In one of the most balanced and accurate items we’ve seen since the labor dispute began, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports provides a comprehensive snapshot of the status of the labor talks, as of Thursday.
Echoing concepts that have been reported here and elsewhere in recent days (there isn’t much in the column that technically constitutes new information, but it’s all in one place for the first time), Silver breaks down the breakdown in the negotiations.
He writes that the players are leery of the owners’ efforts to play with the numbers, reneging on a “verbal handshake” as to the “all revenue” model and trying to carve out enough expense credits that would reduce the players’ take from 48 cents per dollar to, as a practical matter, 45. (Silver identifies NFL in-house lawyer Peter Rucco as the primary culprit, from the players’ perspective.) The league’s effort to impose full responsibility for the retired players’ “legacy fund” on the current players, via the salary cap, also has ruffled feathers on the players’ side of the table.
Silver also writes that the owners “continue to regard NFLPA attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and James Quinn as divisive forces intent on blowing up any prospective settlement in favor of continuing to pursue legal remedies, including the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit, that could create monumental leverage for the players in the future,” a concept posted here multiple times in recent weeks. Silver confirms our report that Kessler and Quinn have tried to argue that sales tax on ticket sales also should be included in the “all revenue” formula, a patently ridiculous argument, given that the owners keep none of that money.
That said, the article from Silver plows some intriguing new ground, reporting for example that Goodell last week “screamed” at owners after someone leaked to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen during the June 21 ownership meeting details of the proposed plan, such as the 48-cent formula and the plan to expand the Thursday night package to a full-season experience. Silver also writes that the players want a piece of the pie generated by the hosting of concerts at NFL stadiums.
The silver lining, if there is any, in Silver’s 31-paragraph bullet of bad news is that it’s based on attitudes that existed as of Thursday afternoon and previously. Once the process hit its most recent nadir, something happened to keep the parties in the room until after midnight in Minnesota, and to prompt them to agree to return by 8:00 a.m. CT on Friday. This is precisely the kind of personal inconvenience that promotes focus and efficiency, since all involved parties (except the outside lawyers who are billing by the hour) would prefer to be doing something other than sitting in the same room, for hours on end.
The ultimate question remains whether the two men who (per Silver) had an “awkwardly comfortable” breakfast on Wednesday can lead their respective constituencies to get past an awkwardly uncomfortable stretch during the talks. If Commissioner Roger Goodell can get the owners to stop trying to take advantage of the perception that the players won’t walk away and if NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith can control Kessler and Quinn (or, perhaps even better, kick them out of the room for good), this thing can get done in time to salvage the $800 million in meaningful dollars that will flow from four weeks of meaningless games.