Upshaw says union expects 'greedy' owners to opt out of labor deal

Updated: May 17, 2008, 6:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Gene Upshaw called NFL owners, who are ready to opt out of the current labor deal, "greedy."

"In their mind, a loss means they didn't make as much [money] as they thought they were going to make," said Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, during a panel discussion at the Sports Lawyers Association annual conference on Saturday.

The NFL owners and players reached the agreement in 2006, but both sides have the option of reopening it by Nov. 8. Upshaw said the owners could notify the players they are reopening the deal on Tuesday in Atlanta, a move that could result in a 2011 work stoppage.

"The owners have made it very clear that they intend to opt out of this agreement early," Upshaw said. "Our players are prepared for that."

Upshaw said the NFL owners have brought in negotiators used by the NHL before their lockout.

"The way that they are going all about this points directly to a lockout," Upshaw said.

Upshaw said the players will not reduce their 60 percent share of the league's revenue pie. He also said if the owners reopen the current agreement, it would result in the elimination of the league salary cap starting with the 2010 season. He warned if the cap is eliminated, the players will not agree to reinstitute it.

"I've made it clear to the owners that we're not accepting a deal that pays us less than we're already making," Upshaw said, pointing to growing annual revenue that tops $7 billion.

Dennis Curran, senior vice president and general counsel for the NFL's bargaining arm, expressed confidence a new agreement could be reached if the contract was reopened, but acknowledged the owners have issues with the current deal.

"It's too early to say," Curran said of whether the owners will opt out of the current deal. "I wouldn't want to predict what's going to happen, except I will say ... that a lot of our clubs are unhappy with the mechanics of the deal since 2006."

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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