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DeMaurice Smith Says Players Want a Fair Deal, Not a Lockout

The executive director of the NFL Players Association said players want negotiations on a new contract to succeed. At the same time, he said, the players are preparing for owners to lock them out when the current labor deal expires in early March.

DeMaurice Smith said in a pre-Super Bowl news conference yesterday that National Football League players want transparency and fairness, and that owners have yet to demonstrate why they need players to make concessions on issues including pay.

“All we have ever wanted is a deal that is fair,” Smith told reporters at the union news conference in Dallas. “All we’ve wanted is a deal that is good for former, future and current players. I don’t know how we get there without the kind of financial transparency that ensures their interests are shared, mutual and moving forward.”

NFL owners voted in 2008 to opt out of the labor deal after this season, saying it didn’t account for costs such as those of building stadiums. Talks have included topics such as what share of revenue players should get, expanding the season to 18 games from 16, a rookie salary cap and health care.

Jeff Pash, the NFL’s chief negotiator, called any idea that the owners want a lockout “nonsensical.”

Negotiations are scheduled to resume in the Dallas area tomorrow, the day before the NFL title game.

Smith said the Players Association may be willing to abandon its status as a union and sue in the event of a lockout, arguing the NFL’s 32 teams are independent businesses colluding to restrict pay.

Smith said he disagrees with the league’s stance that teams can still use the franchise tag, preventing a player from becoming an unrestricted free agent by paying him an average of the top-five highest salaries at his position.

“If there’s no CBA, the franchise tags will be meaningless,” he said.

Kevin Mawae, the union’s president, said he’s not concerned that players will split in a situation that requires solidarity.

“I represent 1,900 active players and thousands of former players and we’re a family,” he said. “

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