Though the reality of oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has interrupted the fantasy of a labor deal being secretly negotiated amid boxes of deep dish pizza (eaten, of course, with plastic utensils), our buddy Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reports that the owners made concessions during the two days of not-so-secret meetings in Chicago.
Freeman writes that “[n]o one will say exactly what the concessions are but significant ones have been made and the players believe they are genuine.” Freeman speculates that the owners are “continuing to come down significantly” from the demand that the owners receive another $1 billion off the top (in addition to the original $1 billion) before application of the 59.6-percent formula. “The players always believed this was an outrageous demand and the players were right,” Freeman says.
Though it’s possible that the talks have reverted to the 2006 formula, which is based on money off the top with the players getting nearly 60 percent of the remainder, the March 11 offer from the NFL reflected the new formula the two sides had been discussing — a “pegged cap” based on specific team-by-team salary cap numbers each and every season, with the players also wanting to share in any money over and above the projections on which the predetermined cap numbers were based.
The concept of the “true up” has been the sticking point, with the players interpreting the absence of a true up provision in the March 11 offer as an indication that the league won’t share any of the excess, and with the league assuming that a response from the players (which to date hasn’t come) would include a proposal regarding the true up.
Regardless of the specific formula used, the heart of the dispute centers on the players’ belief that they should forever receive 50 cents of every dollar of revenue generated, regardless of the total dollars of revenue generated. The owners believe that, as the total dollars pass $10 billion per year and commence the inevitable climb toward $20 billion, the players should take a smaller piece of this perpetually growing pie.
Perhaps the owners are now willing to keep that number closer to 50 percent than 40 percent. One way or the other, Freeman’s report suggests that something has happened to get the players’ attention. With money being the primary issue in dispute, it’s safe to say that something had something to do with the manner in which the money will be shared.