- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2009

From combined dispatches

TAMPA, Fla. | Though confident of reaching a new labor agreement before the 2010 season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell criticized a union report that said the league was highly profitable and therefore the current revenue-sharing system still works.

“There’s a lot of fiction in that report,” Goodell said at his annual state of the NFL news conference Friday.

On Thursday, a union-commissioned study showed the average value of franchises has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion in the past decade, and that teams averaged a $24.7 million profit in the last year - even as the economy took a turn for the worse.

Goodell disputed those figures and defended the owners’ decision to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement, which assures players about 60 percent of the applicable revenues. If a new deal is not reached after the 2009 season, the following year would be played without a cap. The union says if the salary cap disappears, it won’t accept one later.

In 2011, the league could face its first labor stoppage since 1987.

“The $24 million in profits is completely inaccurate,” Goodell said. “We understand our numbers. Ownership has spent a lot of time evaluating the current CBA and determined it is better to terminate that agreement and come up with a new one that will be beneficial to the clubs and players.

“I’m optimistic we will be able to sit down and reach an agreement with our players to allow the league to grow.”

The union is in the midst of appointing a successor to longtime executive director Gene Upshaw, who died in August. Once that happens, negotiations can begin.

Miss America needs access

Fresh from becoming Miss America, Katie Stam would like to see another winner crowned this weekend.

Only one problem: She doesn’t have a ticket to the Super Bowl.

“I’m still hoping,” Stam said.

The 22-year-old University of Indianapolis student won her title Saturday night in Las Vegas. She’s in town this weekend for Taste of the NFL, a charitable event that combines chefs, athletes and entertainers.

Stam was the first Miss Indiana to win the pageant. This Hoosier said her favorite sport is football, not hoops.

“I know, it’s supposed to be basketball,” she said.

She was raised in Seymour, about 60 miles south of Indianapolis. Rather than the home-state Colts, she roots for the Chicago Bears.

Mayors make their bet

The mayors of the Super Bowl cities have made their wager: a tree vs. a tree - of sorts.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who has taken to calling himself Steelerstahl since the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens to advance to the Super Bowl, has accepted the bet offered by Glendale, Ariz., Mayor Elaine Scruggs.

If the Steelers win, Glendale officials must plant a tree native to Pennsylvania outside University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. If the Cardinals win, Ravenstahl must see that a cactus is planted outside of Heinz Field, where the Steelers play.

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