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Upshaw ready for strike if NFL owners opt out of labor agreement

1/31/2008 - NFL

PHOENIX -- A defiant Gene Upshaw said that if the NFL's
owners opt out of the current labor agreement later this year, the
players' union is ready for a strike or the decertification tactics
it used to get free agency after the 1987 walkout.

"If they want to get out of the deal, there's nothing we can do
about it," the executive director of the NFL Players Association
said Thursday before the union's annual Super Bowl news conference.
"But we'll be prepared."

The labor agreement reached after tough bargaining in March of
2006 gave both sides the right to opt out in November. That would
lead to 2010 being an uncapped year before the contract expires in
2011.

Several owners, including Denver's Pat Bowlen, have suggested
that the current agreement is leaving some teams cash-strapped and
making it likely that the owners will opt out next year.

Upshaw said that he's heard the complaints and is ready for any
outcome.

"At our meeting in March, our priorities for discussion are
four options: strike, lockout, decertification or extension," he
said.

Extension has been the route of choice for the NFL since its
agreement in 1993 that added free agency and a salary cap for the
first time.

The league had been without a contract since its last strike in
1987. After the players returned to work, the union decertified and
filed an antitrust suit, which they eventually won. That led to the
current CBA, which ended six years without a contract.

In the last 14 years, the contract has been extended numerous
times before expiration.

Upshaw said the biggest disagreement is within the league, among
small-market and large-market owners who disagree over non-shared
revenue, such as local advertising, concessions and parking.
Advertising and local broadcasting rights, in particular, tend to
be greater in larger markets or among teams with new stadiums.

In the 2006 agreement, which was the most difficult to reach
since the 1993 agreement, the players got an extra $850 million to
$900 million in the form of revenue sharing, raising the salary cap
for 2007 to $107 million. Upshaw estimated it will be $116 million
for 2008.

"Everyone's doing well," he said. "The owners say they're not
making money. I think everyone is making money. This isn't hockey,
where the players agreed to a 25 percent pay cut. We're not going
to do anything like that."