POSTED AT 6:30 PM ET, 03/11/2011
NFL talks collapse, shutdown of pro football expected
By Mark Maske
The NFL's labor talks collapsed Friday, leaving the league, players and fans bracing for the first shutdown of professional football in 24 years and a confrontation that could play out in court for months to come.
The players filed to dissolve their union, according to officials on both sides of the dispute, a move that ended negotiations with the NFL and team owners over a new labor pact whose central issue is how to divide the $9 billion in annual revenue generated by the nation's most popular sport. The two sides met Friday for a 16th day of mediated talks but made no substantial progress.
Decertifying the NFL Players Association enabled the players to file antitrust litigation against the owners, which they did late Friday, according to their attorneys. Lawyers for the players also announced that they are seeking an injunction from U.S. District Judge David S. Doty in Minneapolis to block an expected lockout of players by the owners. Doty has overseen the NFL's labor pact since 1993. It is not clear when Doty will act on that request, but union attorneys said it probably would be in three or four weeks.
The owners are likely to announce later Friday that they will lock out players, effective after the sport's current labor deal expires at 11:59 p.m. But they may not have to move immediately.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 4:12 PM ET, 03/11/2011
NFL talks on verge of collapse, last-ditch talks underway
By Mark Maske
Updated: 4:45 p.m.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players' union, said the players gave owners a 5 p.m. deadline to turn over 10 years worth of audited financial records.
As he left the talks, Smith said he was heading back to the union's nearby office to await the union's response.
Smith said "significant differences remain" between the two sides.
It appeared late Friday afternoon that NFL labor talks were on the verge of ending and the union was about to carry out plans to take the dispute to court, sources said. But the two sides appeared to be engaging in one more last-ditch negotiating session to determine if that could be avoided.
A source said players were told on an afternoon conference call with the NFL Players Association that the plan is to decertify the union, a move that would mark the end of the talks. It is not clear whether developments in the negotiations could change the union's posture. Dissolving the union would allow the players to sue the NFL for antitrust violations.
One source said the league made a new proposal Friday to significantly reduce the difference between the two sides on how the NFL's $9 billion in revenues should be divided. Previously the two sides were said to be less than $700 million apart on that issue, and there were some indications Friday that the league was willing to make additional concessions.
It was not immediately clear how productive negotiations were Friday morning. But the renewed seriousness of the discussions raised the possibility that the parties could reach agreement on another postponement of the deadline.
The deadline was postponed twice last week. The sport's labor deal now is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
Without another postponement, players are expected to decertify their union Friday afternoon and seek an injunction in court to try to block a lockout by team owners Saturday.
The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, had promised to brief players on the negotiations at 2 p.m. Friday, but that informal deadline passed without him appearing publicly.
POSTED AT 12:58 PM ET, 03/10/2011
NFL talks stalling, confrontation looms
The twice-delayed bargaining deadline in the NFL's labor negotiations looms again Friday amid heightened concern that talks between the league and the players' union are on the verge of falling apart and a labor confrontation could again be at hand.
The talks, supervised by federal mediator George H. Cohen, resumed Thursday with the league and union still at odds on key financial issues. Comments attributed Wednesday to DeMaurice Smith, the union's executive director, at a fan event cast new doubt on the players' willingness to agree to a proposed 18-game season under any circumstances.
Sources familiar with the deliberations said a settlement by Friday's bargaining deadline appeared highly unlikely and that Cohen might have difficulty even convincing the negotiators that a third postponement is warranted. The league and union agreed last week to two postponements totaling eight days, leaving the sport's current labor deal running through 11:59 p.m. Friday.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 10:56 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011
NFL talks stalling on economic issues
Ongoing differences between the NFL and the players union on core economic issues have slowed negotiations and made a settlement by Friday's bargaining deadline appear increasingly out of reach, sources throughout the sport said Wednesday.
Only a major change in the dynamics of the talks in coming days could make a settlement this week a significant possibility, the sources said.
A third postponement of the deadline remains possible, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage. But some on both sides of the dispute were bracing for the unraveling of the talks.
It would take movement in the bargaining or another late-week development, according to the sources, to avoid the players decertifying the union Friday and seeking a court injunction to try to block a lockout Saturday by the sport's franchise owners.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 2:49 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011
NFLPA presses owners for more financial data
The NFL Players Association is pressing the league's owners to provide more financial data this week as part of contract negotiations, according to sources on both sides of the dispute.
The union regards the financial disclosures as crucial to reaching an agreement before Friday's new bargaining deadline, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage.
It is not clear whether the league is willing to provide additional information and, even if it is, whether the amount of data would satisfy the union.
The union's demand for additional financial disclosures is not new, but could become a major issue in the talks this week. Players and union officials have said throughout the negotiations that the league should open its books if it wants the players to agree to concessions as part of a new labor deal.
League officials regularly replied that the union has sufficient information about teams' financial situations to complete a deal.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 11:45 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011
Sources: NFL, players $800 million apart on revenue split
The NFL's labor negotiations resumed Monday with the league and the players' union still close to $800 million per year apart on the central economic issue of how to divide the sport's revenue, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.
If there is to be a settlement this week, it probably would have to involve a tradeoff between the two sides on the revenue split under a salary cap system and another key issue: whether a federal court judge in Minneapolis would continue to oversee the sport's labor deal, said sources from throughout the sport, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are at a sensitive stage.
A settlement, if it is to be completed by the new bargaining deadline Friday, also would be likely to include an 18-game regular season that would be accompanied by reductions in offseason workouts and perhaps other concessions to the players, and a version of a rookie wage scale less restrictive than the NFL originally sought, the sources said. The sources with knowledge of the deliberations cautioned that all of the elements of a potential deal still could change as negotiations progress this week.
They also said that because the league and union remain so far apart on the major issue of how to divide revenue, there remains a significant possibility that the two sides will be unable to complete a settlement this week. That could result in a confrontation, with players decertifying the union and filing antitrust litigation against the sport's franchise owners, and the owners locking out the players. The two sides also could extend their deadline again.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 2:16 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011
NFL negotiators agree to 7-day extension of talks
By Mark Maske
Negotiators for the NFL and its players' union approved a second postponement of their bargaining deadline for a new labor deal Friday, agreeing to talk for seven more days.
The extension increases hopes for an eventual settlement after some progress was made in negotiations Thursday.
Talks were expected to resume Monday. Sources said the postponement became official when it was ratified by the union's ruling executive committee. Union officials previously agreed to the one-week extension of the talks. The NFL agreed to the latest delay at the request of a federal mediator overseeing the talks.
"There's been enough serious discussion to warrant both sides taking this step and the mediators felt it and that's why they requested it of us," said the NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash. "If they believe that we're in a position where we can make progress and get to an agreement, then I think it's incumbent upon us and our ownership feels it's incumbent to make that effort."
"There's a commitment from both sides to engage in another round of negotiations at the request of the mediation service," DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said at an afternoon news conference. "We look forward to a deal coming out of that."
The seven-day period will be governed by the same rules applied to Thursday's one-day extension of the talks. Teams cannot re-sign players or sign players released by other clubs, but are permitted to negotiate with them. The talks remain under the supervision of federal mediator George H. Cohen.
The league and union agreed to the one-day postponement of the deadline Thursday, preventing players from decertifying their union to file antitrust litigation against the franchise owners and the owners from locking out the players.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 2:11 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011
NFL, players talk about stopping the clock
By Mark Maske
Negotiators for the NFL and the players' union are discussing the possibility of postponing Thursday night's deadline for a new labor deal, sources said. The league's collective bargaining agreement runs until 11:59 p.m.
Representatives of both sides are meeting with mediator George H. Cohen at the downtown Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Players are poised to decertify their union Thursday if there is no postponement, which would be the first step toward filinig an antitrust lawsuit against team owners, sources have said. The players then could seek an injunction in court to block a lockout by franchise owners.
The two sides are deeply divided over how to share the $9 billion in annual revenue that the NFL receives, with team owners, who currently collect $1.3 billion towards their expenses before the players' share is calculated, asking for an additional $1 billion off the top.
They 32 team owners also want to extend the regular season to 18 games, install a wage scale for rookies and test players for use of human growth hormone.
POSTED AT 6:25 PM ET, 03/ 2/2011
NFL players will seek to block lockout in court, sources say
NFL players are poised to decertify their union Thursday and immediately seek an injunction in court that would block a potential lockout of the players beginning Friday by the league's franchise owners, sources familiar with the preparations said Wednesday.
Both sides were making plans Wednesday for a labor confrontation that would begin Thursday barring last-minute developments in their negotiations that neither side expected, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deliberations publicly.
Owners met Wednesday afternoon at a hotel in Chantilly near Dulles Airport. That meeting came after negotiators for the league and union met with a federal mediator for about four hours in downtown Washington.Continue reading this post »
POSTED AT 8:53 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011
NFL labor talks resume
POSTED AT 3:27 PM ET, 02/26/2011
Owners' bargaining committee met Friday
By Mark Maske
INDIANAPOLIS--Owners on the NFL's bargaining committee met Friday in the Indianapolis area with league negotiators to discuss the ongoing labor talks with the players' union.
The meeting took place at the Indianapolis Colts' offices.
No owners participated in the recent bargaining sessions with the union in D.C. that were under the supervision of federal mediator George H. Cohen. Negotiators for the league and union met with Cohen at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for seven straight days, concluding Thursday.
The league's negotiating team at those meetings included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, top league negotiator Jeff Pash and outside attorney Bob Batterman. The owners on the bargaining committee were updated regularly on developments in the mediated negotiations.
Cohen announced Thursday that some progress had been made but strong differences remained between the league and union on core issues. The talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday in Cohen's office.
Cohen said in a written statement Thursday that he'd asked the two sides to reconsider their bargaining positions on the core issues before negotiations resume.
The full ownership group is to meet Wednesday and Thursday near Dulles Airport. The current labor deal between the league and union expires Friday.