- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2005

The NFL’s May meetings begin today in Washington, just three blocks from the offices of the NFL Players Association. However, the league and the union are nowhere near being in the same neighborhood when it comes to extending their collective bargaining agreement, which expires in less than two years.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw were chummy while testifying on Capitol Hill last week about their joint commitment to a strong anti-steroids policy. However, Upshaw referred to ?a difficult round? of collective bargaining negotiations. And during the NFL’s March meetings, Tagliabue said the talks were at ?a dead end.?

If the CBA, first signed in 1993, isn’t extended for a fifth time before February 2007, the salary cap would disappear. That likely would set off an unprecedented spending spree and accelerate the gap between the NFL’s haves and its relative have-nots.

The biggest sticking point in hammering out an extension concerns what revenue will be shared. Despite the mammoth television contracts for the NFL, an increasing percentage of revenue is earned from areas like suite and club seat sales, stadium naming rights and local advertising. The lower-revenue clubs and the union both want a bigger share of that money.

?The disparity between the top team and the bottom team has grown phenomenally, and the projection out into the future is just mind-boggling,? Steelers owner Dan Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Owners also will be updated about the sites for a proposed return to Los Angeles, which hasn’t had an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders both left after the 1994 season. Carson pulled out of the running yesterday, leaving Pasadena (the Rose Bowl), downtown (Memorial Coliseum) and Anaheim (Angel Stadium) as the candidates.

The Rams played in Anaheim and the Raiders in the Coliseum before each left town. Super Bowls have been played in Pasadena, most recently 12 years ago. It’s unclear whether an existing team, such as New Orleans, would move to Los Angeles or the NFL would add a 33rd franchise.

The proposed sale of the Minnesota Vikings to a group headed by New Jersey shopping mall king Zygmunt Wilf will be considered by the finance committee and could be voted on by the full ownership. Twenty four of 32 votes are required for approval. The owners also will award the February 2009 Super Bowl to Atlanta, Houston, Miami or Tampa Bay.

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