NFL players will get better deals only by missing game checks

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As NBA free agency continues, NFL players continue to gripe about how much more money NBA players make. Setting aside the inherent differences between the sports, the money paid to NFL players flows directly from the deal they’ve done at the bargaining table.

So if NFL players want more money, they need to cut a better deal.

That’s far easier said than done, for one very significant reason: NFL players don’t want to miss game checks. To get truly meaningful change, NFL players would have to miss a full season.

Ever since the failed strike of 1987, a sense has lingered that NFL players won’t sacrifice money and the ability to play football to improve the broader financial circumstances for themselves and, ultimately, for the next generation of NFL players. The 2011 lockout ended in large part because the players didn’t want to miss game checks, accepting the best financial offer that the owners had put on the table, along with plenty of favorable non-financial terms that resulted in reduced offseason programs and less intense training-camp and regular-season practices.

With four years left on the current labor deal, owners aren’t complaining about it — and all that that implies. If players want a better deal the next time around, they need to start planning for it now.

And here’s the key, which we’ve mentioned before but with players beginning to realize the connection between what they individually make and what they’ve collectively agreed to earn merits a reiteration: The players need to begin laying the foundation for an alternative way to generate revenue, if they get locked out by the owners or if the players launch a strike.

The best alternative way to generate revenue will be to create a separate league that will stage games on the same Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays that NFL games would have been played. Tentative stadium deals should be put in place, tentative broadcast deals should be negotiated, and the entire business infrastructure should be developed so that the NFLPA can simply flip the switch and stage games if/when it needs to.

None of it should happen in secret, either. To maximize the effectiveness of the strategy, the players need to make sure everyone knows what they’re planning to do, since the mere threat of an alternative league that would capture some of the billions the owners will sacrifice will motivate the NFL to avoid that outcome.

It’s a fair and proper approach for the players, especially since the biggest flaw in the players’ ability to hold firm during a work stoppage is their inability to get paid to play football. While they surely won’t get paid as much, they will earn something in the short term and, more importantly, they will position themselves to earn more in the long term by getting the best possible deal for themselves and the players who will follow them.

And then, a few years from now, maybe NBA players will be complaining during March about all the money NFL players are making in free agency.

70 responses to “NFL players will get better deals only by missing game checks

  1. Not in the NFL, never played football of any sort, but one has to wonder when the desire for more money will ever stop. These guys make multi-millions of dollars and they’re not satisfied that people are making more.

    Difference in perspective, I suppose.

  2. MLB missed a season in 90s and I stopped watching. I literally have not watched a single inning since.p

  3. That seems kind of dumb to me. Granted, I am no labor lawyer but it seems to me that if you disband the union and walk out on your job and then go do the same job for a different employer then you can be replaced by someone else in your old job. How long before any CBA gains become replaced? That concept you describe lacks sustainability. If the owners were willing to forego a season before then they will almost certainly just hire different players on 1 year contracts while the ex-players flail around. After a couple years, the NFL will have new stars and as good as these guys are it will just seem like they all retired. Your idea requires players to PAY people in the hopes of getting paid later. Any gains (if the league decides to negotiate later) will likely be offset as soon as they realize how much money it costs to put on a football game on a professional level.

  4. @Kapodaco – The owners locked the players out after the 2010 season because they wanted more than the billions they were bringing in.

    The best strategy isn’t to create an alternative league- this would enable the owners to say the players are striking, and then bring in replacement players (scabs). What the players need to do is decertify their union and then sue the NFL on the grounds of antitrust.

  5. They only need 2 things to pull it off.

    1. Find a money man to back them.

    2. Allow medical marijuana in this alternate league.

    The NFL would fold faster than a cheap trailer in a tornado if they could put that together.

  6. This is really a one sided article.

    The owners offered to share the costs on things post football medical insurance and and other post football programs for players.

    The players didn’t want any programs that resulted in 1 less $ in their pockets today.

    Plenty of articles lamenting when players do something stupid after football but zero articles lamenting how the players continue to do it to themselves with their short sighted view.

    Apparantly everything will be solved by giving the players a few more bucks today because they will surely save it for later.

    The players aren’t getting the shaft, there’s even a school of thought that the decreased hitting practices contribute to more early season injuries.

    Don’t get me started about the NBA. There’s a reason the Sixers tanked for the top pick, it is because it is the only way to compete in that screwed up league.

  7. Here’s a better idea. We cut rosters down from 53 to 22. That way the existing guys can make more! Just like the NBA!

    The other ones? Meh, who cares.

  8. The NFL can’t find quarterbacks now to fill all teams now. Where do you think they’ll find 32 starters and 32 backups. Oh wait….. Todd Marinovich just hit the market…

  9. The NBA has fewer players to pay. I wish I knew the average amount players in the NBA and NFL generate individually in proportion to each league’s annual revenue. MLB players can make a lot of money but again they have smaller rosters too.

    NBA and MLB players both can argue that they play a hell a lot more games yearly than the NFL.

  10. The continuing whine about money from some players and some of the media would reach a more favorable audience if the player’s salaries hadn’t doubled (or more in a lot of cases) over the last decade.

    And the best news for the players is that the biggest gains have been made in the areas of the middle and lower casts. So please, if you want to use your bullypulpit in a more constructive way, use it to promote a $15 minimum wage, and try and work 50 weeks a year and raise a family on $30,000. At the same time minimum wage players (say $500,000) are earning $25,000/WEEK!!!!!!!(from end of July to end of December)

    The dicotomy is so great, even for short lived careers, that it makes it impossible to feel sorry for a second for these players.

    And as for guaranteed contracts…. PLEASE. It makes no sense to compare the other pro leagues deals to the NFL. This is a contact sport. A sport that would no be able to support itself if it didn’t protect itself from injury riskes.

    First every players contract IS guaranteed IF they make the team. What a concept. Be good enough to make the team in September and we will guarantee your contract for the rest of the year.

    Ideally I’d be for having them all play under one year contracts and ALL be FA’s after every season, except the unique aspect of the game of football. If you want a good product there has to be at least SOME continuity.

    But as long as BB’s here in NE, I’d go along with that format, because he’d produce a better product under those conditions than anyone else. So my expectations wouldn’t change.

  11. The average career length of an NFL player is so short that missing a few checks could be tantamount to losing 10-15- even 20% of potential career earnings.

    Not going to happen…

  12. Owners have all the power. And that will never change. I’d love to see the players walk out on the league only have to a strong dose of reality hit them. Most will become desperate after sometime and sign anything the owners put in front of them.

    Employees don’t call the shots. Ever.

  13. saintlvr says:
    Jul 8, 2017 7:24 PM
    The NFL can’t find quarterbacks now to fill all teams now. Where do you think they’ll find 32 starters and 32 backups. Oh wait….. Todd Marinovich just hit the market…

    Kaepernick!!! We need you!

  14. “And then, a few years from now, maybe NBA players will be complaining during March about all the money NFL players are making in free agency.”

    That will NEVER happen – the economics are completely different, and there is no slice of the pie that will ever be big enough in the NFL, to match the NBA…

  15. This will never happen. The owners will just hire players who want to play in the NFL, and in two draft’s time nobody will remember the old players names.

  16. Focus on playing conditions first.

    Teams should NOT play Thursday games unless it is after a Bye. I would love to see players refuse to put their health at risk in this way by refusing to play those Thursday games. Win that battle and then pick another.

  17. First of all, I don’t think the idea of creating an alternate league is all that practical. I can’t see the networks jumping in line to pay big money for a product that they don’t know if will even be worth watching. I can’t see the NFL allowing it to happen either.

    So what’s next? Will they start complaining about how much money soccer players are making and want even more? Let’s face it…no amount of money will keep them from crying about wanting more–never mind the fact that most of them make more in ONE year than most people will make in their entire lifetime.

    I’m sick of all the professional athletes whining about money all the time. They get paid a king’s ransom to play a game and whine like a little child. Not that it matters anyway because probably 90% of them are broke a few years after their career ends. Cry me a river.

  18. The only places “alternative” leagues could play are college stadiums which are also in use during that time period. NFL stadiums are either owned in full or in part by the team, or the team has right of first refusal who can play there during the NFL season. Only the big schools have legit seats in their stadiums… there are a lot of aluminum bleachers out there.

    As for television… no one, and I mean no one, will watch striking NFL players trying to put on exhibition games – because that’s what they’ll be. If you think the Pro Bowl isn’t real football, alternative games will be worse. What star player will put their health on the line by playing at full NFL effort for unknown money? WR tears a ham in an alternative game, then the strike is settled and he can’t play – don’t think for a second the teams won’t class that as NFI and hold it against the player. Not a chance will a team take financial responsibility for injuries in unauthorized football games.

  19. patfanken says:
    Jul 8, 2017 7:25 PM
    The continuing whine about money from some players and some of the media would reach a more favorable audience if the player’s salaries hadn’t doubled (or more in a lot of cases) over the last decade.

    And the best news for the players is that the biggest gains have been made in the areas of the middle and lower casts. So please, if you want to use your bullypulpit in a more constructive way, use it to promote a $15 minimum wage, and try and work 50 weeks a year and raise a family on $30,000. At the same time minimum wage players (say $500,000) are earning $25,000/WEEK!!!!!!!(from end of July to end of December)

    2 0

    A higher minimum wage ALWAYS leads to higher unemployment. Just the threat of it in some markets is leading to a lot of job losses in the fast food industry with ordering kiosks and robot hamburger flippers.

  20. NBA: 15 players, 82 games
    NFL: 53 players, 16 games

    If it isn’t obvious why NBA players make so much more on average then you need a lesson of common sense

  21. The owners only care about money, so I have no problem with the players playing Hardball. I offer up as Evidence I offer up the three teams that relocated in the 15 months. Despite all the NFL commercials that were all a big family. Despite 7 billiononn shared Revenue per year

  22. Well, in L-a-L-a-Land the “alternative ” league would have to play at Mission Viejo high school stadium because Kroenke stadium won’t be ready 4 years from now for L-a-L-a and Carson to begin playing in. If it is, the “alternative” league players could take over the soccer stadium in which Carson is playing in for the next 3 years…in Carson. If the Carson experience unravels…the new owner might move Carson back to San Diego where it belongs and then the “alternative” league could have the soccer field all to themselves…for as long as they want! Sounds like a plan!

  23. alan226 says:
    Jul 8, 2017 7:28 PM
    The average career length of an NFL player is so short that missing a few checks could be tantamount to losing 10-15- even 20% of potential career earnings.

    Not going to happen…

    Your core argument, the very short duration of the average career, is sound and the most telling of all the factors involved in a potential strike but your math is way off. A few games would not amount to 10-20%, more like 6-8%. According to the NFLPA’s data average pay is $1.9M per year and the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years. Player’s contracts are paid out in the form of game checks so that’s 53.3 paychecks of @ $118,750 making each just under 2% of the career earnings of the ‘average’ player.

  24. Per minute played, nfl players on average, are by a wide margin the highest paid pro sports players. The facts are available on the world wide web.

  25. Some of you guys seem to think that the only expense the NFL has or that individual teams have is player salaries.

    The costs of running the NBA is a heck of a lot less than the NFL and while there are some insane contracts now – no one knows if the NBA can sustain them.

  26. It will never work the first time the players go public with this plan the owners will start writing in all contracts that you cannot play in another league then there hands are tied. what happens if a player gets hurt in the league?? then they are really screwed. It wont happen ever. but maybe if the redskins were in this league when we won’t have to have a article every 3 days about how Redskin is hurtful and racist, and when the players don’t give Kaepercick a start job in the new league they we wont get the article ever 3 days either. So maybe the new league is not such a bad idea.

  27. Or, they could start regaining public trust. Create a proper disciplinary procedure that doesn’t involve tax dollars in federal courts. Set aside more funds for stadium construction and the persistent luxury suite upgrades, so tax dollars go to better purposes. Realize that not everyone can afford to keep paying more and more for viewing a sport, and that many don’t want to. Non-sports fans hate their cable bill increasing due to ESPN spending more on absurd TV deals. I’d rather my state spend on education, road infrastructure, small business development than build another billion dollar palace for 10 games a year.

  28. Florio, you’re a breath of fresh air. You should have been a lawyer (lol). Too many people who are practicing law nowadays are not willing to roll up their sleeves and fight. When you fight, you have a chance to win. You also have a chance to lose, so they’re too afraid. Settle, settle, settle. That’s all they want to do. I guess it pays the rent. Florio is right about something else. Just the idea would get the owners to the negotiating table, and fast.

  29. All of these NFL and NBA players are way overpaid and frankly, I don’t want to hear any bellyaching from NFL players because the NBA players make more than they do. In the first place, it’s much easier to get injured in the NFL than it is in the NFL, especially when you are talking season ending injuries. So no owner is going to give NFL players the kind of money the NBA owners give to their players. They’d be crazy to do that.

    It’s funny. When fans complain about all the money the NFL players get and the cost to go to the games or the cost to have season tickets, the players don’t want to hear it. But they cry like babies because the NBA players make more money than they do.
    If I were the owners, I’d stick to their guns and call the players’ bluff and tell them to go on strike if they like. And if they want to go play in these other games that Florio has dreamed up, I’d tell them to go right ahead and do that, too.
    They’ll be playing for no money if they do that and risking their careers if they get hurt.
    I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t give a damn who is wearing my favorite team’s uniform (the Packers). The uniform is what is important to me, not the players. The regular players could go on strike and the Packers could sign 53 guys out of beer halls to play in their place and I’d still watch them and root for them. It’s the team and the game I love, not the players.
    I watched the so-called “scabs” play during the strike season of 1987 and still enjoyed it. It was fun because most of the teams were playing with guys who had been in the USFL or played in Canada so the talent level was pretty much equal across the board. and some of the guys had never played pro football before, so it was neat watching them give it their all and knowing they’d have something to tell their grandchildren. Hell, had I been 20 years younger, I’d have gone to a stadium and tried out, too.
    So — NFL players — take Florio’s advice if you want and go on strike. But I, for one, won’t miss you.
    You know what I’d really love to see? I’d love for the fans to go on strike and boycott all the games until the costs to go see them comes down. That’s one I’d join myself. Send a message to the owners and players that we are not going to stand to be treated this way anymore.
    And finally — I didn’t see these bellyaching NFL players give a damn when the NFL locked out the officials in 2011 when they were trying to get a better deal. Nope. They all showed up and played and didn’t give a damn about the officials until the scab officials starting making terrible calls that cost them games. Only then did they voice their opinions, but they still didn’t join the officials who were locked out.

  30. What makes you think players would risk injury in a
    “strike” league. Whatever contract they had with their NFL team would surely be voided as they were injured in a labor dispute of their own doing.

    They also would lose their health insurance if paid by the employer and because they chose to walk…….they get zero unemployment benefits.

    Nobody wins in a strike but the owners have the money to outlast the union and the players and given the fact that most players have a short career and we read all the time how they end up broke………do you really think a majority would vote to give up game checks ?

    A so called quarterback has a better chance of getting a job back in the NFL than the players voting for a strike….the chances of that are slim and none and slim just walked out the door

  31. The NFLPA should negotiate to the best of their ability during the next round of talks. So should the NFL. Why is this so hard to grasp for some people? In free trade both people/groups are better off than they were from the exchange. It almost never ends up an exact tie of benefit but that changes nothing.

    Sounds like 51-49 is pretty fair. When you “Set[ting] aside the inherent differences between the sports,…” you imply the NBA on real dollars/contract compared to NFL contracts is unfair, and it isn’t.

  32. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a lawyer advances the idea that a grossly overpaid employee is being victimized by his employer and should sue for more money and damages. Those that think the NFL would collapse if the players walked out are delusional. Heck, several movies have been done about replacement players. LOL

  33. The awesome thing about the game of football is it’s the ultimate TEAM sport, so even replacements are watchable, as long as they are competing against other replacements. The players tried it and it failed. The game went on without the high dollar players and, as it turns out, most people root for the teams; not the QB/RB/LB, etc

  34. Problem: The average NFL career length is 3.3 years, so the vast majority of players are riding the bubble at any given time. They are NOT the least bit interested in sacrificing the million dollars they will make now for the benefit of some snot-nosed kid who will fill their roster spot in one season from now. And neither would you be, Florio. Talk is cheap from the nose-bleed seats.

  35. A tiny handful of players tweeted about NBA contracts. You make it sound like there is a coup underway. You could have still made the same point without this misinformation.

  36. The NHLPA has tried setting up alternate games during the 1994-95 NHL lockout, the players had to play for charity in order to get people to come out, and they had to play all of the games in Hamilton, Ontario, because all cities with big arenas had leases with NHL teams. In 2004-05 someone tried to set up another 4 on 4 league for players, again it was to take place in a much smaller city and it folded after 2 games were played because the players demanded more money.

    Also as much as people want to watch the best football players in the world play, there are very few people who cheer for just players rather than teams. People cheer for players because they’re on their favourite team. As Seinfeld joked, people cheer for laundry.

  37. Frankly the nba sucks and I can fathom How that league breaks even, let alone turn a profit. The playoffs are 3 flipping months long and half the league makes it and every year only two teams have a legit chance to win. Trades are made not to better the teams but to dump salaries and tank for better picks in next years draft due to guaranteed contracts. College basketball is much more entertaining to watch than these jackasses heaving up half court shots with nobody ever playing defense despite these oh so serious dramatic commercials about competing (que Phil Collins in the air tonight). All professional sports suck except pro football because of the owners live in reality and not some fantasy land run by sneaker endorsements and Gatorade.

  38. NBA and NFL are incomparable. It’s like a gas station attendant wanting to make 100k a year because they work hard too. We all work hard but not all jobs are equal.

  39. “As NBA free agency continues, NFL players continue to gripe about how much more money NBA players make.”

    These NFL players can quit football and try to play in the NBA, then.

  40. What percent do NBA players get? Because if they are going purely off size of the contract ten players vs 53….

  41. First of all, comparing anything to the NBA, which is a bad product to begin with is irrelevant. At some point, greed is going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. I want to emphasize, I’m not just talking about the players, the NFL owners are so greedy now it almost makes you want to give up watching. Like the guys said in an earlier comment, it is hard to stop rooting for the teams and their uniforms. There was a time I couldn’t wait for the next NFL season to start, now, not so much. Strike and cancel a season, I’m out. Time to move on…

  42. High School Math teacher here. You wold be amazed the number of college bound kids not to mention the English and history teachers that struggle with ratios and percents.

    That being said the bigger the pie the bigger the owners percent. Ben and Jerry started off with the idea that CEO to lowest paid employee would be 5:1. It is now 17:1.

    If NFL owners open their books and make the ratio reasonable. No one should be mad. Advocating striking without going to the negotiation table first is petty and a poor way to work towards a win-win scenario.

  43. If there is money for an alternative league then there is money to purchase minority ownership in the existing NFL teams. The NFLPA should demand that owners allow them to invest in each team and reap a portion of the profits. Once players are also owners they will have a different appreciation for the game.

    The profits could be pooled and divided up equally between players.

  44. Obviously most of the readers here are too young to remember what happened the last time the players went on strike – it wasn’t pretty for them.

    The owners make millions with other companies and don’t need the NFL millions to continue their lifestyle. The players need every penny they can scratch out from the NFL to help them exist another 40 years after the checks stop.

    Even if you can convince enough players to give it a shot, it won’t last long. The average NFL player is not smart enough to plan ahead for a strike nor are they able to reduce their spending – once again, the strike won’t last very long if it ever happens. History will simply repeat itself, as those of us that are old can attest.

    The players can only hurt themselves.

  45. The NFL season consists of 16 games. The best way to make more money is play more games.

    If you break down salary per game the NFL pays as much if not more than any other sport.

  46. I don’t even believe the most basic premise that you put forward, that the NFL players want more money because of what the NBA players can make.

    If true, the easiest way to accomplish that is for the NFL players to start practicing dribbling and hitting the fall away jump shot.

  47. Unless you have been involved with a labor dispute and been on strike or locked out then you really don’t have the perspective of what that type of action really is about.
    The reality is that being on strike or being locked out just flat out sucks……Owners / Management wins and the workers / players lose but get something to save face ( union leaders have to keep a job ).
    The mental beatdown that develops over a strike situation is the worst….you wait and you hope and you try to stay positive that this was the right thing to do but the longer it goes on really makes everyday one filled with despair and a sense of frustration that eats away at you.
    Lives are disrupted on many levels and what about all the people that have jobs that go hand in hand with the NFL….they don’t get to vote but they are out of work as collateral damage.
    The fans will take sides and that will impact the game going forward but the average person will not feel sorry for anybody that CHOSE to walk off the job when they already make the kind of money they make.
    Going on strike is a VERY last resort
    Stay at the table and get an agreement you can live with….it beats the alternative

    Mr Florio…
    I write this as a survivor of a almost 5 month strike in which nothing was gained and people lost everything….can you really say the same ?

  48. 1) NFLPA’s DeMaurice F. Smith got a raw deal, many saw this from the get go. Especially the God-ell (complex) Roger now wields)

    2) The UFL was formed to take advantage of a strike to at least get footing and perhaps more. The NFLPA should have talked to them – It would not hurt players to have an alternate league anyway. They were in non NFL cities (well LV is now one). The league squandered its resources under Michael Huygue and burned out. But if the NFLPA had shifted talent to that league to support players salaries it may have gave them leverage for a better deal.

    Now the NFL has abandoned 3 larger markets for LA & LV while ProFB less cities much larger than 1960’s AFL towns are numerous; something will give soon.

  49. This will get fixed only when the NFLPA stops being run by the big money starts out for themselves.

    Yet another PFT piece that blames everything on the NFL and quickly skips over the NFLPA.

    My suggestion would be to not allow any player in the top 10 of their respective position’s pay to be a team rep.

  50. Since I only watch the NFL for the commercials, it really doesn’t matter if a player makes 20 million a year or 200,000 a year.

  51. Players, unfortunately, dont have the financial discipline and the owners know this. That will be the only way that a strike can be effective is to miss game checks like Mike suggests.

    The best option is to form their own new league with maybe not 32 billionaires but 16 billionaires. Over Half the teams in the NFL are unwatchable anyway

  52. This sounds like a “great” idea….

    Who in their right mind would shell out the kind of money to start up a franchise and lease out/buy a stadium for a league that will probably never happen in the first place, and if it did would end the instant the NFL comes back to the table with a deal the players want?

    All of they players need to get on the same page and simply be willing to refuse to sign an agreement they like. The NFL can’t replace all of the players on every team with enough quality for people to want to watch. Sponsors also wouldn’t shell out the millions of dollars to get their commercials aired and that’s where the players need to find out how to hit. That’s why the old USFL and the old World League folded. Nobody wanted to pay to watch inferior talent.

    If they aren’t willing to pony up then they need to shut up and play football under the contract they’ve already signed. They have nobody else to blame but themselves and I am tired of hearing millionaires complain about not having enough money.

  53. People play in the NFL only because they’re not good enough to play other sports. That’s the truth. Who doesn’t want to play a less physical sport such as basketball or baseball with lesser chance of being injured. Not to mention they’ll either get paid the same or more than what they do now and enjoy a longer career.

  54. You know that if we stopped going to the games and buying the stuff and stopped watching the sport on TV nobody would be making anywhere near the money they are.

  55. Millionaires complaining that they don’t have enough millions.

    Please tell me, if you want more money, where do you think the owners will get said money from?

    Do you honestly believe the NFL and their accountants will be ‘okay’ with receiving less profit in order to pay players more? Not a fat chance in hell.

    So where does the money come from you ask? The fans… we already have to pay $100 for a ticket, $20-$40 for parking, $8-$10 per beer ($1-$2 outside the stadium), and somewhere around $15-$50 for food.

    Add it all up and an average fan will be paying somewhere between $150-$250 to attend one game.

    No thanks, I’ll watch on my couch from inside my warm house where the beer is free, the food is plentiful, and the view is more clear than sitting inside the stadium itself….

  56. At the heart of this matter is the players’ willingness to sacrifice money in the present to secure more money in the future. Several have already mentioned it, but it’s the players’ short-sightedness. Have you watch the 30 for 30 movie “Broke”? Almost every athlete that speaks in that film is a football player. The closing credits list all the players that have filed bankruptcy in the last 20 years, and about 90% of them are football players.

    There just seems to be a “spend now” culture in the NFL that isn’t as widespread in other sports. Every sport has its high rollers, of course. But baseball and basketball players are in much better financial shape to withstand work stoppages. Until that changes, NFL players will pretty much always be at the mercy of the owners.

  57. It’s about guaranteed money not more money. NFL contracts aren’t worth the same as other sports contracts. Owners sign these contracts and cut guys and never pay a dime on the contract they signed.
    Fake NFL money contract.

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