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NFL labor strife never too far off, league sets an artificial deadline to get deal done in 2020

The NFL just had a fun postseason, a great Super Bowl and a marvelous story with the Kansas City Chiefs breaking a 50-year Super Bowl drought.

Now, for the not-so-fun stuff.

There’s a labor battle that has been brewing for many years. And the NFL is putting an artificial deadline on getting a new collective-bargaining agreement in place.

The players are meeting on Thursday, but the 17-game regular season schedule remains a sticking point.

(UPDATE: An NFL spokesman said Thursday afternoon that an ESPN report that there was a deadline on CBA talks was “inaccurate and baseless.”)

Players don’t want expanded schedule

A source told ESPN a vote on the owners’ latest proposal probably won’t happen, because opposition to a 17-game regular season among players is “currently too strong.” There was a “near-unanimous disapproval” among players when the 17-game schedule was pitched during a meeting in Miami, ESPN said. Player safety is the main reason for the opposition.

ESPN said in its initial report on Thursday morning that the NFL gave the players a deadline of March 18, the start of the 2020 league year, for a new deal. If there’s no deal by then, ESPN said talks will be tabled indefinitely.

On Thursday afternoon the NFL denied there was any such deadline.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell faces a few key weeks in getting a new labor deal done. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

NFL is riding a wave of popularity

The players have been irked by many things in the current CBA, including commissioner Roger Goodell’s power, and have been warning about a work stoppage for years.

The NFL is wildly successful. It blows away all other sports in television ratings and interest on the whole. Losing significant time to a labor battle would threaten that popularity. Neither side would win if games are lost in 2021.

But the NFL likes to dominate the union in labor negotiations, and the players have been expressing dissatisfaction with this current CBA for a long time. It seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached before March 18. Then we’ll all see what happens next.

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