Mark Curnutte offers the latest on the Cincinnati Bengals

Mark Curnutte started covering the Bengals and the NFL for The Enquirer in 2000. He previously wrote about urban affairs and other social issues for the Enquirer. He won the prestigious 1994 Unity Award from Lincoln University (Missouri) for "A Polite Silence," a seven-day series about race relations in Greater Cincinnati. He also has worked as an assistant features editor and features writer at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. Curnutte is second vice president and a three-year board member of the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA). He is a 1984 Miami University graduate.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NFL votes not to extend labor deal

By Mark Curnutte

NFL owners voted this morning to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

A league meeting is underway today in Atlanta, where 24 of 32 owners would have had to vote to extend the contract. No vote total was yet available.

The Enquirer requested an interview with Bengals president Mike Brown, but the club said that the NFL has sent a directive to all teams that the only league comment on the matter is to come through the office of commissioner Roger Goodell. NFLPA executive director is holding a national conference call at 11:30 this morning.

In a statement released this morning, following the vote, the NFL assured fans that football would be played uninterrupted for at least the next three seasons.

“The 2008 and 2009 seasons will be played with a salary cap,” the league said in its statement. “If there is no new agreement before the 2010 season, that season will be played without a salary cap under rules that also limit the free agency rights of the players. If not extended, the agreement would expire at the end of the 2010 league year.”

In March 2006, Brown and the Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson were the only two team owners of 32 to vote against the union proposal to extend the labor contract through 2011.

Brown and Wilson saw the proposal, which gave players 60 percent of league revenues -- another $850 million of the more than $6 billion NFL – as disastrous for small-market teams.

Now some notable big-market owners – Jerry Jones in Dallas, Robert Kraft of New England and Pat Bowlen in Denver – are saying the deal is not good for the NFL.
They have said teams will struggle because players have too much money.
And though increasing numbers of team owners now think the deal was, in the words of Bowlen to The Rocky Mountain News, “not our smartest move,” they aren’t aligned in their vision for the league’s future.

No statement of reaction is available yet on the NFL Players Association web site, but Upshaw was quoted Monday on the site and said the action was expected for the past six months.

“If they don't do it next week then it will be soon after that," Upshaw said in a statement posted Monday. “They want to opt out and we don't.”

On its site, the NFLPA said measures already were underway to try to reach a new agreement.

“The end of the agreement does not necessarily mean that there will be a work stoppage,” the union wrote.

Upshaw has predicted that owners could lock out the players in 2011.
Upshaw already has have several early discussions with owners, including Bowlen and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, two people that the union expects to be heavily involved in long-term talks.

The discussions will feature two sides that are both making a lot of money.

“The NFL earns very substantial revenues. But the clubs are obligated by the CBA to spend substantially more than half their revenues – almost $4.5 billion this year alone -- on player costs,” the NFL said in a statement. “In addition, as we have explained to the union, the clubs must spend significant and growing amounts on stadium construction, operations and improvements to respond to the interests and demands of our fans. The current labor agreement does not adequately recognize the costs of generating the revenues of which the players receive the largest share.”

The NFL has enjoyed labor peace for 20 years.


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