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National Lacrosse League cancels first two weeks of season amid labor dispute

The National Lacrosse League has canceled the first two weeks of the season because of an ongoing labor dispute.

In a statement, the league said games scheduled for the weekends of Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 are off. It is the first time the league has lost games because of a labor issue.

The Buffalo Bandits were scheduled to report to training camp Nov. 1, but no practices or physicals have occurred around the league. At the moment the team is now scheduled to open the season on Dec. 15 against the Philadelphia Wings in Philadelphia.

The league issued a deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday, but decided to extend the deadline as talks continued. Proposals and counterproposals went back and forth Thursday, but the owners rejected the latest proposal of the Professional Lacrosse Players Association.

"After a thorough review of the PLPA's counterproposal, it is clear we cannot accept the terms the PLPA has put forward, and therefore, have made a decision to reject it," the league said in a statement. "We believe those terms would have both and short and long term negative consequences on our member clubs and the League, which we are not willing to accept. Therefore, there is not yet an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement."

The sides signed a seven-year agreement in late 2013, but it included an opt-out clause for either side after four years, with one year notice. The players opted early last season.

The league offered a seven-year deal that the players rejected, but the union offered to play under the proposed terms with some modifications for one year in order for the season to start and the sides to have another year to negotiate a longer agreement. The league rejected that effort.

"We want the players to grow as the league grows financially. It’s really that simple," Jason P. Jaros, the Buffalo-based general counsel of the players association, said recently. "Five years ago, we were in negotiations and the league came to us with their finances. They showed us their books and they were reviewed by our financial specialist. The league and the teams were struggling.

"We gave them concessions. We froze salaries for a number of years, players played two extra games without extra compensation and other items to help the status quo for the league to get back on its feet and market and invest in the game. We have a new commissioner, who's been in that office for a couple of years. He is a competent, smart guy and knows what he's doing. There are two new expansion teams with blue chip owners who know what they're doing. We see good things on the horizon and we want to share in it. Our proposal allow the players to grow as the league grows financially. That’s fair and not a new concept. It exists in virtually every single other sport."

In its statement Thursday, the league said the players were seeking a 400 percent increase in expenses. The owners have proposed a 25 percent increase in salary and benefits. "It is a significant improvement from where the players were at the beginning of their last employment agreement and a testament to our ownership’s commitment to continue to invest heavily in our sport and grow the league," the league said. The league also said it has proposed a "fair calculation" of bonuses to paid to players based on attendance-related revenue such as parking, merchandise and concessions.

"For the good of everyone including players, owners and our fans, we are attempting to run the League as a business so that its long-term health and success is assured," the statement said. "We have seen steady, but only incremental success. This nascent growth will only continue if ownership, management and players all work together to achieve it."

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