Late outburst of rhetoric threatens chance for NFL deal

Posted: March 11, 2011

A day that featured little negotiating between the NFL and its players erupted into an evening of heated rhetoric Thursday, all but erasing hopes for a deal before Friday night's deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The league and players again appeared headed toward a lockout by the owners and decertification by the union, potentially endangering the NFL's offseason and 2011 season unless another deadline extension can be agreed to Friday. But the words last night were not of two sides close to coming together.

"Things can come together quickly. Things can fall apart quickly," NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said when league negotiators left a federal mediation office. "I've said it many times: If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done. I don't know if both sides have an equal commitment. . . . Obviously, [the team owners] have the commitment."

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who had left his office hours earlier, returned to the federal office to respond. He handed out a league document, which he said was obtained through a court challenge, that he said showed ownership is planning for a lockout by negotiating to receive $4 billion in television money even if games are canceled.

"We have been committed to this process. But for anyone to stand and turn to the American people and say they question that? . . . This is the truth: We know that, as early as March of 2009, from the discovery and the television case, that the [owners] engaged in a strategy to get $4 billion of television money to lock out our fans and lock out our players even if the games weren't played."

The rhetoric set a confrontational tone before a crucial day of talks Friday. The union has until around 5 p.m. Central Time if it plans to decertify, a move that could allow them to challenge a lockout and bring an antitrust suit against the owners. The owners are expected to lock out the players if a new extension isn't reached by the end of Friday. The sides appear far too divided to reach a complete deal Friday. Smith posted on Twitter that he planned to update players on the status of talks at 2 p.m.

The barbs came after a day in which negotiations were limited to small group talks between the NFL and union representatives. Owners and players did not meet face to face, according to the NFLPA.

A number of league owners and executives arrived at a federal mediators office in Washington during the day, but little progress was made.


 

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JonathanTamari.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

 


 

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