For months, the NFLPA has been trying to lay the foundation for a political assault on the owners as leverage against a looming lockout. For months, the strategy largely has failed.
Recently, the strategy has gained some traction.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) has argued in a op-ed published by the Washington Post that the NFL should provide financial information to the players.
“What I’d like to see from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners is a simple display of good faith: Show the union your books,” Rockefeller writes. “Don’t keep secrets. If there are financial pressures that keep you from agreeing to the revenue-sharing plan proposed by the players, let’s see the proof.
“Ask a neutral third party to review your financial data, redact anything sensitive and prepare an unbiased bottom-line assessment of the league’s finances.”
We agree with the suggested approach. Indeed, we made a similar recommendation of hiring an independent firm to review the books and to prepare a five-year look at profit margins for each team, with the information provided only to a small group of folks who would use that data to come up with a fair revenue split.
Of course, this tactic doesn’t guarantee that the union won’t express skepticism regarding the numbers, or that the NFLPA won’t scoff at reduced profits as profits nonetheless, without regard to concepts like return on investment. Still, there has to be a way to solve this apparent impasse. Even though the league has argued that opening the books did not prevent past work stoppages in pro sports, the reality is that the owners currently are saying, essentially, “We’re not making enough money. We’d like to make more. Our current profits are irrelevant. We simply want more. Please trust us when we say it’s justified.” The players can’t be expected to do a new deal by taking such a leap of faith.
All that said, and in my capacity as one of Senator Rockefeller’s constituents, I ask that he consider letting the process play itself out. Mediation will continue Tuesday, and the parties should be given the ability to work out their differences without political pressure.
If/when the NFL imposes a lockout, then all bets are off. We agree with Senator Rockefeller’s assessment that “Congress, acting in the public interest, has to keep the NFL on track because of the great benefits given to the league by federal law and taxpayer funds and because of its impact on the nation’s economy.” But none of that becomes relevant until the league shuts down.
For now, the time has yet to come for Congress to get involved.