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NFL Labor: Players' association pressing owners for financial data

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 12:13 AM

The NFL and the players' union remained unable as of Tuesday night to agree to the terms by which the league would comply with the union's demand to disclose additional financial information to the players' side, sources on both sides of the labor dispute said.

The union regards the economic disclosures that it is seeking from the league as crucial to a potential agreement before Friday's new bargaining deadline, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are at a sensitive stage. It is not clear if the league is willing to provide additional financial information to the extent the union is seeking. The union hired a global investment bank that would review the additional financial data if it is provided.

One source said Tuesday evening that the league had made an offer this week to share more financial information by submitting data about teams' profits, but that the union had rejected that offer and was holding out for teams' full financial statements.

The union's demand for additional financial disclosures is not a new one. Players and union officials have said throughout the negotiations that the league should open the books and disclose far more information about teams' finances if it wants the players to agree to economic concessions as part of a new labor deal.

League officials regularly replied earlier in the negotiations that the union had a sufficient amount of information about teams' financial situations to complete a deal. Negotiators for the league and union met Tuesday with federal mediator George H. Cohen at the downtown Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The league and union agreed last week to two postponements of their bargaining deadline, one lasting 24 hours and the other for seven days. The seven-day postponement leaves the current labor deal between the league and union running through 11:59 p.m. Friday.

This week's discussions potentially could lead to a settlement or another postponement.

If not, players could decertify the union Friday, file antitrust litigation against the sport's franchise owners and seek an injunction in court to try to block a lockout of players by the owners that potentially would begin Saturday. Talks resumed Monday after Cohen gave negotiators the weekend off. Sources said the negotiations resumed with the league and union still between $750 million and $800 million per year apart on the issue of how much of the league's approximately $9 billion in annual revenues would go to the players under a salary cap system.

The league originally sought for the union to agree to the owners' being credited with an additional $1 billion annually for expenses before the players' cut of the revenues would be calculated under a salary cap. Under the existing labor deal, the owners were credited with about $1.3 billion per year for expenses, then the players received roughly 60 percent of the remaining revenues.

The league also has proposed lengthening the regular season from 16 to 18 games per team, imposing a wage scale on rookies and having players blood-tested for human growth hormone. In addition, there is an apparent difference between the two sides about whether the sport's labor situation should continue to be overseen by Minneapolis-based U.S. District Judge David S. Doty.

Sources said over the weekend and Monday that if there is a settlement this week, it would be likely to include an 18-game season with reduced offseason workouts and other concessions to the players; a rookie wage scale less restrictive than the version originally proposed by the league; and potentially a tradeoff by which the league might make significant concessions on the division-of-revenues issue in exchange for the union agreeing to allow Doty's oversight of the labor deal to expire. But those sources cautioned that all of that was subject to change this week and the wide gulf between the two sides on the split-of-revenues issue meant that a settlement remained in doubt.

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