Resolution of players' antitrust lawsuit is among final details of NFL lockout negotiations


Leaders for the players’ side of negotiations, DeMaurice Smith, center, and Kevin Mawae speak to reporters outside a law firm where contract talks ended on Friday. (Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)
July 16, 2011

The resolution of the NFL players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league’s franchise owners is among the final details that must be worked out to end the lockout and put the sport back in business.

Attorneys and financial experts for the two sides met Saturday in New York. Those deliberations are to continue Sunday before full negotiating teams are to reconvene Monday. People not involved in the negotiations but familiar with them said they expect the league and players to complete an agreement in principle early in the week, perhaps Monday.

Representatives of the two sides left a negotiating meeting Friday with a tentative agreement virtually in place, according to numerous people within the sport who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations.

The league and players are scheduled to meet Tuesday with their court-appointed mediator, Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan. The owners are to meet Thursday in Atlanta and could vote then to ratify the deal.

The players must take a separate approval vote, perhaps via conference call, and free agency could begin the week of July 24.

The resolution of the players’ lawsuit is the most significant remaining task before the deal becomes official, several people within the sport said. The players dissolved their union and filed the lawsuit March 11, the day before the lockout began, in federal court in St. Paul, Minn. It is not clear whether the deal between the league and the players will be constructed as a settlement of the lawsuit. The players could also withdraw the lawsuit if the two sides agree to a labor deal.

The two sides spent time during negotiating meetings Thursday and Friday discussing reductions in offseason workouts for players and further limitations on hitting in some practices during training camp and the season. It appears that issue will be resolved.

The league and players reached an agreement Thursday on a rookie pay system and appear to have the major economic issues of their dispute resolved, including a salary cap system that will give the players just less than half of the sport’s annual revenues. The salary cap for the upcoming season is to be set at about $141 million per team for players’ salaries and benefits, of which about $120 million is to be devoted to salaries.

The league has proposed having players blood-tested for human growth hormone. It is not yet clear if the players have agreed to that proposal.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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