Sports Commentary 3/1

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Mornings with Ray Dunaway
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The NFL Talks continue as D-Day approaches.

The month of the madness is underway, and this March it isn’t limited to college basketball. I’m not talking about the New York National League team, either, though the potential for a mad March in Queens is very real with recievership a very likely next scenario for the Madoff Mets. The National Football League may be poised for it’s maddest March ever as seven straight days of negotiations under the watchful eye of a federal mediator have produced only slight progress on minor differences while the owners and players remain oceans apart on the most combustible issues, restructuring of revenue distribution, an eighteen game season and a rookie wage scale. March opens with the first negotiating session since last Thursday and the players are wasting no time in getting the madness underway with team by team votes already being taken to approve decertification of the union before the current collective bargaining agreement runs out Thursday night. When the clock strikes midnight a string of events will begin to unfold that are likely to make March Madness in college basketball look like a season of sanity. The owners could institute a lockout, which would have an almost immediate effect of backing up team’s off season schedules, including the opening of mini camps and even the regular training camps. By decertifying the union the players would be able to circumvent the National Labor Relations Act, which bars unions from taking management to court. While a number of unions cast a wary eye at the decertification strategy it would allow players to file individual antitrust suits against the league. The owners positioned themselves for a potential lockout and the possibility of a lost season when they negotiated their current television contract and, financially, they’re in a much more advantageous position than the players. The T-V contract allows them to recieve a four and a half billion dollar advance from their network partners even if there are no games to broadcast, a war chest the players could never hope to match. The trump card for the players is the potential for a rash of anti trust suits, open court arguments against a privelege enjoyed by major league sports owners while being denied to other industries, the right to operate and negotiate as a single entity with their only competition coming from within their own ranks. Sports owners cringe whenever their exemption is aired in a public forum with members of congress making their own reassessments with every argument. Both sides have good reasons to want to get a deal done before the current CBA runs out, but with the major differences standing between them it’s not likely there will be a seamless flow into next season and Friday morning could be just the beginning of madness like the old month of March has never seen before. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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