SBD/June 21, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 102: Owners Meeting Not Likely To Stretch Into Tomorrow

The NFL owners’ meeting in Chicago commenced this morning amidst talks of dissension between owners about a possible new labor deal. However, the meeting appears as if it will only last today, and not stretch into tomorrow as previously suggested, a signal that there may not be as much to debate as previously thought. 49ers President & CEO Jed York, speaking before the meeting began, also downplayed talk of disagreement among owners scuttling a potential new labor deal. One key league source said more would be known after the meeting, but this source emphasized that the specifics of an actual deal have not emerged yet, so it was too early anyway to talk about enough owners forming to block a deal. Nine owners are needed to block a deal. The meeting was called to update owners on progress in labor talks with players. Another meeting is scheduled for July 21 in Detroit, though if there is a deal to vote on before then, Commissioner Roger Goodell can always call an earlier one. Goodell is expected to speak to reporters at the end of today’s meeting. Several football-side club employees were at the meeting, suggesting there is talk here about how the NFL will get back up and running presuming a new deal is struck (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). NFL Network's Albert Breer wrote on his Twitter account, "Number of football people here indicates that they'll be talking about how to get the league year up and running, when a deal is done" (TWITTER.com, 6/21).

MEETING FULL OF IMPORTANCE: In Chicago, Dan Pompei reports today's gathering is the "most significant league meeting since the lockout began." The purpose of the meeting "is to survey team owners and executives on progress made" in recent CBA negotiations between small groups led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith. Issues such as "revenue sharing, a rookie wage scale, the salary cap, free agency requirements and health benefits are expected to be discussed and debated at length." Steelers President Art Rooney II said, "I think we're just going to get an update on where we stand in labor negotiations" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/21). Sources said that today's session is "designed to give each owner a chance to express an opinion on the state of the negotiations." Some owners are "concerned that the terms under discussion might not protect the teams against a future downturn in the national economy." But sources indicated that there "does not appear to be a sufficient number of dissenting owners to block an agreement now" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/21).

BALL IS IN YOUR COURT, ROGER
: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes the "onus here will be on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to get the owners -- now split mostly along the lines of big market vs. small market -- on the same page this week." A league source said yesterday, "If (Goodell) can get them united at this meeting, then I think you'll see a deal in relatively short order. If there's unity out of this, mid-July wouldn't be unrealistic (for an agreement)." While the owners "have been advised that the meeting could stretch into tomorrow because of the complexity of the potential agreement," league sources said that it is "unlikely they will take a formal vote on it." Instead, the meetings are "expected to be more of a venting session." Hubbuch notes there "doesn't appear to be enough opposition from small-market teams at this stage to prevent a deal (formal approval from just 24 of the 32 owners is needed), but these meetings could be a wild card if the debate inside the room gets heated enough and Goodell proves ineffective" (N.Y. POST, 6/21). Also in N.Y., Steve Serby writes, "It is time for Goodell to grab this NFL lockout by the throat and unite the hard-line and moderate owners and get a deal done with the players. ... If there are owners who view him as little more than a puppet, then it is time for Goodell to start pulling some strings, to start twisting some arms, to build a consensus that leads to labor peace and free agency" (N.Y. POST, 6/21).

ALSO ON THE AGENDA: In Buffalo, James Fink reports owners today are "expected to at least consider" a proposal to "allow teams to 'cover up' as much" as 15% of seats to avoid TV blackouts. It has "not been determined if they will vote on it or continue to study the implications." Under terms of the proposal, "individual NFL teams could opt into the cover-up scenario but it would not be a mandated league requirement." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "It is accurate that there was a proposal that warranted discussion and further thought, but that's all it is at this point" (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO, 6/17 issue).
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