ESPN abandons report of March 18 “rough deadline” for CBA deal

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There’s a rough deadline of March 18 for the NFL Players Association to accept the pending offer from the NFL on a 10-year CBA based on a 17-game season. Unless there isn’t.

Earlier today, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reported that “the league has given the players a “rough deadline” of the start of the 2020 league year (March 18) to work out a new deal. If no deal is in place by then, negotiations are likely to be tabled indefinitely, sources said.” (I mistakenly failed to notice that the article, which had been tweeted by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, was written not by him but by Graziano. I apologize for the error.)

We posted a story based on the report, which we had no reason to doubt based on Schefter’s reputation for accuracy. The fact that Graziano reported the information makes it no less credible, since he previously worked for the NFLPA and presumably vetted this fairly important point with his former employer before writing and reporting it.

Later, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah and Steelers player representative Ramon Foster disputed the accuracy of the ESPN report. And at some point today, ESPN revised the report to remove the “rough deadline” language with indefinite tabling of the talks thereafter and to replace it with this: “While no hard deadline has been established, both sides would prefer to have a deal in place soon so that changes in the CBA structure could go into effect at the start of the new league year on March 18.”

And here’s where it gets strange. Schefter took to Twitter both to accurately point out that he never reported on the “rough deadline,” which as mentioned above he never did. However, Schefter also claimed that no one at ESPN.com reported on a rough deadline, which is flat-out false. (Here’s the screenshot of the original text. And, yes, go ahead and make fun of me for still using Sprint. They were our first major sponsor and I’m loyal, if nothing else.)

So here’s the bottom line: ESPN.com initially said there’s a “rough deadline” of March 18, and ESPN.com at some point thereafter changed the key language of Graziano’s story without comment, apology, or any type of transparency. And I wouldn’t care about that very much if Schefter hadn’t decided to claim inaccurately to more than 7.7 million Twitter followers that ESPN never reported something that it definitely reported.