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USFL-NFL Settlement Report Brings Denials

From Times Wire Services

Both sides in the USFL’s $1.5-billion antitrust suit against the NFL were kept busy Tuesday denying a published report that the judge in the case had urged them to reach a settlement.

There was no evidence to indicate there was anything to the report in the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, which said the settlement would include six USFL teams being merged into the NFL.

The trial was in session for only an hour because Harvey Myerson, the USFL’s main attorney, was ill for the second straight day. Myerson’s illness sparked some into saying that he was away arranging the settlement.

The report said the NFL would pay $20 million to present and former USFL teams and would receive a $50-million franchise fee from each of the six teams absorbed into the NFL.

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In December, The Times reported that Myerson and NFL lawyer Paul Tagliabue met in Washington to discuss a compromise that would settle the suit before it reached trial.

In that meeting, a plan was discussed that would have allowed two USFL teams to buy into the NFL and that periodically, other franchises would be allowed into the league.

The Orlando paper quoted an unidentified USFL owner and a “ranking league official” confirming that Judge Peter Leisure, who had urged both sides to settle the case before the trial started, had told NFL lawyers they were losing and should seek a settlement.

A call to Leisure’s chambers was answered by a recording device saying he was not receiving calls.

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Both leagues vehemently denied the report, with the USFL office issuing a statement that blamed the NFL.

“I can only assume the NFL press machine has been working overtime to create whatever misleading impressions work in their interest,” USFL Commissioner Harry Usher said in the statement.

That statement did not say how such a report would work in the NFL’s interest although the Orlando Sentinel quoted Bugsy Engelberg, general manager of the USFL’s Orlando Renegades, as saying:

“I think the merger offer is a rumor planted by the NFL, so they can go into court and say, ‘See, Judge, we’ve said all along that the USFL only wants a merger out of all of this.’ ”

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NFL spokesman Joe Browne said: “There have been no settlement offers. None is on the table. And there are no talks going on.”


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