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Bob Batterman says league, union are "as far apart as I could imagine"

Late last month, the league’s top outside labor counsel — the man who counseled the NHL into a season-long lockout last decade — spoke for the first time regarding his work on behalf of pro football.  The interview was largely overlooked, primarily because it appeared in the Hofstra Chronicle.  (We found it after Bob Glauber penned a blurb on the subject today, but unless you’ve got a key to the Newsday database, you’ll only get the first two paragraphs, and the first word of the third.)

Bob Batterman provided Michael Waxenburg of the Chronicle with this ominous assessment regarding the negotiations:  “At this point we are as far apart as I could imagine.”

Uh.  Oh.

Batterman generally observed that the owners believe they’re not getting a sufficient return on their investment, a common theme that has been offered in support of the league’s effort to pay less money to the players.  But he defended the league’s decision not to share any details regarding the amount of the return on the investment, explaining that the law doesn’t require the NFL to share that information, primarily because (and this is our characterization) the league has done an adroit job of creating the impression that the owners are aren’t making money, without directly claiming that they’re not making money, a posture that would force the books open.

Batterman attributed the union’s harping on the absence of profit information as an attempt to create public leverage.  And then Batterman attempted to create public leverage by harping on the need for a rookie wage scale and the inability of owners to recover bonus money from players who are in jail, two issues that surely will strike a chord with the average fan.

Frankly, we agree with both sides on these points.  The league needs something stronger than “take our word for it” when complaining about the return on the investment, which while it doesn’t constitute a contention that the league isn’t making money, it means that the league isn’t making enough money.  Also, the rookie salary system needs to be reformed — and players who are suspended or imprisoned should be forced to pay back advance compensation they have received in the form of a signing bonus.

Batterman also spoke about the realities of building stadiums, and the much-debated 18 percent credit for certain costs, which the owners would receive before application of the players’ current 60-percent cut, which Batterman says would not change.  After, of course, the pie from which the players get their 60-percent cut shrinks by 18 percent.

But Batterman recognizes that a lockout would hurt everyone.  And we continue to believe that the owners won’t lock the players out; instead, we think the owners will bargain to impasse and then impose the last offer as the new rules.  Given that the two sides are so far apart, we believe that NFLPA Executive Director De Smith will then call the development a de facto lockout, in the hopes that the players will vote to strike.

Either way, the problem isn’t going away any time soon.  No matter how badly the fans hope that it will.

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31 Responses to “Bob Batterman says league, union are "as far apart as I could imagine"”
  1. PittsburghSteelerz says: May 10, 2010 12:24 PM

    Unions Suck.
    Get rid of them all.

  2. Richm2256 says: May 10, 2010 12:24 PM

    Can’t these morons – players and owners alike – see that a lockout/strike is the single WORST thing for everybody, including the fans?
    The NFL has a great thing going here, the fans love the product and can tolerate the greedy owners, and the overpaid, can’t-stay-out-of-trouble chucklehead players.
    Take away the game over money, and fans will no forget. How long has it taken MLB or the NHL to regain the high levels of interest they once had?
    Get this deal done, idiots. We don’t care WHO is making MORE money, you’re ALL making too f-cking much!!!!

  3. Slow Joe says: May 10, 2010 12:25 PM

    So, what else is a fun sport to watch? College football? NHL?

  4. RandySavage says: May 10, 2010 12:30 PM

    Stanley Cup Playoffs are on right now and it’s pretty much non-stop action. I’d recommend hockey to any fan preparing for the strike.

  5. rydendonkeys says: May 10, 2010 12:34 PM

    LACROSSE!!!!!!

  6. PittsburghSteelerz says: May 10, 2010 12:35 PM

    Let’s hope unions don’t ruin the NFL like they did the American car industry.
    Unions still suck.

  7. Profanity in ALL CAPS says: May 10, 2010 12:42 PM

    you don’t strike. you just go in there and do it really half assed. that’s the NBA way.
    and another Union is about to ruin another amerian product. how shocking!

  8. FriarBob says: May 10, 2010 12:47 PM

    You said “The league needs something stronger than “take our word for it” when complaining about the return on the investment…”
    But that’s just it. They already have provided something stronger than that. No, they haven’t provided every jot and tittle of their financial books, but “The union has received all the information it is required to see such as the revenue information and audit rights…”.
    You portray the teams as saying “trust us”. That isn’t what they are saying. They simply are refusing to hand over additional details that they aren’t required to hand over.
    Does that mean they are right in every detail? Probably not. But until you accurately set out the terms of the argument, how is anybody supposed to make an informed decision?

  9. EverybodyGotAIDS says: May 10, 2010 12:50 PM

    Yeah, unions suck. Not necessary in this age where we actually have workplace laws to govern conditions. They weren’t meant as a means to protect a guy’s $6 million bonus because he went out and beat his wife and got thrown in jail, and now the team that paid it wants their money back because he can’t play.
    Screw the players if they’re too sad about ONLY making millions of dollars a year to play a game. They have a unique skill set, which allows them to put out a great product. No problem with that. That being said, so what? You play a game and the MINIMUM is somewhere around $500k/year. Seriously?

  10. Fat_Old_Sun says: May 10, 2010 12:55 PM

    Hockey sucks. Barely could stay awake at the game I went to. Wasted money.
    A work stoppage right now ,with the NFL as popular as it is, would be the single most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.
    More would be lost by both sides than what could be gained.

  11. 1mge says: May 10, 2010 12:58 PM

    Most players that make $300k – $800k which is more than 1/2 can’t go months without a check. If the union wants to strike they’ll implode internally as lower paid players with zero savings will be begging for a deal. They have rent payments and car lease payments to make for there family & friends. If they go a few months with out a check repo man is coming.

  12. The Real Shuxion says: May 10, 2010 1:01 PM

    # RandySavage says: May 10, 2010 12:30 PM
    Stanley Cup Playoffs are on right now and it’s pretty much non-stop action. I’d recommend hockey to any fan preparing for the strike.
    ——————————————————
    I will second that.

  13. wildstile says: May 10, 2010 1:01 PM

    # RandySavage says: May 10, 2010 12:30 PM
    Stanley Cup Playoffs are on right now and it’s pretty much non-stop action. I’d recommend hockey to any fan preparing for the strike.
    Take that hockey chit somewhere else

  14. Fat_Old_Sun says: May 10, 2010 1:05 PM

    Hockey sucks. Barely could stay awake at the game I went to. Wasted money.
    A work stoppage right now ,with the NFL as popular as it is, would be the single most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.
    More would be lost by both sides than what could be gained.

  15. monger says: May 10, 2010 1:09 PM

    People need to understand that one of the big problems is that the owners are trying to have it both ways. They want a hefty return on their investment, but they also want to cash in big when they sell their ownership of the team. Right now, the players get nothing for the huge increase in the value of the franchise which is produced by their efforts on the field.
    The problem the owners have is that the revenue a team generates is relatively small for the capital investment they have in the team. They can only realize that increase in value when they sell their share of the team, but to get that cash, they no longer own the team.
    What they really need is a mechanism for the owners to access the increasing value of their team without borrowing against the team and without giving up their ownership. No doubt some financial whizbang can figure that out.

  16. Panda_Claus says: May 10, 2010 1:10 PM

    Two thoughts here. Anyone else see bringing in the guy heavily involved with shutting down hockey for a year (Batterman, appropriate name too)? Could be they’re using his experience to understand the work stoppage, and hopefully he’s not here helping to orchestrate another shutdown.
    Both sides loaded with millionaires and billionaires playing chicken. Ultimately they’ll play again, but in the short term we’ll be the losers.
    A man like Gene Upshaw’s going to be missed in many ways. One of the characteristics he showed was not letting pride or lack of common sense get in the way of a collective bargaining agreement. Some called him weak for giving in, but I call him smart. RIP, Mr. Upshaw.

  17. Kevin Greenstein says: May 10, 2010 1:13 PM

    Here’s why there’s no reason to believe the owners in this debate over profits. Take the Jets/Giants stadium for an example…
    Let’s say the two teams were to sell 50,000 PSL’s at $10,000 each and include the first five years’ season tickets in the price of the PSL. The total money raised by PSL’s alone would be $1 billion, and the fans wouldn’t complain at all. The stadium costs $1.6 billion in total.
    Surely the Jets’/Giants’ owners could chip in $300 million each knowing full well that they’d make back that money (and then some) after 2-3 years’ worth of parking fees, concessions, merchandise, and summertime Springsteen concerts (not to mention the 30,000+ seats that under this plan wouldn’t be PSL’d).
    So let’s not call the stadium cost an issue. And in markets where NYC ticket prices can’t be sustained, NYC stadium construction costs also don’t need to be sustained. The Cowboys’ stadium is far superior to the Jets/Giants stadium in every way, yet cost $300 million less.
    The same certainly holds true in the Bay Area, where the Raiders and 49ers could and should share a top-tier facility. Part of the problem here is that NFL owners are demanding a top-tier facility that they only use 10-12 times (at most) per year for its primary purpose.
    Should there be a cap on rookie salaries? Absolutely, but with the opportunity for achieving significant performance incentives that give deserving players the windfall they deserve while their bodies are still intact. And with the rest of the money getting diverted to deserving veterans whose salaries are dragged down by the overpaid top picks.
    Mike, I’d like for you to address this in a separate piece at some point. Perhaps my suggestions here aren’t valid? If you can refute them, I’d like to hear it.
    Warm regards,
    A journalist who spent way too much time writing about the NHL’s labor conflict in 2004-05. I have no bias towards owners or players, I just hate hearing mistruths spread in the name of currying public favor. Play it straight, there’s enough money for everyone involved (owners, players) to get their fair share (and then some).

  18. Juliath says: May 10, 2010 1:15 PM

    Both sides are trying to kill the goose to get a golden egg or two. And we all know how that story ended….

  19. HarrisonHits says: May 10, 2010 1:20 PM

    “Let’s hope unions don’t ruin the NFL like they did the American car industry.”
    Unions didn’t ruin the car industry. Like most manufacturing sectors in this country it was ruined by greedy CEOs and board members paying themselves vast salaries and perqs at the expense of everyone else an the companies while running them into the ground.

  20. CT Pats Fan says: May 10, 2010 1:36 PM

    I believe there’s another option – for the union to de-certify. At that point, they could sue their employers at a state/federal level for restrictions on their terms of employment.
    This, of course, would become untenable for the owners, and they would precipitate a lockout. The union would probably fold, fairly quickly, but would there be a backlash by the fans against the owners? They’d certainly lose the PR battle, and I have a feeling that in an internet connected age, fan rage and organization would be much better than it was in 1987, or for the 1994 baseball strike.

  21. RandySavage says: May 10, 2010 1:43 PM

    I’m reminded of one of De Niro’s lines at the beginning of Casino. “It was paradise, and in the end we f’ed it all up”. If the NFL goes on strike, that’s what’s really going to happen. Baseball has yet to recover from its strike in the early 90′s (granted a number of other things have done their part to hamper the recovery, and most are shooting yourself in the foot style events, like a ‘roided up home run race), and while the NFL is probably the most resilient league, a fully lost season would probably disillusion a number of more casual fans.
    In the end, unless one side is asking for wayyy to much, I don’t think either the owners or players are too stupid to let this go the way of a strike. Then again, both sides could be playing a tough hand because they don’t think the other will actually resort to striking/not giving into demands.
    What I’m personally hoping for is some form of a rookie pay scale.

  22. ChargerDillon says: May 10, 2010 2:12 PM

    Greedy millionaires vs greedy billionaires
    and the thousandaires (like me) get the shaft

  23. Ralph says: May 10, 2010 2:16 PM

    I wish there were some way to force the NFL to allow communities to buy franchises when they went up for sale. The so-called owners bring nothing to the table. They beg for free stadiums and borrow the money to buy the teams. No risk and high reward.

  24. PittsburghSteelerz says: May 10, 2010 2:47 PM

    @HarrisonHits:
    “Unions didn’t ruin the car industry. Like most manufacturing sectors in this country it was ruined by greedy CEOs and board members paying themselves vast salaries and perqs at the expense of everyone else an the companies while running them into the ground.”
    ——————————
    No, dum dum. It’s because union (e.g. GM) labor costs $70 per hour and non-union (e.g. Toyota) US workers cost half that.
    Sure, that additional cost is pensions/retire-healthcare, not current labor, but union cost is union cost.
    A X million salary for the C-level employees is nothing compared to union costs.
    Not to mention, union workers get paid not to work. Try that in the real world.

  25. steely devil hab says: May 10, 2010 3:15 PM

    The owners want us to think that they lose money, right?
    Building billion dollar stadiums…
    Teams sell for around a billion…
    TV contracts for billions…
    ….sure…..right….gotcha!
    Rookie salary cap would be a great thing.
    Unions did NOT screw things up (unless you’re talking about that infamous Bankers Union on Wall Street – also known as EXECUTIVES)
    If the NFL owners could get away paying minumum wage to the players while pocketing billions, you don’t think they’d do it?
    That being said – Jamarcus Russell…how that happens…(sigh)

  26. SpartaChris says: May 10, 2010 5:29 PM

    monger says:
    May 10, 2010 1:09 PM
    People need to understand that one of the big problems is that the owners are trying to have it both ways. They want a hefty return on their investment, but they also want to cash in big when they sell their ownership of the team. Right now, the players get nothing for the huge increase in the value of the franchise which is produced by their efforts on the field.
    The problem the owners have is that the revenue a team generates is relatively small for the capital investment they have in the team. They can only realize that increase in value when they sell their share of the team, but to get that cash, they no longer own the team.
    What they really need is a mechanism for the owners to access the increasing value of their team without borrowing against the team and without giving up their ownership. No doubt some financial whizbang can figure that out.
    =====================================================
    Except what you’re talking about is an unrealized gain. If an owner takes out money from the perceived value of the team and that perceived value of the team happens to decrease, that owner is going to be on the hook for the difference. So the only way to safely liquidate some of the value of the team is to either borrow against it or sell some shares.
    Oh, and players shouldn’t be eligible to receive compensation based on the value of the franchise. Unless they invested their money into the team, they don’t deserve to be compensated based on value increases. Instead they receive other things like performance bonuses and salaries, just like they agreed to.

  27. bwes87 says: May 10, 2010 6:29 PM

    Watch HOCKEY !…that’s just soccer on skates……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……..um no thanks

  28. SpartaChris says: May 10, 2010 6:45 PM

    steely devil hab says:
    May 10, 2010 3:15 PM
    Unions did NOT screw things up (unless you’re talking about that infamous Bankers Union on Wall Street – also known as EXECUTIVES)
    ==========================================
    You obviously aren’t paying attention:
    http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/how_unions_are_destroying_the_auto_industry/
    The same can be said for nearly every union, especially public employee unions. If the situation in Greece isn’t a wake up call, I don’t think anyone can help you.

  29. Bob Nelson says: May 10, 2010 6:58 PM

    As a part owner of a team I can assure you that the team I am a minority owner of, opens their books for public scrutiny every year.
    Other franchises may not open their books but you cannot say ALL owners do not open the books.

  30. biggdogg463 says: May 10, 2010 7:25 PM

    I love the game of football but being a man who busts my a** to keep my kids housed and fed I gotta say im tired of all this bull. I used to watch baseball and hockey but besides the rays and yanks i dont really anymore and ive lost almost all interest in hockey after they locked out. I can understand players wanting more money(who doesnt?) but this greed on both sides is sickening. Gale sayers made 275,000 for 6 years and because of him and these older players the game grew and allows them to make huge amounts of cash that fans can only dream off. How bout sharing the wealth? Real sad situation especially with college and highschool ball to cheer on for those tired of these whiny a-holes.

  31. GOVIKES|GOVIKES says: May 10, 2010 8:11 PM

    I wish republicans could all go live on an island with no government and only the private sector. No taxes, no unions, no government interference or regulation, just a bunch of profit motivated corporations. Something tells me it would not be the blissfull environ they envision.

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