WASHINGTON -- The football fan in the White House said Thursday he expects wealthy NFL team owners and players to figure out on their own how to share the billions of dollars their sport generates.
"I've got a lot of other stuff to do," President Barack Obama said, making clear he had no plans to intervene.
The NFL and the players' union met for a 10th day Thursday with a federal mediator near 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. Later in the day, both sides agreed to a 24-hour extension so talks could continue.
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.
Asked at a White House news conference whether he would intervene in the dispute, Obama noted that people are facing economic hardship while millionaire athletes and billionaire team owners haggle over a big pot of money. He also 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. He had pledged to go to the Super Bowl in February had his hometown Chicago Bears reached the championship. His dreams were dashed when they 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."
Calderon added that he was sure his wife, Margarita Zavala, a football fan, is very concerned about the situation. Obama said she was quite excited to see New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez at a White House state dinner for Mexico last year.
After both leaders had commented on the NFL, Obama then proceeded to discuss the crisis in Libya.