NFL lockout: five reasons Super Bowl could be last pro football of 2011

Coming off the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, reality is about to hit football fans hard. Owners and players must agree to a new collective-bargaining agreement by March 4, or the owners will lock out the players, essentially suspending pro football indefinitely. Behind the NFL's recent success are stark concerns. Here are five of the most important sticking points to be overcome to avoid the league's first labor-related work stoppage since 1987.

1. Player pay cut

Bill Kostroun/AP/File
According to Forbes magazine, the New York Jets and Giants are $750 million and $650 million in debt, respectively, because of their efforts to build the new Meadowlands Stadium, pictured here on May 25, 2010.

National Football League revenues come to about $9 billion a year. The league says about 60 percent of that goes to player salaries, and owners say that is too much. They want to shave 18 percent off the pool of money that is used to calculate the overall league salary cap.

The owners argue that, while the league is immensely successful as a whole, many owners have gone deep into debt to finance new stadiums in the past decade – anticipating revenues that never materialized because of the recent recession.

Before agreeing to a pay cut, NFL Players Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith is demanding line-by-line audits of teams to prove expenses are, in fact, rising faster than revenue. The NFL has so far refused, saying that it has never offered the figures to the union before.

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