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NFL Labor Deal Unlikely Before Super Bowl, Union Says

NFL Player's Association President Kevin Mawae
Center Kevin Mawae #68 of the Tennessee Titans and President of the NFL Player's Association. Photographer: Doug Benc/Getty Images

The National Football League and its players union are unlikely to reach a labor agreement before this season’s Super Bowl title game, union head Kevin Mawae said.

Mawae, president of the NFL Players Association, said players and owners haven’t made significant progress since meetings in November. He said the union has made proposals to solve disputes over topics including expansion of the season to 18 games from 16 and establishing a pay ceiling for rookies.

“Getting a deal done by Super Bowl weekend is not a real possibility,” Mawae, 39, said on a conference call with reporters. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 6.

Owners in the U.S.’s most-watched sports league voted in 2008 to opt out of the labor agreement with players after this season, saying the deal didn’t account for rising costs, such as those of building stadiums. Mawae said the union is preparing for a lockout and hoping to reach a new accord before the old one expires in March.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters after a league meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas, this month that a labor agreement may be in place by the Super Bowl “if we all commit to it and work hard at it.”

Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, called Mawae’s comments regarding the status of talks “unfortunate, but perhaps not surprising.” He said the league is concerned that Mawae and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith have decided to stall and pursue a strategy of litigation and asking for help from U.S. lawmakers.

‘Economic Reality’

“There is an agreement to be made if both sides acknowledge economic reality and are equally focused on reaching an agreement,” Aiello said in an e-mail.

Mawae said salaries and expanding the season remained the two major sticking points. The union has proposed increasing health care and reducing off-season practices in exchange for expanding the season, he said. The union has also offered a deal for a rookie wage scale if owners guaranteed $100 million a year for retired players and $100 million in additional salary for veterans.

Aiello said those issues have been discussed at the bargaining table. The union rejected a league proposal for a rookie wage scale in 2010 that would have sent the first $100 million to retired players, he said.

“We are not interested in the status quo,” Aiello said. “We want a better CBA for the game, the players, retired players and the fans.”

Mawae said the NFL needs to show players audited financial documents that demonstrate the owners’ grievances.

“Show us how what you’re asking to do makes sense to the players,” Mawae said. “You’re asking us for two more games when we only have five years of post-career health insurance. Show us how that makes sense.”

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