As to the inability of the league and the union to strike a deal regarding the issue of financial transparency, we believe that the answer lies somewhere between the NFLPA’s demand for audited financial statements and the league’s offer to disclose combined profit information, along with the number of teams that have experienced a decline in profit.
The union wants too much, and the league hasn’t offered enough. An item posted earlier tonight on Twitter demonstrates the insufficiency of pure profit information.
A July 1992 article from the New York Times regarding financial information disclosed in conjunction with the antitrust lawsuit filed following union decertification in the wake of the failed 1987 strike points out that former Eagles owner Norman Braman paid himself a $7.5 million salary for 1990.
The financial expert testifying at the time said that the salary showed up on the book as “general expenses,” even though it could have been counted as profit for Braman.
Other litigation has revealed that Bengals owner Mike Brown paid himself for 18 years, twice calling it a “general manager” bonus of $1.237 million and $1.947 million.
So beyond purely disclosing profit, the league needs to identify — and an independent firm must verify — all payments made to the owner, his family, or any related companies owned by the owner or his family members. This goes beyond the embarrassment of revealing that a son-in-law who never shows up for work makes $500,000 per year; this is about finding additional profits that have been treated as something other than profits.
Given the current mood of the parties, we can’t imagine an acceptable deal on financial disclosure ever being worked out. The best move would be to do the best deal possible without financial information.