So much for optimism.
In his latest excellently detailed (or detailedly excellent) look at the status of the talks between the NFL and the players’ union, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports illustrates the divide between the two sides regarding the issue of financial information.
Silver explains that the union’s current position is simple. The players want 50 cents of every dollar earned (which is less than they’ve gotten annually over the last decade), and the players won’t move from that number until they receive a decade worth of audited financial statements from each team.
The NFL has offered only to provide aggregate profit information for five years, without revealing specific team numbers — even if the names of the teams were redacted. The league also is willing to identify the number of teams that experienced a decline in profits in any given year during the five-year window.
Obviously, it’s not enough. It’s not enough because it requires the union to trust the accuracy and validity of the numbers. And the last thing the union will be doing is trusting the accuracy and validity of the numbers only eight days after the issuance of a court ruling that gives the union reason to not trust the league.
As Silver explains it, the owners’ options are clear. Give up the financial information that supports a decrease in the players’ share of the revenue, or reduce the demands. Silver accurately calls it a tax on the ability to keep the financial information secret. He even suggests that, for some owners, the desire for secrecy may go beyond avoiding embarrassing disclosures or giving information to one of their 31 partner/competitors. Silver hints that the books could reveal “even shady dealings that might attract outside attention from authorities.”
Either way, the books will be forced open if litigation ensues. And with two days to go until the latest deadline arrives, litigation is looking more and more like the path down which the league will be careening, unless 32 men who are used to always getting their way realize that, in this specific situation, they won’t.
It’s up to them whether they do it the easy way, or the hard way.