KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt does not foresee labor peace coming soon to the NFL.
“I do believe there is a compromise that gets a deal done,” said Hunt, who was part of the owners’ negotiation team. “But at this point I don’t think the sides are ready to discuss that. And it takes both parties. That’s the key. If you’ve got one side that wants to make a deal and the other one doesn’t, then it doesn’t matter how close we might have been when we were (in negotiations) in Washington. It just isn’t going to happen.”
Hunt spoke Friday shortly before a federal appeals court in St. Louis granted the owners’ request to put on hold temporarily the district court ruling of Monday, which had lifted the 45-day lockout and allowed players back inside team facilities.
Hunt said he believes all 32 teams are being hurt by the dispute, but declined to say how far apart the two sides are.
“I can’t disclose what happened on those mediations because, in one case, they were court-ordered and what takes place there is supposed to stay confidential,” he said. “There are three or four key issues. But I think the most important one is the salary cap and what’s the right level for the salary cap.”
Hunt, whose late father, Lamar, founded the Chiefs and the American Football League, believes there will be a 2011 season but is not as confident that training camps will open on time in late July.
“That’s harder to predict. The league does have some contingencies built in that would allow the schedule to be adjusted so that we could hopefully get a full schedule in,” Hunt said. “But I can’t predict whether we’re going to get to camp on time or not.”
Hunt said he’s seen surveys that indicate the public is disgusted with both fans and owners.
“Surveys that I’ve seen don’t seem to find a lot of sympathy for either side. I think that’s very understandable,” he said. “And we’re very appreciative of our fans’ support, the support they’ve shown us not only last year but also this year.”
After going 10-6 last season and winning their first AFC West title since 2003, the Chiefs have enjoyed a surge in season ticket sales.
“We lead the league right now in new ticket sales. And it’s not by a small margin,” Hunt said. “It’s a very substantial number. So I think our fans feel very good about the direction the football team is headed. But we understand this uncertainty we’re going through with the labor situation is hard on everybody. Not just the fans, but our corporate partners, certainly the (Chiefs) staff here.”
He expects the fan backlash to deepen the longer the dispute drags on.
“It’s very hard to measure. I believe that on the margin that all 32 teams are being hurt, whether it’s season ticket sales, whether it’s sponsorship sales. I think quantifying that is very difficult,” Hunt said. “In our situation, we’ve had a lot of success selling new season tickets. But maybe we would have sold more had this uncertainty not been going on.
“I do believe it’s affecting the business,” Hunt added. “No doubt about it. And the longer it goes on, the more affect it will have _ in other words, as we get closer to the start of training camp and the preseason and regular season.”
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