NFL union wins in court as deadline nears

Associated Press


With time running out on the NFL’s labor contract, one team owner — the New York Giants’ John Mara — joined mediated negotiations between the league and players Tuesday, and the union won a key court ruling about TV contract money.

The sides met for six hours Tuesday. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and his group left shortly before 8 p.m. — 52 hours before the current collective bargaining agreement expires.

Mara, the first owner to attend the federal mediation; Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the league’s competition committee; and Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen were among those accompanying NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the eighth day of bargaining overseen by George Cohen. He is the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a U.S. government agency.

“I don’t think you could have a greater sense of urgency,” Jeff Pash, the league’s lead labor negotiator, said on his way into the meeting. “We all know what the calendar is, and we all know what’s at stake for everybody. And that’s why we’re here. We’re going to be here as long as it takes and work as hard as we can work to get something done.”

Afterward, in keeping with Cohen’s order to stay silent on the mediation, neither the NFL nor the union would discuss whether they fared any better Tuesday than they did during more than 40 hours of meetings spread across seven previous days of mediation. When that round ended Thursday, Cohen said the parties still had “very strong differences” on the “all-important core issues.”

Mediation will resume today, when union president Kevin Mawae is expected to be in Washington. He has yet to sit in on this round of talks.

The CBA runs out at midnight as Thursday becomes Friday on the East Coast, and the owners could lock out the players afterward. The union could also decertify — essentially, declare itself out of the business of representing players. The players would then give up their rights under labor law and take their chances in court under antitrust law.

Whatever happens this week could cause the country’s most popular sport to lose regular-season games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1987.

Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson doesn’t expect a new deal by the deadline.

“Everything I’m telling my guys is: Prepare this Friday for the start of a lockout,” Wilson said. “I certainly don’t believe a deal will be reached by Thursday midnight. That’s what I feel in my heart. I have not received any indication that we’re close to a deal.”

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