When we last addressed the reports that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson disrespected Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and/or Saints quarterback Drew Brees during a day-before-the-Super-Bowl bargaining session, the firestorm seemed to have quieted.
Brees took the high road when given a chance to address the matter, prompting some to conclude (incorrectly, we believe) that the situation was embellished at best, fabricated at worst.
Enter Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, a veteran and respected journalist who previously covered the NFL for Sports Illustrated. Silver brings the incident to life with specific details that paint a dark picture about the status of the current relationship between two entities who should be acting like partners but who are acting like mortal enemies.
“It was bad from the start,” one player who attended the session told Silver. “[Richardson] opened the meeting by describing how he was almost annoyed how we would ask for that meeting on their busiest weekend of the year. And I’m thinking, ‘Your team finished 2-14. You shouldn’t be that busy. Why are you worrying about how busy you are during Super Bowl weekend?’
Then, after Manning questioned the league’s desire to take another $1 billion annually off the top of all revenues (currently, the league already claims the first billion per year before carving up the rest of the pie on essentially a 60-40 basis, with the bigger cut going to the players), Richardson became “agitated,” per Silver.
“He was condescending to Peyton,” a player who was at the meeting told Silver. (It’s unclear whether it was the same player quoted above or a different one.) “He tried to talk about P&L [profit and loss] statements and all these other risks that the owners assume, as if Peyton didn’t know anything. Drew interrupted and said, ‘All we’re doing is just asking you to show us your books. We want to negotiate in good faith.’”
Another player who was present told Silver, “We were so pissed. Peyton was breathing heavily, and some of us were about ready to jump across the table.”
Then former player Sean Morey, apparently trying to change the subject, began to talk about player injuries and the short duration of careers. It’s a topic near and dear to Morey, given that concussions forced him from the game. Still, Richardson, per Silver, gave a biting reply.
“You guys made so much [expletive] money – if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own [expletive] team,” Richardson reportedly said.
Silver reports that other owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell “became visibly uncomfortable” after the remark. Following a short break, several owners (including, per Silver, Robert Kraft of the Patriots, John Mara of the Giants, and Clark Hunt of the Chiefs) reportedly apologized to the players in the room. One player who attended the session said that Richardson also apologized to Manning.
We’ll refer you to the rest of Silver’s hybrid reporting-commentary, which is well worth a close read.
In our view, it’s impossible to reconstruct with precision the events that occurred during the meeting, simply because the reality of human perception and recollection introduces flaws, gaps, and errors even if everyone is telling what they believe to be the truth. It’s clear, however, that something ugly that way went on February 4, and it would be in the best interests of the process for Richardson to not be involved in the negotiating sessions.
The problem is that this quickly would devolve into a game of Red Rover, with the league wanting the union to send, say, Jeffrey Kessler home, and then the NFLPA asking the owners to park Jeff Pash. This tit-for-tat process potentially would continue until only Roger Goodell and De Smith are the only ones left in the room.
And, frankly, that may be the only way at this point to get a deal done.