League claims it didn’t abandon CBA talks last week, even though the facts suggest otherwise


Last Thursday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Wednesday’s collapse of the labor talks occurred after the union proposed a 50-50 split of all revenues and the owners stormed out.  The NFL never directly disputed Mort’s report, issuing instead a statement that hinted that the league could dispute the report, but that the league was opting to be discreet out of deference to its partner-turned-enemy.

“Despite the inaccurate characterizations of yesterday’s meeting, out of respect to the collective bargaining process and our negotiating partner, we are going to continue to conduct negotiations with the union in private and not engage in a point-counterpoint on the specifics of either side’s proposals or the meeting process,” the league said Thursday.

“Instead, we will work as hard as possible to reach a fair agreement by March 4. We are fully focused on that goal.”

Now, via on-the-record and apparent off-the-record disclosures to Mort and his business-suits-and-barstools partner Adam Schefter, the league seems to be trying to create the impression that management didn’t ditch the session after the union proposed a 50-50 share of all cash that rings through the register.

Specifically, Mort and Schefter report citing unnamed sources (i.e., management-side sources, in our assessment) that the league pulled the plug after the NFLPA characterized documents labeled “NFLPA Proposal” as something other than a collective bargaining proposal.

“As often happens in collective bargaining, the parties reached a point where there was a fundamental difference on a critical issue that was not going to be reconciled that day,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Mort and/or Schefter.  “The discussions were adjourned to permit both parties to assess their positions and consider how to move the process forward.  Far from abandoning the process, in the first four days after the Super Bowl, we have had two meetings of our labor executive committee and negotiating team, a conference call with all 32 clubs, and a meeting with the union.”

That reference to “abandoning the process” comes from the criticism the league has endured in the wake of the perception, based on Mort’s report, the NFL took their bat and ball and went home after the union made a reasonable opening proposal for sharing all money earned by the sport.

But the reality is that the NFL did abandon the process of bargaining.  Having a conference call with the 32 clubs and convening internal meetings of the labor executive committee and negotiating team don’t constitute bargaining.  The league and the union planned to meet for nine hours Wednesday and five hours Thursday, and at some point on Wednesday the league called the whole thing off.

No matter how the league spins it now, that constitutes abandoning the process.

Indeed, nothing contained in Sunday’s report amounts to a retraction of Mort’s Thursday report.  (We’ve sent Mort an e-mail seeking clarification that his Thursday report still stands.)  Thus, the fact remains that the NFLPA made a reasonable opening offer and the league opted not to respond to it.  Now, the league adroitly is trying to chalk the whole thing up to a misunderstanding.

A misunderstanding that prompted the NFL to abandon the process.

The good news is that the two sides plan to meet again this week.  But with only 18 days to go until the current labor deal expires, nothing short of a “sustained and disciplined commitment and round-the-clock talks” will get this done.  We know that because Commissioner Roger Goodell called for a “sustained and disciplined commitment and round-the-clock talks” on ESPN’s Jim Rome is Burning, way back on January 21.  And then when the parties were finally starting what could have become a “sustained and disciplined commitment and round-the-clock talks,” the NFL got its nose out of joint and walked out.

As a result, it’s reasonable to question whether the NFL truly wants to do a fair deal, or whether the NFL will only do a deal on its skewed and one-sided terms.  As time passes, we’re starting to wonder whether, at the core, this fight isn’t about revenue sharing or the players getting a “such a great deal” in 2006 or an unsustainable model that generated $9 billion in a bad economy.  We’re starting to suspect that the enormous financial success of the league has left the owners believing that the players are simply making too much money, and that the owners want to take some of it back.

Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the accurate one.  And with the league unwilling to provide hard evidence to support changing a system to which 30 of 32 owners agreed five years ago, it’s hard not to think that this is all about the owners realizing that the players are getting paid more than the owners think they should, that the owners have the leverage to squeeze them into giving a chunk of it back, and that they’ve decided to squeeze.

37 responses to “League claims it didn’t abandon CBA talks last week, even though the facts suggest otherwise

  1. Citing the notoriously uneven Chris Mortensen as a source doesn’t make me believe this is about the owners simply wanting to take back cash. So many analyses of this issue ignore this – “the owners generated $9 billion in a bad economy,” but it is never asked how much they spent to generate $9 billion. The owners have to spend money to make money here.

    This would never have become an issue if the cost of doing business had stayed the same. It’s NOT owners vs. players and it’s not really owners vs. owners (though there IS an element of that at work) – it’s long-term economic reality vs. the league.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know the split was 50-50 on revenues. That’s crazy. The players have very little “costs,” while the owners have huge costs. Doing a split on revenues is hardly fair. Now a 50-50 split on “profits” seems a little more responsible.

  3. Slow news day PFT. And with a lockout looming I’m worried this website is going to be called ProGardeningTalk pretty soon.

  4. I still don’t think the NFLPA understands what is happening here. NFL ownership needs to keep 32 owners from doing or saying anything drastically stupid in the coming months (easier said than done). The NFLPA needs to keep 1500 players from doing the same thing.

    I know it sounds a bit foolish, but the PR battle will be fought and lost by every NFL player that speaks their mind on Twitter, no matter how well intentioned.

    The players will be their own undoing, and nothing but an internet moratorium (or a complete owner meltdown) can stop it. Until then, I suppose we should get our popcorn ready.

  5. I just wish these A**holes would get their s#!t together and split everything 50-50!! Neither side can bitch then because its split down the middle.

  6. the league should accept a 50/50 split of all profits as long as the union agrees to a 50/50 split of all expenses, and they can start paying up thier share retroactive for the billion dollar stadiums.

    unions are insane, employees demanding 50 percent of all profits with none of the risk of investment, here in the real world u get fired if you walk into your boss’s office and demand half of the profits.

    i have a great idea, find someone who is starting a business, apply for a job and then ask for half of the profits. if the world worked this way nobody would start businesses they would be better served as employees

  7. The owners say they are losing money but don’t want anyone to look at the books just take their word for it. Players say ok we don’t need to see the books 50-50 fair to both sides. Owners walk out. The owners are making clear they want the bigger share and looking for a way to stop having to pay the players all those millions to win. I going to miss football but I hope the players fight for what is rightfully theirs

  8. The deal will get done. No one – players, owners, union, agents, fans – wants a football-less 2011. All this righteous indignation and feigned indifference is just posturing – it’s all part of the bargaining process.

    It’s like hot dogs. Everyone loves eating hot dogs, but no one wants to see how they’re made. The process is ugly, but it works, and the result is what matters.

  9. This is really to bad. 50-50 seems reasonable. If they are not careful they will give new life to the united football league.

  10. Does anyone, anywhere believe a bunch of whiny, greedy billionaires the likes of Jerry Jones and Danny Snyder? I sure as hell don’t.

  11. These guys seriously need to get it together before the people who really matters gets fed up with this nonsense…the fans!!

  12. How on earth did the union make “a reasonable opening proposal”? As I understand it, the union’s 50-50 split of “all revenue” is essentially what they’re already getting now! The NFL owners made it clear at the outset of negotiations that they were opting out of the existing CBA—as is their contractual right to do so—in hopes of securing an additional $1Bn (on top of the $1Bn already taken) off the top of “all revenue” for reinvestment in the business (e.g., stadium construction, overseas growth, etc.). That reinvestment is designed to grow the revenue pie even bigger, thereby further fattening the wallets of both the players and the owners down the road. In the business world, if you don’t grow, you die. If anything is “skewed and one-sided” here, it’s the NFLPA’s stubborn refusal—to date, at least—to meet the NFL owners at least halfway. That would be a reasonable opening proposal.

  13. Because Mortensen didn’t retract his report, “the fact remains that the NFLPA made a reasonable opening offer and the league opted not to respond to it.”?

    I’m sorry but that’s just an insane comment.

    Mortensen and Schefter can be counted on for one thing, to screw things up even more than they already are.

  14. WOW, is this site for the players. Thanks for reporting more BIAS in your reporting than I have ever seen. You are trying your best to ruin the coming nfl season….

  15. this is all about some owners being pissed, cause they sign the high price free agents and then their team is a bust! dan snyder ring a bell!
    the greed in this country is unbelievable, the people who have $$$ want to tell the people that don’t how much they should get!!!

  16. Takke a good look at Godell in the picture and make a comment on it.

    He looks like a kid taking a trantrum for not getting his way

  17. Like I thought from the get go the owners are determined to have a lock out.As much money as they have made its just never going to be enough.In Philly where guys like me though PSL’S or from the city/states tax dollars come to the rescue and build a brand new stadium to make a guy like Jeffrie Lurie’s investment worth more.I want to die and come back as a owner of a NFL franchise because they truly have it made in the business world, with the salary cap and the TV money anybody could turn that into a gold mine.After all these years I have yet to see a owner paralyzed and never be able to walk again like the lineman for the Jets(Byrd I think was his name) or end up like NFL great Earl Campbell who we all loved to watch on Sundays and Mondays but today can barely walk.

  18. “the NFL took their bat and ball and went home after the union made a reasonable opening proposal for sharing all money earned by the sport.”

    I am not sure what is reasonable about workers demanding 50% of all money earned. Maybe I will shoot my CEO an Email this morning demanding more money just like the NFLPA. I mean since it is so reasonable and all.

  19. While Richardson could use some tact, I completely agree that the owners need to take their league back.

    I hope the owners lock the players out. In fact, I hope they hire replacement players.

  20. “pattersonconsulting” doesn’t have the slightest clue about running a business. Or what ‘profits’ are and how even the most second-rate business manager can game ‘profits’ so they don’t exist…

    There’s a reason nobody with a brain takes a ‘percentage of the profits’ in Hollywood. You take a percentage of the gross, it’s much harder to game.

  21. I do think the owners should have to open the books but i do NOT think the players deserve 50/50!!

  22. I wonder how many people have actually sat across a table and hammered out an agreement with someone, especially a group. I know that the person that wrote this post for PFT certainly has not.

    When two groups meet, it is not unusual for the initial meetings to be brief, especially when one side brings a written proposal to the table. You have to get back, go through that proposal line by line to ensure there is not something hidden or that you do not give a concession sitting in that meeting that you may need to use as a bargaining chip later. Opening the books would be a nightmare. It gives union negotiators the opportunity to “suggest” cuts or skim money from other areas to push them into the unions favor.

    The owners have to get the unions contract, step back, meet as a group, and go through it so they proceed in the same direction and do not agree to things. There may be issues the NFL really does not care that much about that they will argue for just to use them as bargaining chips later to get items they strongly desire, like a rookie cap.

    This is a boxing match. The first few rounds are both opponents feeling each other out, gauging strengths and weaknesses, and trying to assess where the other plans to strike.

  23. People keep talking about a 50-50 split like they think that both make out equally.

    Remember, there are nearly 1700 players splitting half the pie, but only 32 owners.
    Last year’s revenues topped 8 Billion dollars.
    Do the math.

    The owners aren’t hurting anywhere near as bad as they want us to believe – if they’re even hurting at all.

    They won’t open their books for one simple reason.
    They’re hiding something – probably massive profits.

  24. Dan Rooney – you need to tell Obama “Thanks but no thanks” on the ambassadorship to Ireland, and get your ass back here, like right now.

    You’re probably the last surviving “voice of reason” still alive in this league.

    The Jones’ and the Richardsons of this league are threatening to destroy the success that you and the rest of the original old-timers built.

  25. Mike, how about this.

    Bring me the facts.

    Let me draw conclusions on my own.

    Don’t tell me what you think in the title.

  26. The bottom line is that the owners are fighting amongst themselves over things like revenue sharing and the salary cap.
    But, being as there is “honor among thieves”, they still decided to band together and take it out on the players.

  27. “That’s according to ESPN, who reports that “dialogue has continued” between the two sides even though they walked away from the bargaining table after what amounts to an ill-timed miscommunication. (The NFLPA reportedly mislabeled something as a “proposal” even though it wasn’t an “official proposal” and the NFL walked away; there’s blame to hand out for that on both sides, but don’t bring something called a “proposal” to a negotiating session if it’s not, you know, a “proposal.”)”

    Here is a cutout from an article on Sportsline. Also says they are going to meet this week.

    ***You guys need to put up a disclaimer on every CBA post stating your pro-union bias or start leaving your biases out of your reporting a bit. *****

  28. @FoozieGrooler, you really think a 50-50 split is unfair to the players?

    Let the players start paying for their own trainers, coaches, equipment, support personnel, travel, and all the other expenses and you MAY have an argument. The players do not pay for anything at the moment and are taking 50% of the revenue. In 2009, the salary cap per team was $127 million dollars. That means that 53 roster players split that up. If it were 63 players, it would still be more than $2M per player with no sunk cost on their part.

    The owners either invested lifetimes (like the Rooneys) or millions (like Snyder) to acquire and build a team. If you had $800M to invest, would you settle for $20M in profit (Packers made $20M in profit in 2009). That is 5%. The owners could place that in ANY bank in the US and pull 5%. They could, most likely, easily get 10% in the stock market. Why should they own an NFL team if they are going to hand their profit to the players?

    They have to make some money as owners, especially guys like the Rooneys who do not have outside sources of income. The Steelers are their business.

    Lastly, Jerry Jones and the NFL covered all but $325M of the cost of his stadium. The players get that state of the art field, great training facilities, medical facilities, and all the extras. Now, Jones should hand them all the money too.

    It is a load of crap.

  29. Mike, you get your income from the owners AND players. How about you give 1/3 to the owners and 1/3 to the players. Your total revenue, not profit. Just give most of it away. Come on. Those players are RISKING THEIR LIVES out there so you can write BS stories. Fork over your cash. It’s the right thing to do. And while you’re at it, ASIDE from that money, pay for their benefits too.

  30. 1. The Players get a 59.5% split right now.

    2. If this is reduced to 50/50 then that would effect the Salary Cap Max.

    3. If 9 Billion was brought in 4.8 for Players, and 4.2 for Owners (its 131 mil per 32 teams and about 2.8 mil per player out of 1696)

    So if 4.8 is the Players union split, why does Owners/Team negotiate Salaries?

    What happens to whats left out of that? I saw a figure that Avg. NFL Salary was 1.5 mil. Basketball was like 5. Baseball 2. Hockey 1.7.

    So really it Avg is 1.5, but Players get almost double that, Where is all that $$$??

    This number i found in a search Highest paid team was Raiders with 152 mil then Dallas 146 and KC at the bottom at 83. Remember there is a bottom to the Cap also.

    That adds up to 3.6 Billion. So where is the other 1.2 Billion?

    Cowboys Operations expenses where 143 million – what does that mean? Exec Salaries? Parking attendants? Players? (http://xtmonline.com/2010/09/14/any-given-sunday-nfl-owners-compete-for-its-future/)

    Seems like bigger market teams want a bigger cut of the pie. So is the break down for Owners 1/32 of the pie?

    Also where does the Bonuses come from for SB winners and Pro Bowl winning team?

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