are necessary for the league's long-term financial health.
 
"This is about the future of our game," Goodell said in January. "There are things that need to be addressed, and we need to address those responsible so that everybody can win."

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