A few select NFL owners, the head of the NFLPA and commissioner Roger Goodell have met under the cloak of secrecy in Chicago in an effort to end the 79 day NFL lockout.
The Chicago Tribune reported today that NFL owners Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson flew into DuPage Airport along with NFL commish Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith for a stealth meeting to lay the groundwork for a potential labor deal. It would be the first face-to-face meetings by the two sides in weeks.
Reports also are that many NFL owners and players were unaware of the talks themselves.
More importantly, all sides left their lawyers at home. The Tribune ran pictures of the owners boarding their private jets after the talks.
Both sides have been awaiting a decision from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis on Friday, and word has leaked that the court will punt a decision off until July. This would disappoint the owners more so than the players by putting training camp and NFL preseason games in jeopardy.
Though players would not feel the impact of the lockout in their pocketbook until the first regular season games were canceled, owners may be feeling the affect already. Last week at the owners meeting in Indianapolis, Goodell admitted that the lockout was having a negative impact on fans, evidenced by the fact that NFL Draft tv ratings were down by 4 million viewers compared to last year and that traffic to NFL.com was also off significantly.
Owners have a contingency plan that would allow for a full 16 game season if the first three regular season games are canceled. That would enable players to still receive a full season of pay and permit tv partners to get their full slate of games. However, owners run the risk of missing out on preseason ticket and local television revenue as well as being forced to sell last minute season ticket packages, luxury boxes and advertising sponsorship deals.
Under this scenario the only party to suffer would be the owners, not to mention they run the risk of major and multiple tv blackouts in markets where home games are not sold out, not good for Goodell’s NFL brand or the owners bottom line.