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NFL Dissidents’ Opposition to Finks Cools

Times Staff Writer

The spirit has gone out of the fighters. Both sides in the Jim Finks controversy turned mellow here Tuesday at an afternoon meeting of National Football League club owners.

And this led to immediate speculation that Finks, a veteran pro football administrator who is now with the New Orleans Saints, is back in the running for NFL commissioner.

The 11 previously feisty dissenting owners who blocked his election earlier this month canceled their demands to meet with members of the search committee that nominated him.

At the same time, the 16 owners backing the New Orleans executive were, for a change, privately saying some complimentary things about the dissidents.

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The only nominee so far, Finks came within three of the 19 votes he needed for election here July 6, and his support has stood at 16 ever since.

If the fight is ending, there won’t be a resolution today, a league spokesman said, because NFL rules require seven days’ notice for an election meeting.

At Tuesday’s owners-only executive session, the turning point in the fight apparently came when a club president made a reference to the league’s bitter 16-11 factional split.

This prompted Raider owner Al Davis, who voted with the 16, to stand up and announce: “I’m not part of any faction. This is the NFL.”

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One owner commented: “That started a dialogue between the (16 and the 11).”

Davis, a strong Finks supporter, said afterward: “It was the best (league) meeting we’ve had in a long time.”

Mike Lynn, owner of the Minnesota Vikings and a dissident leader, agreed that “frank and open discussions have replaced” at least some of the acrimony.

“We’re having a league-wide dialogue that wasn’t there before,” Lynn said.

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At today’s final session, the owners will vote on whether to proceed with their international league plans in 1990 or 1991.

Tex Schramm, the league’s commissioner, and Dan Rooney, the head of the NFL committee studying its feasibility, said they were confident it would be approved. But whether it will begin play in the spring of 1990 or 1991 will be determined by a board of directors that has yet to be appointed.

The owners are expected to agree on a 12-team league to include six teams in the United States, four in Europe and one each in Canada and Mexico. Schramm has said he hopes to begin play next spring, but Rooney was less optimistic.

“We have a lot of things that have to be done,” he said. “We have to find owners, get TV contracts and do it in 10 months. We hope it can happen.”

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