SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL sets three owners meetings ahead of CBA expiration

The NFL has scheduled at least three owners meetings between next week and March 3, the expiration date for the league’s collective-bargaining agreement with players.

The final meeting is scheduled for March 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., setting up that locale as the place where the owners could officially decide to lock out the players. Sources say that if no new deal is reached and the CBA expires on March 3, Commissioner Roger Goodell would have monthly meetings of owners thereafter.

“I think things will really heat up post-Super Bowl,” said Andrew Brandt, a former Green Bay Packers executive and football business commentator who runs the National Football Post.

The three meetings should serve as focal points for the public and media as the clock winds down on the CBA, which was struck in 1993 and has been renewed five times since. The sides are far apart, with the owners wanting the players to give back some of their gains from the extension that was signed in 2006.

The first meeting is next week, Jan. 18, in Atlanta. The owners are then scheduled to meet again on Feb. 15 in Philadelphia.

Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been holding committee meetings in early March.
Goodell, since he assumed the commissioner’s post in 2006, has been holding committee meetings in early March as a precursor to the league’s annual meeting later that month. This year, those committee meetings will likely merge into a full owners meeting as the CBA expiration date approaches.

Brandt noted that if there has been progress in CBA talks with the union, the two sides could agree to extend the deadline, but the prevailing thought at this point is that the CBA will expire.

The severity of the deal expiring is unknown. The league has said a deal gets a lot harder to get done after March 3. Sports consultant Marc Ganis said there seem to be two schools of thought on the issue: One, that the deadline is midnight on March 3; and two, that the real deadline is maybe in the late summer, when a deal would have to be struck to avoid a work stoppage.

A lockout on March 4 would have little meaning for fans, because players are well into the middle of the offseason anyway, but any voluntary workouts would be off-limits at that point. The real effect for players would begin to be felt in June, when teams conduct formal workouts. Those would not occur during a lockout.

From a business perspective, no CBA after March 3 would end federal oversight of labor relations between the two sides, and it would mean teams, the league and league sponsors would no longer have the rights to use players in ads.

The NFL Players Association could also decertify before March 3, preventing a lockout but leaving the players without union protection. Under that scenario, the owners would impose work rules, and the players could then sue the owners under antitrust laws.

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