NFL Labor Fumble: Union Dissolves, Owners Lock Out Players

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There were reports this week that the owners offered to give individual team financial statements to a third party auditor agreed upon with the union. The union could not see the statements firsthand, but the auditor would verify that the data is accurate.

"The NFL demanded a multi-billion dollar giveback and refused to provide any legitimate financial information to justify it," the players' association said in a statement, calling the league's offer "not financial disclosure" and "meaningless."

Second, there's the schedule. The league wants to add two more regular season games, for a total of 18. Players say that would increase their risk of injury, and they deserve compensation.

The head of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith, said this week that an 18-game schedule was a non-starter for the union but indicated that it had not been a key item for discussion during negotiations.

"The NFL kept on the table its hypocritical demand for an 18-game season, despite its public claims to be working toward improving the heath and safety of players," the players' association said in a statement.

NFL Lockout: League Says 'We're Trying'

The two sides had been meeting in Washington for more than two weeks, trying to reach a compromise to avert the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.

"We're discouraged, we're frustrated, we're disappointed, but we are not giving up," NFL executive vice-president and general counsel Jeff Pash said Friday.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized over the past two months that the league and owners understood that a work stoppage would hurt the clubs, the players, the game, the fans and the league's corporate sponsors.

"If we are unsuccessful [in negotiations], uncertainty will continue," he said during a press conference before the Super Bowl last month. "That uncertainty will lead to a reduction in revenue, and when that revenue decreases there is less for us to share," he said, adding that that would make it harder to reach an agreement.

Goodell and Pash today made good on their pledge to reduce their salaries to $1 if there is a work stoppage. Goodell's normal salary is $10 million per year and Pash is paid $5 million.

The labor dispute comes after what arguably was the NFL's most successful year. Television viewership was up 13 percent and the Super Bowl was watched by a record 111 million people.

At face value, the dispute looks like a fight between billionaire owners and millionaire athletes, but Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers called that view "shameful."

NFL Work Stoppage Would Hurt Economy

"I played four years in this league at league minimum, married with a family of three, having to sustain two lives -- and believe me, I was nowhere close to being a millionaire," he told ESPN Wednesday. "The public perception is that it is just two rich groups of people fighting over money, and that's not the case."

The NFL players are highlighting what a work stoppage would mean for the economy in NFL cities.

In meetings last month with members of Congress, including Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and such former NFL players as Reps. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and Jon Runyan, R-N.J., current and former NFL players focused on how a lockout and canceled season could hurt their communities.

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