As recently explained to our pal Monty of Sporting News Radio, we have one constituency in the ongoing labor drama between the NFL and its players’ union: the fans.
And so we’re committed to exposing any and all examples of things said and done by either side that, in our view, will make it harder to achieve the one things the fans want: their football.
In a recent item appearing at the NFLPA official web site, which was far more balanced and objective than we’ve come to expect from either side, Jeff Gardenour recounts some of the labor-related comments culled from the recently-completed league meetings. Regarding the question of whether the NFL has been sharing sufficient financial information with the fans as the league tries to finagle a better deal from the players, Giants co-owner John Mara said, “We’ve given all financial information to the fans. I think
the fans have enough information.”
In reality, the fans have very limited financial information, and they’re required to break out the elbow grease in order to compile it. We know what the Packers earn because they’re publicly-owned and thus the Packers must disclose the information. For the 31 privately-held franchises, however, we have access only to reported information regarding player contracts, salaries of key personnel like coaches and high-level front-office execs, the money coming from broadcasting contracts, ticket prices, some endorsement deals, and the periodic disclosure via litigation of things like the seven-figure G.M. bonus that Bengals owner Mike Brown has paid himself.
Despite his contention that financial information has been given to the fans, Mara seems to realize that no one has a full financial picture, given that he also attempted to justify the decision not to open the books by explaining that, even if they do, the players won’t be satisfied. “A few years ago, the NBA supplied its players union its financial
information, and in some cases, their tax returns, but the players still
questioned things,” Mara said. “So, what good does it do to supply them with
But there’s nothing wrong with questioning things. Especially if the financial information contains, you know, questionable things. Like a seven-figure G.M. bonus that an owner has paid to himself, in lieu of hiring a General Manager.
Though we believe that the NFLPA has twisted and manipulated some of the facts relevant to this fight in the hopes of currying favor with the fans, we continue to be troubled by the league’s suggestion that it’s not making money and its refusal to be candid with the union about the money that’s being made. And if the league is concerned that opening the books will only give rise to questions that the league doesn’t want to answer, maybe the best approach moving forward is to manage the books in a manner that would ensure that any questions would be easily met with a reasonable and simple answer.
For now, the better approach would be to acknowledge that this current labor dispute isn’t about whether the league is making enough money to survive, but whether it’s making as much money as it wants to make.