The latest formal CBA negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA ended yesterday afternoon outside DC, "but smaller groups are expected to continue talking," according to Greg Bishop of the N.Y. TIMES. More meetings, "including the owners’ gathering in Chicago, will take place next week," though it is "hard to say" where negotiations stand at the moment. One source said both sides have their "noses to the grindstone." The NFL and players are "discussing a deal that could run 8 to 10 years, and the crux of the negotiations remains what percentage of revenue should go to the players and how players might share in an anticipated boost in television revenue ... when new network contracts are negotiated later this decade." When the owners convene in Chicago next week, the league "would like to give them as much information as possible, in broad strokes, about the framework for a deal." Still, a "vote to ratify a final agreement in Chicago remains unlikely, as does the idea of an agreement in principle." Bishop notes the NFL "would like the deal finished around July 4." That date, "even after all the legal wrangling, would allow for several weeks of free agency so teams could sort out their rosters in time for the traditional beginning of training camps in late July" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: In DC, Mark Maske noted while the two sides "apparently would like to complete an agreement" by July 4, the "timing of a potential deal remains unclear." Sources "continued to caution that it potentially could take a bit longer than that to finish a deal" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/15). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported, “We're not close to a deal. ... The idea that a deal would be coming in hours or days or a week or two is just preposterous. It's not where they are right now" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 6/15). ESPN's Adam Schefter: "One person said today it would be borderline insane to think that there will be a deal anytime in the next couple of weeks. What you're looking at here is talks continuing next week after the owners' meetings in Chicago and then the two sides zeroing in on the deadline sometime after July 4 before mid-July" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/15). ESPN’s John Clayton noted there is "still light at the end of the tunnel, but you still have lawyers pulling at the plug which, of course, could cause all the lights to go out." Clayton acknowledged progress has been made, "but it’s not something that’s going to get done this week." Clayton: "It’s something that can get done in two to three weeks as long as the lawyers don’t pull the plug” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 6/15). The AP's Barry Wilner noted while "no deadlines have been set" for the opening of training camps, all NFL teams "soon must decide whether to delay them, particularly those clubs that stage a portion of camp out of town" (AP, 6/15). Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees said there is "probably a sense of urgency with the season just around the corner." He said that "most players think it will be difficult to start the season on time if no deal is in place by mid-July." Bengals LT and player rep Andrew Whitworth: "Everyone kind of has that feeling, that this thing's starting to end. When you look at the timeline for both sides, it starts to get real serious around this time" (NEWSDAY, 6/16).
The NFL is “looking into a possible trademark infringement case" after images of five players -- Chiefs S Eric Berry and CB Brandon Flowers, Texans CB Kareem Jackson, Raiders WR Jacoby Ford and Bears S Major Wright -- appeared on a flier “advertising their appearance at a Miami club’s party that also featured appearances by porn stars,” according to Kent Babb of the K.C. STAR. Berry and Flowers “were pictured in their Chiefs uniforms as two of the hosts for the May 20 party at Club Play, a Miami Beach nightclub.” The event was billed as “the official Miami launch party” for Exxxotica, a “three-day, adult-themed expo held last month.” Berry yesterday said that he “had no involvement with the party.” Berry: “I wasn’t even in Miami on May 20th. I did not have knowledge of, or consent to my name or image being used to promote, any party involving porn stars.” Flowers also said that “his name and likeness were used to promote the event without his permission.” But Babb reports Flowers “retweeted five messages about the party on his Twitter page leading up to the event.” NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league “was looking into the infringement issue,” and that the league’s legal department “would likely send a cease-and-desist letter to the nightclub that used players in their uniforms.” McCarthy said the letter “usually ends it” (K.C. STAR, 6/16). McCarthy: "It's an intellectual property issue since the players were featured in their team jerseys." He added, “Our legal team is reviewing the ad. In general, companies not affiliated with the NFL or its clubs may not depict a player in his uniform." Bears Media Services Manager Jim Christman said the ad "is an improper use of team marks and the Chicago Bears are not associated with this ad" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 6/15).
GIVING THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY: In Miami, David Neal notes Dolphins draftee Daniel Thomas, Ravens draftee Anthony Allen and Chargers draftee Corey Liuget were among the players to “issue statements distancing themselves from advertisements" for the party. Thomas in a statement through his agent, Sean Kiernan, said, “I had no knowledge of the event and did not authorize the use of my name for this party and will pursue all remedies available to me to protect the use of my name.” Mitch Frankel, Wright’s agent, issued a statement that said Wright “authorized his name and image to be used in association with a party he thought was hosted by other NFL players and didn’t know it would have any association with Exxxotica Expo.” Wright’s statement also “apologized for the usage of a photo of him in his Bears uniform, but said he didn’t authorize that, either” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/16). Jackson in a statement released through his agent, Tony Fleming, said, “I authorized my name to be used at that club with the understanding that it was going to be a party hosted by NFL Players. It was never explained to me (nor) did I ever authorize my name or likeness to be associated with Exxxotica Expo 2011” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).
NO SURPRISE HERE: In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes this incident “would seem to be a scandal with the approximate shelf life of unrefrigerated dairy.” Sullivan: “If you’re not a hysterical talk show host or a professional prude, the idea of athletes associating with women who specialize in exposed skin is not a news flash but a cliché. If some of those athletes are sufficiently dumb or inadequately diligent to allow their names to be used in the same ad that promotes an after-party for the adult expo ‘Exxxotica,’ that’s not a crime and perhaps not even proof of a character flaw” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/16).