NFL owners worried about Bernie Sanders candidacy amid labor talks: Report

Thomas Barrabi
Fox Business

Some NFL owners are concerned about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ status as frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a report Tuesday.

As league officials and player representatives progress in negotiations on a new collective-bargaining agreement, some NFL owners are worried about how the U.S. stock market would react to Sanders’ candidacy, Sports Illustrated reported. Sanders has vowed to impose taxes on the richest Americans and improve financial inequality if elected.

The prospect of a Sanders run has added urgency for NFL owners to finalize a labor deal with players, according to the report. Owners are aiming to secure labor peace and negotiate new media rights deals worth tens of billions of dollars while the market is strong.

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The NFL’s current labor deal expires after the 2020 season. With the current term of NFL’s “Monday Night Football” deal with ESPN set to expire after the 2021 and other media rights contracts soon to follow, league officials are expected to begin negotiations in earnest once a new collective-bargaining deal is in place.

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Aside from Sanders’ candidacy, NFL owners are bracing for a potential hit to the league’s television ratings during the 2020 election cycle. Media pundits frequently cited the contentious 2016 presidential campaign as one of the multiple causes for an NFL ratings slump in 2016 and 2017.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak could exacerbate fears related to economic instability. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped nearly 2,000 points this week as the virus spreads from China to other nations, prompting fears of a global pandemic.

The NFL’s owners voted last week to approve proposed terms of a labor deal, setting up an eventual player vote. Under the proposed deal, NFL players would receive a larger share of league revenue, higher minimum salaries and a reduced slate of full-contact practices in the offseason.

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In addition, NFL owners are pushing for an expanded regular season and postseason slate, including 17 regular-season games. The expanded season is a point of contention for many NFL players who have raised concerns about the potential health risks.

The owners indicated that they would be willing to proceed through the 2020 season without a finalized labor deal if players rejected the current terms.

NFL owners and player representatives were expected to continue negotiations in a meeting Tuesday night. A player vote on the terms is expected this week.

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