For months, the NFL has refused to provide the players’ union with financial information. Now, the league has offered to crack the books open, but the NFLPA wants the information to be fully disclosed.
In our view, the union wants too much.
Per a league source (some of this has been reported elsewhere, including by Albert Breer of NFL Network), the league offered on Tuesday to provide collective profitability information over the past five years, and to have that information verified by an independent, mutually-selected firm. The league also offered to identify the number of teams that have experienced reduced profits.
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, in addressing the situation with the media on Wednesday, strongly implied that the league is willing to go even farther. And we’ve confirmed via a league source that, indeed, the league is willing to go even farther.
The key, in our view, is the league’s willingness to allow the information to be verified by an independent, mutually-selected firm. And the league’s offer comes close to what we suggested several weeks ago: “The league and the union should agree on an independent accounting firm that would prepare verified profit reports for the past five-to-10 years, and the profit information would be shared with a very small handful of representatives from the two sides, who would be given the authority to negotiate a revenue-sharing arrangement based on the financial information.”
The league needs to offer to provide per-team profit information, along with some way of determine whether the profit is “enough” profit, either by comparing the per-team profit to per-team revenue.
And that’s all the union needs. Detailed reports regarding team-specific expenses aren’t necessary, unless the union hopes to micromanage team-level business decisions — or to cause trouble by finding a way to leak certain aspects of the expense information to the media.
The question becomes whether the league is being truthful when the league claims that profits are dropping, and that profit levels aren’t acceptable. The union doesn’t need to be able to scour the entire books to verify the league’s position.
So if the union persists in its demand for audited financial statements, it could be that the union has decided that it will get a better deal via the decertification/litigation strategy. And maybe they will. But if that’s the strategy, the union should quit wasting everyone’s time and decertify.