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League, union must somehow find a win-win

Goodell_Smith AP

It sounds simple and obvious.  To solve the current labor dispute, the NFL and the players must find a way to bridge their divide while also being able to sell victory to their constituents.

The first task, as men like Robert Kraft and Mike Vrabel and most recently Fran Tarkenton have pointed out, is to get the lawyers out of the process.  Lawyers have a way of mesmerizing their clients into adopting strategies that, coincidentally, result in the lawyers milking the cow until dust comes out.

If the two sides can blaze a trail back to the table, with the lawyers taking a back seat to the business people, the challenge will be to carve the soon-to-be-11-figure pie in a way that lets the players believe they’re being fairly compensated while at the same time allowing the owners to believe they’re raking in a fair profit.

The players believe a perpetual 50-50 split is fair; the owners apparently believe that, at a certain point, 50-50 results in way too many dollars for the men who play the game — especially since the owners must run their businesses and build their stadiums and derive their margins from the other 50 percent.

So how do they break this logjam?  For starters, the players need to start thinking in terms of total dollars, not revenue percentages.  The owners’ proposal from March 11 entailed hard numbers based on projected revenue growth.  If the league fails to meet those goals, the players still get their money.  The problem arises when the league exceeds the projections on which the hard numbers are based.

The players weren’t happy that the league’s proposal omitted that term.  The league believes the term is negotiable, and that the players should respond with a counter.

They should.  Give the owners the first chunk of the overage, as the two sides had been discussing.  Then split the money for another segment of the excess.  Above that, reduce the percentage that goes to the players progressively, giving them a perpetual piece of the upside but also reserving the bulk of the fruits of any significant spikes to the owners.

In the end, the players need to look at the total dollars, because the total dollars will continue to grow.  And, in fairness, the players generate only so much of the total growth of the league.  It’s the league, not the players, that is constantly looking for ways to enhance revenue via business ideas that cost money to implement.  Though the players play a game that can’t be played without them, the owners position the playing of that game to generate the most possible money for everyone.

And while the owners also enjoy increases in the value of their franchises, the two sides could devise some sort of a device for paying to the players a fixed percentage of any sale of equity by an owner.

What’s the right percentage?  That’s for the two sides to figure out.  And that process can’t happen until they find a way to act like adults and sit down and engage in a free exchange of ideas aimed at securing the future of the sport.

We’ve said many times that the owners and players are the stewards of the game.  And many have assumed that the two sides eventually will wake up and get it done, given that role.

We’re not prepared to conclude that the parties will eventually get smart and get it done, in large part because neither side has done much of late to make us think they’re capable of doing so.  They can change our minds by setting aside egos and agendas and legal strategies and getting to work, not for their own good but for the good of the game.

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42 Responses to “League, union must somehow find a win-win”
  1. poolninjasd says: Mar 24, 2011 10:58 PM

    Get the lawyers out? NFLPA asterisk, is led by one…

  2. hobartbaker says: Mar 24, 2011 10:58 PM

    Nothing is happening out of court. The near term future of pro football is in the hands of a middle aged, Midwest, housewife and mother.

    As it generally has been and should be.

  3. 44kyle says: Mar 24, 2011 11:01 PM

    Excellent summary of the problem. The hassle over percentage vs. total $’s seems to be the heart of the problem. It’s as if the two sides are speaking two different languages and are too proud to use an interpreter.
    One observation: I’ve never seen a player’s contract that was structured by percentage of the team’s revenue. Might make sense for the players to consider that.

  4. bf53 says: Mar 24, 2011 11:06 PM

    good luck with that

  5. realfann says: Mar 24, 2011 11:14 PM

    I don’t agree that there’s NFL revenue now or in the future that the players have not contributed towards earning.

    I’d be interested to hear some examples.

    I think it’s also fair to point out the players are not adamant on the 50/50 total revenue split. They offered that number as a base for negotiations and have indicated they would consider other splits.

    The owners refused to negotiate from that base because as PFT points out here, the owners do not want to share all revenue.

    But are curiously shy about saying so.

    It’s also fair to point out that the owners do not bear the full cost of building new stadiums. Jurry’s new cathedral to the Cowboys is not even owned by the team or Jurry himself.

    So how does Jurry generate NFL revenue that’s completely independent of the players contribution.

    Scratching my head.

  6. xli2006 says: Mar 24, 2011 11:14 PM

    What? Splitting a giant pot of 9 BILLION DOLLARS isn’t already a Win-Win?

  7. scudbot says: Mar 24, 2011 11:18 PM

    Players don’t have equity because they don’t own stock. Apparently you think they should.So, right then. Right. Let’s make sure the JaMarcus Russells get their fair share of whatever increase the value of the Raiders enjoys. And that they have to pay into the kitty if and when the value drops when this NFL bubble starts to deflate. The fans can’t sustain the costs of the growth. The owners know that.

  8. j0esixpack says: Mar 24, 2011 11:19 PM

    Been saying this for weeks.

    There’s no way lawyers billing several hundred dollars an hour are going to work to resolve this quickly.

    Negotiate – don’t litigate. NFLPA – what’s your counter offer?

  9. acursor says: Mar 24, 2011 11:19 PM

    I’m a lawyer and I agree it’s true sometimes the lawyers hijack the process. But here you have very sophisticated principals on both sides. Men who have taken control of their destinies–not by letting lawyers lead.

    Mike- you’re a lawyer–might be tainting your view; stop focusing on the lawyers.

    As far as the value each side brings to the whole shbang, we know the players value is high b/c the replacement games were terrible.

    What do the owners bring? Consider replacement teams as in the Chicago Stars v. the Green Bay Winters. The Owners bring the team brands. It wouldn’t be nearly as exciting to see the current players under new team names.

    That said, 50/50 (of all dollars) seems about right.

  10. src3346 says: Mar 24, 2011 11:19 PM

    YES!!!

  11. nflfan101 says: Mar 24, 2011 11:27 PM

    From everything that I have read, the owners want to negotiate a deal (in fact they have been begging to negotiate), the fans want negotiations so that this mess will end, some players say that they want to negotiate, but the players’ “leaders” refuse to negotiate.

    It takes both sides to agree to negotiate and to reach an agreement. The owners, the fans, and the few players cannot do it themselves.

    Again, the players’ “leaders” do not want to negotiate. Apparently, they think that a court will rule that the NFL is violating anti-trust laws and will throw out all rules concerning pay and employment. And they appear to think that that will be better for the players than a CBA.

  12. t1mmy10 says: Mar 24, 2011 11:28 PM

    good ideas & points, especially about the lawyers….too bad the PA* is run by one.

    @ realfann: for starters he managed to sell seats at the super bowl that didn’t exist.

  13. Packernet says: Mar 24, 2011 11:31 PM

    It’s going to court and the players will win but not like the outcome.

  14. thetobygrizwold says: Mar 24, 2011 11:40 PM

    This is true

  15. tnsteve says: Mar 24, 2011 11:40 PM

    Nowhere in these discussions have I seen any mention of franchise value over the term of a CBA. If a club is estimated to be worth $750 million in 2007 (for example) but is then estimated (usually by Forbes) for $900 million in 2010, that’s $150 million extra for ONLY the owner, not the players. At no time in league history am I aware of franchise values going down. The players do not share this franchise value and they shouldn’t, but it should be a consideration in the discussions.

  16. Grulks says: Mar 24, 2011 11:45 PM

    the players want half the revenue, but dont want to contribute to half the operating costs.

    Imagine if the owners told them, we want half your endorsement money, Peyton Manning/Reggie Bush, since the only reason you are getting that is bc you play for my team. I’m sure the players wouldnt go for that. So why do they feel they are entitled to the same with the owners??

  17. scytherius says: Mar 24, 2011 11:56 PM

    Pretty much.

  18. mick730 says: Mar 25, 2011 12:07 AM

    “And while the owners also enjoy increases in the value of their franchises, the two sides could devise some sort of a device for paying to the players a fixed percentage of any sale of equity by an owner.”

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    The players are employees, not partners, and they do not have an equity stake in the NFL. They come and they go. That’s all there is to it. They are extremely well paid and they do not need more. A “3 year” career in the NFL, playing a game, does not guarantee that one will never have to work again for the rest of one’s life.

    Their “investment” in the NFL is their physical ability. Their “return” is their outrageous salaries and benefits. Case closed.

  19. richgannon says: Mar 25, 2011 12:14 AM

    There’s no reason to take sides….or even worry about these things we as fans cant control, what we can control is what we spend our hard earned money on……in the end football will be back and none of this will matter.

  20. japmen says: Mar 25, 2011 12:47 AM

    My question is; do the players earn promotional contracts for shoes, deodorant, etc. and do they have to share this revenue with the league? Would these players have this revenue stream without the NFL? The owners are supposed to share all thier revenue but the players arent?

  21. siggy00 says: Mar 25, 2011 12:58 AM

    Building stadiums is the excuse. But it defies logic.

    21 of 32 teams play in stadiums that are 20 years old or less. Four of the older stadiums (Chicago, Green Bay, New Orleans, and KC) just got renovated to the hilt.

    That’s 25 of the 32 teams. Which leaves 7 teams.

    Some media claim new stadiums aren’t being built because of cost? FACTS prove new stadiums aren’t being built because MOST of the league already have them.

  22. goldsteel says: Mar 25, 2011 1:04 AM

    Both sides are responsible for a renewed interest in baseball.

  23. randymossblewit says: Mar 25, 2011 1:20 AM

    The league just needs complete antitrust exemption and everything will be fine.

  24. steeltownpride says: Mar 25, 2011 5:12 AM

    Lets make a proposal right here . If the league and union agrees just ship me free season tickets for life lol ….

    Give the owners 2 billion off the top as they want . Then take the rest and spit it as the players like now a 60/40 split ….. Now here is what will get the players to agree to it . Make their contracts GUARENTEED .

    Get the rookie wage scale under agreement . First rounders sign 4 years . 2nd and 3rd rounders get 3 year deals and 4-7 rounders are 2 year deals with .

    Expand health insurance coverage for the players . Give some extra cash to the vets . Sign a 7 year deal with no cancelling of years for either side ….

  25. vetdana says: Mar 25, 2011 5:45 AM

    How to carve the soon-to-be-11-figure pie.

    Again we leave the Fans out of the equation. I have, at this point, lost all respect for both parties, who can do nothing but show a complete lack of appreciation and respect for the people who, without their support, would cause this house of cards to fall. This “pie” is going to shrink as more & more fans are alienated! This GREED is going to hurt the game !

  26. h0c2000 says: Mar 25, 2011 6:23 AM

    It’s a business not a game, hence no antitrust exemption, ala baseball. Also, the business is the players not the game. If all the players went to the NFL, no one would care about the NFL any more.

  27. h0c2000 says: Mar 25, 2011 6:24 AM

    make that, If all the players went to the UFL, no one would care about the NFL any more.

  28. gbp13x says: Mar 25, 2011 7:05 AM

    Isn’t the soon to be revenue figure ten billion ($10,000,000,000) making it a soon to be 11 figure pie? They are squabling over so much money that even an ex-lawyer can’t keep track of the digits.

  29. Audible Football says: Mar 25, 2011 7:07 AM

    You hope they’ve realized that we don’t have to take sides, they can both be losers.

  30. wryly1 says: Mar 25, 2011 7:10 AM

    hey – 44kyle

    If you’ve never seen a player’s contract that was ‘stuctured on a percentage of the revenues’, then you’ve never seen an NFL contract.

    How do you think they are, and have been structured. for many, many years? How do you think the salry cap is determined?

    This is NOT anything new the players are demanding – it’s how this particular business is done – and that is NOT what is going to change.

    All that is happening is owners want a bigger cut of the pie from the revenue producers (players). What part of that don’t you get?

  31. chapnastier says: Mar 25, 2011 7:24 AM

    Well said Mick, as usual. This site has increasingly gone towards the players which is odd considering the facts, the propaganda and the nonsense that has come out of this whole process.

    It is funny to me that people continue to spout about this partnership nonsense but the players are not at all willing to share their income from endorsements with the league. Again, you’d have to be a certified idiot to not get that.

  32. santolonius says: Mar 25, 2011 8:24 AM

    what i believe in my gut (and would love to see a sports journalist do some reporting on this) is that when times are good these billionaire owners see their teams as the ultimate toy. they want to win a super bowl. they like standing on the sideline at the end of games. they like being around all these athletes. but then comes the recession and some unknown number of owners start LOSING money in their other businesses and investments. now for the first time they have to see their nfl team be the bread winner for their entire empire. if you’re the owner that seems reasonable. but if you’re the players why should you give up salary to help someone cover outside headge fund losses? or a floundering construction business? bottom line, they have to meet in the middle. but meanwhile could some reporter please do an in deapth on the 31 owners? i want to know about factions. very curious.

  33. eagleswin says: Mar 25, 2011 8:35 AM

    wryly1 says:
    Mar 25, 2011 7:10 AM
    hey – 44kyle

    If you’ve never seen a player’s contract that was ‘stuctured on a percentage of the revenues’, then you’ve never seen an NFL contract.

    How do you think they are, and have been structured. for many, many years? How do you think the salry cap is determined?

    This is NOT anything new the players are demanding – it’s how this particular business is done – and that is NOT what is going to change.

    All that is happening is owners want a bigger cut of the pie from the revenue producers (players). What part of that don’t you get?
    ==================
    Contracts are negotiated for fixed numbers. Tom Brady doesn’t get increases or decreases in his contract every year after revenues are determined. It is true that the sum of the contracts must fit in the salary cap which is determined by a percentage of league revenue but it’s misleading at best to present Tom Brady’s contract as a fixed percentage of the revenue.

    If the cap goes up the owners have more room to sign new contracts but doesn’t effect existing contracts. In the 70’s and 80’s things were slanted to far in the owners direction and things changed, alot. Now things are to far in the players direction so there’s a good chance things will change, maybe in a way neither the owner nor the players will lke.

  34. PFTbitesthehandthatfeeds says: Mar 25, 2011 9:04 AM

    Yeah, get rid of the lawyers, and while we are at it can we get the lawyers out of the media coverage as well?…..oh….that’d be you Flouride, now wouldn’t it?

  35. supervaquero says: Mar 25, 2011 9:05 AM

    Obama takes the league away, gives it to the players, and sells a few shares in an IPO…….

  36. eagleswin says: Mar 25, 2011 9:14 AM

    steeltownpride says:
    Mar 25, 2011 5:12 AM
    Lets make a proposal right here . If the league and union agrees just ship me free season tickets for life lol ….

    Give the owners 2 billion off the top as they want . Then take the rest and spit it as the players like now a 60/40 split ….. Now here is what will get the players to agree to it . Make their contracts GUARENTEED .

    Get the rookie wage scale under agreement . First rounders sign 4 years . 2nd and 3rd rounders get 3 year deals and 4-7 rounders are 2 year deals with .

    Expand health insurance coverage for the players . Give some extra cash to the vets . Sign a 7 year deal with no cancelling of years for either side ….
    ========================
    Just say NO to guaranteed contracts. Jamarcus Russell would still be the QB of the Raiders if they weren’t able to cut them. That’s part of what makes football great. The ability to turn a franchise around quickly. You see how guaranteed contracts can mire a franchise for a decade in other sports. Look at basketball, they sign aging name players to ridiculous long term guaranteed contracts and then when the players don’t work out they are stuck waiting 5-6 years until the contract expires before they can try to turn the team around.

    Hockey is the same way with the guaranteed contracts. There is one goalie who was signed to a 14 year contract and has maybe played in 10-15% of the games in the last 3 years due to injuries. He will never live up to that contract but he’s guaranteed a roster spot on that team for the rest of his career.

  37. 3octaveFart says: Mar 25, 2011 9:33 AM

    chapnastier says: Mar 25, 2011 7:24 AM

    “..players are not at all willing to share their income from endorsements with the league. Again, you’d have to be a certified idiot to not get that.”

    First of all, where has anyone even asked the players to do this? Much less, when did the players say “No” to it? And cite sources…

    And since you still haven’t “gotten it” yourself, it’s the owners who are asking the players to take $1 billion less, therefore if anybody needs to show cause, it’s the owners.

  38. melikefootball says: Mar 25, 2011 10:22 AM

    From all the reports seem the players aren’t in any hurry to get a deal. This seems very strange, the longer they hold out the more fans will look out of the eyes of the owners. You see all these players doing different gigs with no care of possible injury yet they want the fans to see their side. Most fans don’t quite get all the outside jobs wanting to compete in yet don’t want to get down to striking a deal. I see some walk outs of fans very shortly.

  39. edgy says: Mar 25, 2011 11:24 AM

    chapnastier says:

    Well said Mick, as usual.

    ************************

    Says that guy that would support the owners if they were to make the players suit up naked and wear cod pieces.

    I suppose that you also support the owners when they bankrupt a city to pay for their palaces or they kick out long time season ticket holders because they won’t pay the bribe er PSL money to keep their seat. Give me a break. Most of the money that paid for the stadiums came from tax payers, PSL purchasers and the G3 fund, which came from the players giving the owners credits. Where can you show hard evidence that the owners have contributed any significant money FROM THEIR POCKETS to the construction of these palaces. The players have given up money to the owners to do all this and haven’t reaped one reward because a lot of money isn’t generated by the NFL and that money goes to neither the other owners or the players. Hell, even private business owners have the decency of having a profit sharing plan for their employees when they give up a significant amount of money to help out the business but Jerry Jones doesn’t even have the decency of a reach around….

  40. jobiwon22 says: Mar 25, 2011 11:24 AM

    In the end, the players and the owners will win. That is how collective bargaining works in America especially the public unions. The losers are always the consumers and taxpayers. Both sides get theirs and past the cost on to the consumers. For the NFL, the fans have to suffer without FA, offseason camps, and possibly games. After the settlement, get ready for game prices and seat licenses to go up. Increased taxes in the NFL cities and states will continue to be needed to pay for stadiums. We can enjoy $20 beers. We can put on our crappy quality jerseys that we will have to play over $100 to get. The stitched knockoff ones from China are much better and cheaper. My Sun ticket keeps going up by $50 every year. It’s getting up to where I can’t justify spending that much for TV. I really just want to pay for my team’s games, but they make you pay for all of them.
    In the end, the quality of the games and the officiating has gone down also. The high dollar TV contracts by people like ESPN lead to demands for high ratings, in the post season match ups. Storylines, market size, and merchandising are also a factor. It sure seems like officiating is used to manipulate outcomes to get the desired results that will bring in maximum revenue. Money is killing the sport and the fans lose out.

  41. realfann says: Mar 25, 2011 8:41 PM

    @steeltownpride

    The players would sign your deal in a heartbeat.

    I guarantee it.

    It’s better than the deal they got in the last CBA.

  42. realfann says: Mar 25, 2011 8:47 PM

    Jurry Jones makes personal money through endorsements and appearance fees that he gets because he owns an NFL franchise.

    Nobody but nobody is asking that these be counted as NFL revenue because the NFL didn’t earn it. Jurry did.

    Same with Peyton Manning’s endorsements & appearance fees. NFL didn’t earn them so not part of any revenue sharing.

    Neither owners nor players have even suggested changing this. Let alone expressed a desire to drag the topic into the current discussions.

    So commentators here, please just drop it. It’s just a giant red herring.

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