During a Friday appearance on The Dan Patrick Show (guest-hosted by me), NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman mentioned that the players get 60 cents of every dollar. It’s a contention with which the NFLPA has taken issue in the past.
“I know the league and Bob Batterman are fond of saying players get 60 cents on every dollar,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Indianapolis Star in August 2010. “That just happens to not be true. In our framework, where the owners are saying that they want another $1 billion off the top, that would mean that it’s now $2 billion off the top of all revenue. I’m not sure it makes sense to talk about players still getting 60 percent of total revenue if under their new system they would want to take $2 billion off the top. It’s 60 percent of even less money.”
Also appearing on Friday’s Dan Patrick Show, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said this in response to Batterman’s remarks: “The question I have for owners is, ‘Why do you keep telling the fans the players get 60 cents of each dollar when it’s just not true?’”
The league responded by posting at its labor-focused website an item quoting one of the “Frequently Asked Questions” from the union’s website: “What is behind the NFL Salary Cap?“
“In return for agreeing to free agency, the owners got a Salary Cap which was first implemented in 1994,” the union’s website states. “The Salary Cap is essentially equal to 60% of Total Revenues and includes both player salaries and benefits. Prior to 1993, NFL players historically received an average of about 40 to 50% of the league’s revenues in salaries and benefits. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, players are guaranteed a minimum of 50% of Total Revenues at least through 2009. This is perhaps the greatest benefit achieved in the CBA.”
The union, which already has revised this portion of its website to say that the “Players get roughly 60 percent of what’s defined in the CBA as ‘Total Revenues’ after a number of categories of expense credits,” strongly disagrees with the league’s ongoing characterization of the players getting 60 cents of each dollar earned.
“If NFL officials and lawyers told their owners that players get 60% of every dollar, then no wonder we don’t have a deal,” Atallah told PFT via e-mail on Friday afternoon. “People can’t let people use this myth as an excuse for the owners to leverage towards a lockout. The NFL, the owners and the players have joint auditors. This is the dirty little secret that they don’t want people in the business to know.”
Atallah then provided the union’s calculation of the percentage of total revenue actually received by the players.
In 2002, the number was 51.87 percent. In 2003, it dropped to 50.23 percent. In 2004, it was 52.18 percent. In 2005, 50.52 percent. In 2006, it was 52.74 percent. In 2008, it was 50.96 percent. In 2007, it was 51.84 percent. In 2008, it was 50.96 percent. Last year, it was 50.06 percent.
We’ve been under the impression for months that, indeed, the 59.6-cent formula applies only after certain money is taken off the top, and that the primary dispute between the players and the owners moving forward arises from a desire by the owners to take even more than that off the top. If, as the union alleges and as it currently appears, the owners deliberately are mischaracterizing the player compensation formula, the reason is obvious. If the NFL says that the players are receiving 60 cents out of every dollar that comes through the doors, the fans and the media and the politicians will be far more likely to believe that the players are getting too much. The union believes that the number is instead closer to 50-50, and that if the NFL has its way the number will be even lower.
Here’s a crazy thought. Why not just split all revenue on a true 50-50 basis, without deductions or credits or accounting tricks or mumbo-jumbo? It would be different if there wasn’t enough money to pay everyone’s bills. But the players and owners are rich and getting richer, at a time when it feels like too many of the people who spend their work time on far less interesting pursuits are poor and getting poorer.
And that’s really the bottom line. Both sides will be inclined to fudge reality in the hopes of generating support from a fan base that has grown ambivalent to the plight of billionaires and the millionaires who work for them. The sooner the NFL and the NFLPA realize that the very large majority of football fans don’t care, the sooner the stewards of this great sport will quit behaving like enemies and start acting like partners.