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NFL talks extended for 24 hours

By the CNN Wire Staff
NFL owners and the players union have until Midnight Thursday to reach an agreement or face a potential work stoppage.
NFL owners and the players union have until Midnight Thursday to reach an agreement or face a potential work stoppage.
  • Negotiations extension averts lockout, for now
  • NFL owners and players are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement
  • A federal mediator is overseeing the talks
  • Without an agreement, a lockout and litigation are likely

As the negotiations continue, here are the key questions and answers surrounding the labor dispute.

(CNN) -- Negotiations between NFL owners and the players union on a new collective bargaining agreement were given a 24-hour extension Thursday, according to a statement from the league.

"The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to extend the expiration of the (collective bargaining agreement) for 24 hours and continue negotiating under the direction" of federal mediator George Cohen, the statement said.

"The agreement by both sides to refrain from comment on the negotiations remains in place."

Representatives of the players and owners have been meeting in Washington.

"I just want to say to all of our fans who dig our game, we appreciate your patience while we work through this," said NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. "We're going to keep working. We want to play football."

NFL lockout deadline looms

Without a last-minute agreement or the extension of the deadline, the NFL Players Association had been expected to decertify on Thursday afternoon -- meaning it would stop being the collective bargaining agent for the players.

By decertifying, the union would clear the way for the players to file an antitrust lawsuit if the owners lock out the players as soon as Friday, after the current contract expires.

All of that would mean the first NFL work stoppage since 1987 and the likelihood of months of labor and legal maneuvering for football fans already confused about how a $9 billion industry lacks enough money to satisfy everyone.

Even if there is a lockout, the NFL draft would proceed as scheduled on April 28-30, the league says. All other regular off-season activity would cease, threatening to delay or cancel the start of the 2011 season now scheduled for September 8.

Asked about the talks, President Obama said Thursday that the parties ought to be able to figure out how to split the revenue and keep fans happy.

"You've got owners, most of whom are worth close to a billion dollars, you've got players who are making millions of dollars," he said during a joint news conference with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

"My working assumption, at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kids' college education is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the president of the United States intervening."

Currently, the owners take about $1 billion off the top of league revenue, and the players get 60 percent of the rest. For a new contract, the owners want to double their take off the top to $2 billion, with the players continuing to get 60 percent of the rest. The NFL generated $9.3 billion in revenue in 2010.

Other issues include a proposal by the owners to increase the regular season schedule to 18 games from the current 16. The overall number of games per season, including exhibition games, would remain at the current 20.

The players' union questions why the owners should get additional money up front and challenges the league's 32 teams to fully open their financial records. The owners, who say they are not legally obligated to provide full financial disclosure, argue they are looking out for the long-term stability of the franchises and the league.

If there is a lockout, players won't get their salaries or bonuses, and if the shutdown forces the league to cancel games next season, the NFL estimates a loss of $400 million in revenue each week.

Another possible scenario from the talks would have Cohen declare an impasse that would automatically extend the rules of the expiring collective bargaining agreement. Such an impasse can only occur if neither side takes steps to halt the negotiations, such as the union decertifying or the owners declaring a lockout.