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NFL labor negotiations get into revenue sharing

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL players union wants major additions to the revenue pool used to determine player salaries, making negotiations to extend the current contract more difficult than in the past.

Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, will meet in Detroit this week with owners on the league's management council. He is expected to outline a proposal that would add revenues to the television and base ticket sales now used to determine player salaries.

We're concerned about the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots,'' Upshaw said, a concern voiced in a different context by owners such as Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh, Ralph Wilson of Buffalo and Jim Irsay of Indianapolis.And we're concerned that a lot of revenue that should go to players is not being included in the pool.''

The current contract is not due to run out until after the 2007 season, but the NFL and the union have traditionally extended it long before its expiration. They began talks last April on this extension.

Although Upshaw has not been specific, he presumably would like money from luxury suites, stadium naming rights and local endorsements included in the player pool. His proposal might also shift more money from high-revenue teams like Dallas and Washington to those with a much smaller revenue base in helping determine the pool, from which about 65 percent is currently allocated to the players.

Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president for labor relations, said Tuesday the meeting is designed to bring the owners on the committee up to date on Upshaw's position.

We've been talking for six months and it's been a difficult negotiation,'' Henderson said.We thought it would be a good idea for Gene to get together with the owners to get his positions before them.''

The current NFL contract, which established free agency and the salary cap, was first negotiated in 1993 after almost six years without an agreement following the 1987 strike. It was worked out after a federal jury ruled in favor of the union in an antitrust suit filed after the players returned from the three-week walkout.

Since then, negotiations almost always have been smooth and amicable, helped by good personal relationships among Upshaw, Henderson and commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The NFLPA leader has often been used by Tagliabue as an adviser on issues outside of labor, most notably on the decision to postpone games after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But that hasn't stopped these talks from being more contentious than previous ones.

The owners are going to have to accept a big change in the concept we've been working with since 1994,'' Upshaw said.It's not as easy as it has been in the past.''

Henderson suggested that shifting revenue used in the player pool to the lower-revenue teams from the higher-revenue teams would not be acceptable. That's a huge philosophical issue,'' he said.A lot of the owners think it's a disincentive to grow your revenues.''

None of this means there is imminent labor trouble. Nor is there liable to be any.

At this point, there's a lot of posturing,'' Henderson said.It's Gene's job to get more for the players, but at some point, it's too much.''

In addition to Irsay, the other team representatives on the management council committee are Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, the league's senior owner; Jerry Jones of Dallas; Michael Bidwill of Arizona; Mike Brown of Cincinnati; Robert Harlan of Green Bay; John Shaw of St. Louis; and John York of San Francisco.

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