In 2006, only two NFL owners voted against the recently-expired labor deal. One of them was Bills owner Ralph Wilson. Five years later, the 92-year-old original owner of the Buffalo franchise of the AFL, which landed in the NFL as part of the merger, isn’t gloating about the fact that he and Bengals owner Mike Brown were right.
Wilson didn’t like the revenue-sharing component of the deal that gave the players nearly 60 percent of all revenue, after the league received $1 billion off the top.
“I’m upset about the whole deal and the way it was presented,” Wilson said in 2006, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News points out in a new interview with the 2009 Hall of Famer. “And 59.5% is far too much money for the whole league, not just Buffalo.”
Wilson’s more recent comments confirm that the revenue-sharing issue is still lurking, even though the players strategically have refused to try to divide and conquer the owners along those lines.
“It’s very difficult,” Wilson tells Myers of the Bills’ financial performance. “We’ve had a tough time. We’ve hung in there. Buffalo has lost population and it’s a tough go. When I came in the league, it was the 14th largest city in the league. All the corporations moved out of Buffalo. We’re doing alright. We will make it, but it’s not easy.”
Making it less easy for low-revenue cities is a player-compensation system that is driven by total league revenues. With franchises like the Cowboys, Redskins, Eagles, and Patriots reeling in much more money than the smaller markets, the higher revenues generated by other teams drive up the labor costs of the Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, etc. But the owners amazingly have been able to keep that key point of contention under wraps for now, with the apparent goal of first getting the best possible deal from the players, and then taking up whether and to what extent enhanced revenue sharing will be necessary after the dust settles on the CBA crisis.
Regardless, time has shown that Wilson and Brown were right. And yet neither man is involved in the current negotiations. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the league and the players aren’t getting anywhere.
UPDATE: And, of course, I forgot that Mike Brown will be involved in mediation on Monday.