WASHINGTON - The football fan in the White House said Wednesday he expects wealthy NFL team owners and players can figure out for themselves how to share the billions of dollars that their sport generates.
"I've got a lot of other stuff to do," President Barack Obama said at a news conference, making clear he had no plans to intervene. The NFL and the players' union met for a 10th day Thursday with a federal mediator not far from the White House, racing to beat a midnight expiration for the current collective bargaining agreement. The biggest sticking point is how to divvy up $9 billion in annual revenues.
Failure to agree on a replacement contract before the deadline would shut down the league and jeopardize the 2011 football season.
The NFL hasn't had a work stoppage since 1987. Obama noted that people across the country are facing economic hardship while millionaire athletes and billionaire owners haggle over a big pot of money, and he commiserated with fans everywhere.
"You've got owners, most of whom are worth close to a billion dollars. You've got players who are making millions of dollars," Obama said, standing in the East Room alongside Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon.
"My working assumption, at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and, you know, paying for their kid's college education, is, is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the president of the United States intervening."
"I'm a big football fan," he said. In fact, he had pledged to go to the Super Bowl in February had his hometown Chicago Bears reached the championship. His dreams were dashed when the Bears lost the NFC championship to the Green Bay Packers.
"But I also think that for an industry that's making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way and be true to their fans, who are the ones who obviously allow for all the money that they're making," Obama said. "So my expectation and hope is, is that they will resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I've got a lot of other stuff to do."
He then proceeded to talk about the crisis in Libya and the U.S. role in providing assistance.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)