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NFL Labor Talks Renew Optimism About Deal Before Season Begins

June 16 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League and its players will continue talks that have renewed optimism that the sides can end a three-month-old shutdown of the U.S.’s most-popular sport before the scheduled start of the season.

The NFL and its Players Association said in a joint statement yesterday that talks took place again this week under the supervision of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan and will continue. The sides have agreed to maintain confidentiality on the substance of the talks at the request of Boylan. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, attended the sessions.

Owners of the league’s 32 teams are scheduled to meet in Chicago on June 21, with clubs being told to prepare to stay late or overnight, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

That follows three weeks of labor talks that may prevent a delay of the regular season, according to two people with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of negotiations and the media blackout imposed by the judge.

The approach of the season -- training camps typically start in late July -- probably is speeding efforts to reach a deal on how to divide about $9 billion in revenue, said Bob Bruno, who teaches labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The NFL in March locked out players, who sued the league for antitrust violations and wage-fixing in federal court, led by Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

In addition to Goodell, the NFL’s representatives at this week’s meetings include Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New York Giants owner John Mara and Dean Spanos, who owns the San Diego Chargers, according to the statement.

Player representatives included, along with Smith, Kevin Mawae, Domonique Foxworth, Tony Richardson, Jeff Saturday and Brian Waters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in New York at akuriloff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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