Foxworth, Kessler make case to players, agents on CBA gains

Getty Images

The NFLPA recently produced a two-page assessment for players entitled “The Economic Truth About The New NFL CBA.”

On Monday, in separate letters to all players and NFLPA-certified agents, NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth and outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler went into more detail regarding the gains made by players in the new labor deal.

Foxworth’s letter repeats the same bullet points from the two-page document, along with a fourth entry:  “Elimination of two-days and reduced hitting in practices have provided an immediate benefit to players.”

Also citing the higher Injury Protection Benefit and improved medical standard, Foxworth writes that “the new CBA was something that was worth fighting for.”

Kessler’s letter is far more detailed, outlining nine arguments aimed at countering “anti-player critics” who have made “grossly inaccurate” claims that “demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding” of the current CBA and its predecessor.

His points are accurate, even though some of the issues weren’t ever the subject of serious criticism.  For example, Kessler claims that critics believe the current deal is unfair because it reduced the players’ share from “‘nearly 60%’ to an average of 47% during the course of the deal.”  Though we’re aware of no critics who have made that contention, Kessler’s response is accurate.  The prior percentage was applied after the NFL received $1 billion off the top in cost deductions.  The new percentage is much, much closer to a per-dollar formula.

Kessler also points out that the new CBA has minimum cash spending requirements.  Though he doesn’t mention that the per-team minimum of 89 percent doesn’t apply until 2013, he accurately points out that the league-wide minimum is 99 percent in 2011 and 2012, dropping to 95 percent in future years.

Kessler also touts the increase in guaranteed compensation, addresses the belief in some circles that the 55-percent share that goes to the players on national TV and media deal is nevertheless limited by a 47-percent share on all revenue, defends the rookie wage scale, explains that the NFLPA did not surrender group licensing rights to the NFL, and emphasizes the non-economic benefits of the new CBA (such as limited practices, the new Injury Protection Benefit, and other achievements).

Finally, Kessler tackles the contention from a “select number of ‘journalists'” that “the new CBA is not much better than the proposal the owners made to the players in March of 2011,” calling that claim “uninformed and wrong.”  He points out that the proposal offered a fixed cap with no upside, along with dramatically reduced TV revenues as of 2014, and that the March 2011 proposal lacked other key player-friendly terms that appeared in the final deal.

Kessler’s letter represents the first detailed effort to respond to criticism of the CBA, but at no point does he or Foxworth address the comments from owners like Robert Kraft that, under the current labor deal, the salary cap won’t increase significantly for the foreseeable future.  The comparisons by “journalists” like Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal and Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe (and, yes, me) of the final CBA to the March 2011 proposal arose directly from projections and calculations regarding the cap dollars under the final deal in comparison to the guaranteed cap dollars under the March 2011 proposal.  Until the claims from influential owners like Kraft and Bob McNair are addressed, Kessler’s letter can’t be regarded as complete, no matter how thorough it may otherwise appear to be.