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Obama staying on sideline in NFL labor negotiations

Noting that it's a time that many Americans are 'having to cut back,' President Obama says NFL players and owners 'should be able to work it out without the president of the United States intervening.' Also, he says, 'I've got a lot of other stuff to do.'

March 04, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Already consumed by a host of domestic and foreign policy challenges, President Obama is punting on a top concern of many Americans -- pro football.

During a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday, Obama was asked if he would personally intervene in negotiations between National Football League owners and players, ahead of a potential lockout that could start Friday.

The president suggested that Americans would have little sympathy for either side in a dispute between wealthy athletes and even wealthier owners.

"At a time when people are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kid's college education … the two parties should be able to work it out without the president of the United States intervening," Obama said.

Obama is known to be a football junkie; he again hosted a Super Bowl party at the White House last month. Had the Chicago Bears, his favorite team, made the league's championship game, the president said he would have gone himself. But he has no plans to inject himself into the negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.

"My expectation and hope is that they will resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I've got a lot of other stuff to do," Obama said.

A prolonged labor dispute could potentially be an economic issue for league cities, depriving local governments of tax revenues and the economic activity surrounding weekly games during the season. Lawmakers from Indiana last week sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Assn. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith urging them to resolve the dispute so it would not threaten next year's Super Bowl, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis.

"Each regular season game brings millions of dollars in economic benefit to NFL cities such as Indianapolis, impacting not just players and coaches, but stadium employees, restaurants, hotels, retailers and others," the state's congressional delegation wrote. "As our state continues to recover from the recent economic crisis, it is critically important that the 2011 NFL season proceed unimpeded."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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