The league needs to give up more than profit information


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.

34 responses to “The league needs to give up more than profit information

  1. If you put up the money to build a team and assume the risks, you should be able to profit. We’re capitalist – that’s the way it works.

    Why should an employer ever have to share his financial information with an employee?

    unions are b.s.

  2. The NFLPA has no right to completely audit the books of all of the franchises. I laughed when Demaurio Smith announced on the NFL Network that he and their “investment bankers” needed more information before writing an $800,000,000 check to the league. The NFL players only CASH checks from the NFL! The players only write checks for exotic cars, mansions and other luxury goods, with a few exceptions.

  3. The good news is that if there are no games to watch we can at least look forward to the exposure of how greedy these folks who own NFL teams are.

    Flying the team Gulfstream V on personal vacations while calling it a “scouting trip”? Check.

    Paying the daughter in law $500K a year as a “consultant”? Check.

    Interest free “loans” to themselves? Check.

    Anyone who doesn’t think that all of the above (and more) isn’t going to be reported has been living under a rock for the last 20 years.

  4. This is exactly why the owners don’t want to give up the information. What do you think Jerry Jones is paying himself and his family members? I realize it’s his team, but if he’s, for instance, paying his kids in the 10s of millions per year and then saying his profits have declined and wants the union to give back some of its cut rather than cutting his kids’ salaries, it would be a black eye if that got out. Most business owners cut costs (including salaries) when times are tough. If the NFL owners have not done that, but instead want the union to reduce the slice of the pie they get in order to keep their salaries at the same levels, they will obviously be reluctant to let that specific info out.

  5. I would be okay with being that son-in-law. The embarrassment wouldn’t last long.

  6. Damn, I wouldn’t mind a father in law paying me half a mill a year for nothing… sheesh

  7. Wouldn’t an independent firm be able to feret out any shell game the owners would be trying to play to hide profits?

    I have to say, I’ve been on the players side through most of this, but it feels like they are now on the offensive by pushing for full financial disclosure. It seems the tide has turned and maybe they are now trying to squeeze the owners. But, I can’t say I totally blame them since, for most of this negotiation, the owner’s arrogance has been crystal clear. They didn’t think they even needed to negotiate and more or less could dictate terms with that sweetheart lock-out clause they negotiated in the TV contracts.

  8. Another example as to why the players need to boot the attorneys, who have their own hidden (political) agendas, to take control of the negotiations. The NFLPA attorneys are headed towards class warfare. What the players need is a true picture of profitability — this can be garnered with by collecting, from the financial statements, all profits plus salaries paid to owners + their families. This can easily be submitted by each 32 team CFOs to the NFL, synthesized in private, and provided to an independent analyst working for the NFLPA. Without drama or fanfare.

    The NFLPA attorneys appear to be out to try to create worker vs. management, poor vs. rich type warfare, instead of getting data to facilitate a settlement.

  9. The owners will never show anything close to what their real books are. They would open themselves to ridicule from the public and from fellow owners. The players are smart to keep pushing this angle though.

    This thing will get resolved sooner than later.

  10. As soon as I read someone refer to another as “greedy” I quit reading. Also, how many of us would like to fully disclose our finances? Not me.

  11. Seriously, do you people NOT understand how this works?

    Of course the NFL does not have to give up the financial information. They can CHOOSE this course and the NFLPA will then CHOOSE to decertify. Then the NFLPA will SUE the NFL for anti-trust violations and the full accounting of the books will happen in OPEN federal courts and EVERYTHING will get out.

    This is called NEGOTIATION. One side asks for something, the other side counter offers, etc. until an agreed upon solution is reached.

    If you think the NFL can survive without the best players, I ask you to watch the UFL and tell me that’s JUST as good a product. Sure the NFL might exist, but it won’t be getting 100k PSLs or billion dollar TV deals, that’s for damn sure.

  12. You are uneducated and you play a GAME! You make millions of dollars, and tell your employer your not happy. REALLY? Maybe you can get a job somewhere else, for an equal salary……………….no

  13. So now we have it! The union feels this is all about the owners paying their family members exhorbitant salaries? Really?

    So that must explain why Green Bay’s net profits have dropped from over 35 million in 2006 to 5.2 million in 2009.

    Can some of you union enthusiasts tell me the names of the overpaid family members in Green Bay? The team’s profitability has dropped by almost 30 million dollars a year in 3 years, so it certainly must be because the owner is paying off his wife, his children, his nephews and cousins with giant paychecks. And of course, he, the owner of the Packer franchise, is certainly paying himself an 8 figure salary.

    I’ll bet the Green Bay owner is also flying himself and his entire extended family to Tahiti every winter on the company Gulfstream and writing it off as a team expense so as to cheat the players.

    Yea, give the union complete access to the other 31 team’s financials. What a tremendous canard.

  14. billmead1976 says: Mar 9, 2011 7:41 PM

    If you put up the money to build a team and assume the risks, you should be able to profit. We’re capitalist – that’s the way it works.


    Just 2 little problems with what passes for your argument.

    The first is half these folks put up NO money. They inherited their gravy trains

    The second is that capitalism assumes competition amongst providers. The NFL has been adjudicated a MONOPOLY. So in such a case the rules of capitalism no longer apply.

  15. You know what? A business does not have to open its’ books to be auditied by its’ employees. If the NFLPA wants to audit the books, they should try to buy in to the league and share risk. When you are an owner of a business and on the hook for risk and losses, you have discretion on how you pay yourself and how you allot expenses. It is called capitalism, and it is what haws made our country great.

    If I had the priviledge of being and owner, I would vote to dissolve the NFL and invest in a new business model in which the individual owners were only shareholders in a single enterprise. The union could bargain for a league-wide pay scale, with each team paying the same rate. If the players were dissatisfied, they could form their own league or take a job with the CFL, UFL or arena league.

  16. In my mind, at least, the disclosures above hardly qualify as the discovery of the ages. Again, even a casual observer can readily discern the NFLPA’s game plan here. Specifically, they’re simply trying to leverage the owners’ reluctance to provide full financial disclosure. I bet that results in an agreement—either now, or way down the line prior to the adjudication of any antitrust complaint(s)— of a $550MM additional “cost credit” with something less than full disclosure by the owners. If the NFLPA is firm on demanding a figure significantly lower than that—or, say, if they try to scuttle the 18-game regular season proposal regardless of what concessions the owners might be prepared to make regarding enhancing player safety—then, sadly enough, I think it’s off to court.

  17. If an owner is providing any service to his company, he is more than entitled to pay himself. That includes high level roles like CEO.

    Owner and CEO are completely different roles. Owners get profits commensurate with thei interest in the company. CEOs get paid for their services, and get bonuses based on performance goals, or just great contracts.

    Furthermore, if an ownerbdoes not own 100% of a company, and is providing a role that otherwise would require payment to an employee, his salary is an expense that should come out before profits. That ensures that he is properly compensated for his work, and that his percentage of actual profits is appropriate.

    Certainly majority owners can take advantage of such a thing. But that is why most of us who do deals base the cost on gross revenue rather than net. There are to many ways to cook the books.

    The nflpa should be concerned purely with receivables, not on an audit of net profits.

    If they demand too much, the owners should fire them all and get replacements.

  18. @ all the people who keep trying to compare the NFL to a normal business: just stop it

    If you, Mr. Worker Peon walk into your boss’s office and demand to see the financial records or else, your ass will be fired in a heartbeat. Why? B/c you are replaceable. Instantly. Just like 99.999999999% of us.

    In the NFL, the “employees” are what make the “business” as profitable and popular as it is today. No one will pay to see scabs play. No one will pay to see an NFL that doesnt have the best football players in the country playing in it. Just like no one watches the Arena League or any of the XFL, USFL, etc, etc.

    When Comcast wants to build a new building for the HQs, who pays for it? Oh yeah Comcast. Do most NFL owners pay 100% for their stadiums?

    GReedy owners need someone to tell them to STOP treating their privilege of ownership as a business

  19. Wow, I didn’t know Jerry Jones inherited the Cowboys! Or the owner of the Rams, the owner of the Texans, so on and so forth.

    Great point givingclintonportishead

  20. “GReedy owners need someone to tell them to STOP treating their privilege of ownership as a business”

    Oh really? So, the NFL isn’t a business and the “GReedy owners” are running what, exactly?

    And in case you didn’t notice, the Packers won the Super Bowl with 16 players on IR. It seems that an awful lot of these guys are replaceable; very replaceable.

    Without the structure of the league that has been built up, developed and marketed by the NFL teams and their owners over the decades, Pro Football would be no more interesting than Major League Soccer. If you don’t think so, how interesting is this silly league whose name I cannot remember which keeps bouncing checks to its players?

    Why were the World Football League and the USFL such spectacular failures? Hmmmmm?

    If you think the players, this current group claiming to be such downtrodden victims are the draw, the draw and the only draw, how much would you pay to see a bunch of them tossing around the ball at a high school stadium someplace? Do you think the networks would like up to pay billions of dollars to see a season’s worth of Pro Bowl games?

    I don’t think so. Players come and go. It is the NFL that goes on and on and on. Remember the 2010 Packer?. They had guys right off the street starting and winning.

    Players come and go and are always replaceable. Each and every one of them. Go ask Brett Favre if you don’t believe me.

  21. Hey Mr Givingclintonportishead–

    Of all 32 teams, here are the owners who inherited their teams

    NYGiants–John Mara
    Cincy–Mike Brown
    KC–Clark Hunt
    Chicago–the McCaskeys
    Indy–Jim Irsay
    Pittsburgh–the Rooneys

    The rest bought their teams, including original owners Bud Adams, Al Davis, and preety much every expansion team since 1967. Jeff Lurie paid a then-record 185M for the Eagles; Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones paid out for both the team and their respective stadiums.

  22. Negotiations will stall on Friday with no new extension. The Union will decertify (the equivilant of Wisconsin democrats fleeing to Illinois) to no avail the American needle case has set the new precedent that the league can set rules that benefit the entire league interest. The NFL will impose all of their new rules and football will be played this season for a full season. The players by decertifying lose their ability to strike for six plus months, thats six months after decertifying before they can recertify then they will have to show good faith bargaining before they can strike. Players could hold out individually but that would mean a complete loss of income, benefits or even unemployment benefits, while forfeiting a league year and possibly a starting position. That’s not going to happen. The League will bring their cost of goods which is actually what this is versus actual payroll in line with other business models so they can build new stadiums and a developmental league. Like it or not the Players Union has very little bargaining power any longer without the threat of anti trust litigation which is no longer the 300 pound gorilla in the room that it once was. The league is going through the motions to claim good faith bargaining then once the union decertifies which is what they’re counting on they can impose anything and everything they bargained for including a 18 game schedule this season. Watch and see, if Vegas were taking bets on this I’d be all in.

  23. Any detailed financial information would be analyzed for the next round of labor negotiations. The slightest indication of self-dealing would become “proof” that owners are “robbing” players. If this were to happen, I’m confident that the next round of labor negotiations would make this one look like a walk in the park.

    There’s no doubt there are many players mischaracterized as being “millionaires”, “selfish”, etc. The vast majority are consummate professionals and conduct themselves that way both on and off the field.

    But I’ve seen how the players have collectively doled out the proceeds from the last labor agreement. Many are responsible money managers. Rookies and their agents are getting incredible paydays while aging and infirm NFL players still have problems making ends meet and walking straight at the same time. While fans know who to turn to when there’s a fiasco like the SB seats, there’s no place to get redress from guys like Albert Haynesworth who give up after getting paid.

    If I’m an owner, I’m thinking twice about enabling greater player influence after watching LeBron leave Cleveland in shambles. When players don’t have to worry about money, they become more interested in their own legacy and where they want to be. No owner wants their franchise to be the next Cleveland Cavaliers, a blight on the city and on anyone associated with the franchise.

  24. I know most people don’t employer/employee argument but in essence (yes it’s different than “normal” business), this relationship is what’s going on. Webster defines an employee as, “one employed by another usually for wages or salary and in a position below the executive level”. Sound familiar?

    Yes the league wouldn’t be the same without these players but the league just wouldn’t be without the owners. This is ridiculous that they want to see the books, it’s none of their business. They’re being paid enough. If you want to negotiate for a raise fine, get it done, but the owners (employers) are paying the players (employees) for their services, you don’t get see all the company finances…sorry.

    Also, while it’s RIDICULOUS how much the owners are paying their family, really it’s their money.

  25. bengalsown says: Mar 9, 2011 10:49 PM

    Wow, I didn’t know Jerry Jones inherited the Cowboys! Or the owner of the Rams, the owner of the Texans, so on and so forth.

    Great point givingclintonportishead


    A review of the post you reference CLEARLY says half the owners fall into that category-including the Mike Brown you reference in your screen name. Go back and read it.

    I also did not include folks who bought teams with inherited money (ie Woody Johnson, Kronke, etc)

    Interestingly, the folks who inherited their teams tend to be the owners who take the long view and act as league moderates.

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