So much for optimism.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Thursday’s bargaining session between the NFL and the NFLPA was canceled after the two sides hit a wall regarding the most important aspect of the deal, the formula for splitting up the money.
Mort reports that the NFLPA proposed a split of roughly 50-50 between players and owners, and that the owners walked away from the table in response.
Apparently, the meeting — which lasted far less than the expected nine hours — got off to a bad start when the NFL’s negotiating team supposedly interpreted the players’ proposal of 49-to-51 cents on the dollar as being the cut of “total football revenue,” not “all revenue.”
Currently, the players get 59.6 cents of each dollar of ‘total football revenue,” a number that is roughly $1 billion less than all revenue generated by the sport.
The league’s misinterpretation of the proposal is a bit surprising, since a 50-50 split of total football revenue would have reflected the much-debated 18 percent reduction that the owners’ reportedly have asked the players to take. Then again, the union’s decision to propose essentially a 50-50 sharing of all revenue is equally surprising, given that the players currently get roughly that amount under the current deal.
According to NFLPA spokesman George Atallah, the players received 51.87 percent of all revenue in 2002. 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. In 2009, it was 50.06 percent.
Thus, an offer to take 50 cents of every dollar represents no concession at all.
That said, we think it was unreasonable for the league stormed out. We assume the proposal reflected an opening offer from the union under an “all revenue” model, and opening offers implicitly contain room to move. With the league refusing to open the books to justify the desire to cut the players’ share, it’s not unreasonable for the players to say, “Look, let’s quit bickering about the league taking money off the top and let’s just work out a formula based on every dollar that comes in. Our first move is to ask for roughly what we currently get. Feel free to counter.”
If the NFL truly wanted to do a deal, the NFL would have countered.
It makes us think that the NFL actually wants to lock out the players, or to push the negotiations to the brink of a lockout in the hopes of getting the players to drop their proposal without a counter.
That said, if the union made its proposal as a take-it-or-leave it gesture, then it makes us think that the NFLPA wants to force a lockout in the hopes of getting a better deal via the application of litigation and/or political pressure, a strategy that to date has failed miserably.
Either way, the outside lawyers who are handling the negotiations (Jeffrey Kessler for the union and Bob Batterman for the league) continue to bill by the hour, and every hour of effort expended on the negotiations and a lockout and whatever comes next will serve only to fatten their coffers.