The NFLPA* response to Roger Goodell’s letter

We summarized the NFLPA* letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell earlier.   You can read the entire letter below:

March 19, 2011

Roger Goodell
National Football League
280 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Dear Roger:

This responds to the letter you sent to all NFL players on March 17.

We start by reminding you that we were there at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA’s status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players.  The players took this step only as a last resort, and only after two years of trying to reach a reasonable collective bargaining agreement and three weeks of mediation with George Cohen of the FMCS.  At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal.  The NFL representatives at the mediation did not, and the owners were mostly absent.

The mediation was the end of a two-year process started on May 18, 2009, when our Executive Director sent you a letter requesting audited financial statements to justify your opting out of the CBA (letter attached).

The NFLPA did all it could to reach a fair collective bargaining agreement and made numerous proposals to address the concerns raised by the owners.  In response, the owners never justified their demands for a massive give-back which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for players in major league pro sports.

That is why we were very troubled to see your letter, and repeated press reports by yourself, Jeff Pash, and the owners, which claim that the owners met the players halfway in the negotiations, and that the owners offered a fair deal to the players.

Your statements are false.

We will let the facts speak for themselves.

  • The proposal by the NFL was not an “a la carte” proposal.  The changes in offseason workouts and other benefits to players were conditioned upon the players accepting an economic framework that was unjustified and unfair.
  • Your proposal called for a pegged amount for the salary cap plus benefits starting at 141M in 2011 and increasing to 161M in 2014, regardless of NFL revenues.  These amounts by themselves would have set the players back years, and were based on unrealistically low revenue projections.  Your proposal also would have given the owners 100% of all revenues above the low projections, including the first year of new TV contracts in 2014.  Your offer did NOT meet the players halfway when it would have given 100% of the additional revenues to the owners.
  • As a result, the players’ share of NFL revenues would have suffered a massive decrease.  This is clear by comparing your proposal to what the players would receive under the 50% share of all revenues they have had for the past twenty years.
  • If NFL revenues grow at 8% over the next four years (consistent with Moody’s projections), which is the same growth rate it has been for the past decade, then the cap plus benefits with our historical share would be 159M in 2011 (18M more per team than your 141M proposal) and grow to 201M per team in 2014 (40M more per team than your 161M proposal).
  • Your proposal would have resulted in a league-wide giveback by the players of 576M in 2011 increasing to 1.2 BILLION in 2014, for a total of more than 3.6 BILLION for just the first four years.  Even if revenues increased at a slower rate of only 5%, the players would still have lost over 2 BILLION over the next four years.  These amounts would be even higher if your stadium deductions apply to the first four years (your proposal did not note any such limits on these deductions).
  • We believe these massive givebacks were not justified at all by the owners, especially given recent projections by Moody’s that NFL media revenues are expected to double to about 8 BILLION per year during the next TV deal.
  • Given that you have repeatedly admitted that your clubs are not losing money, the billions of dollars in givebacks you proposed would have gone directly into the owners’ pockets.  We understand why the owners would want to keep 100% of this additional money, but trying to sell it as a fair deal to the players is not truthful.
  • You proposed a CBA term of ten years.  But you did not include any proposal on the players’ share of revenues after the first four years, which left open entirely how much more the owners would have taken from the players.
  • The owners continued to refuse to give any financial justification for these massive givebacks.  Our auditors and bankers told us the extremely limited information you offered just a few days before the mediation ended would be meaningless.
  • Your rookie compensation proposal went far beyond addressing any problem of rookie “busts”, and amounted to severely restricting veteran salaries for all or most of their careers, since most players play less than 4 years. What your letter doesn’t say is that you proposed to limit compensation long after rookies become veterans — into players’ fourth and fifth years. As our player leadership told you and the owners time and again during the negotiations, the current players would not sell out their future teammates who will be veterans in a few short years.
  • Your proposal did not offer to return the 320M taken from players by the elimination of certain benefits in 2010.  It also did not offer to compensate over 200 players who were adversely affected in 2010 by a change in the free agency rules.  Your letter did not even address a finding by a federal judge that you orchestrated new television contracts to benefit the NFL during the lockout that you imposed.
  • You continued to ask for an 18 game season, offering to delay it for only one more year (you earlier said it could not be implemented in 2011 no matter what due to logistical issues).  This was so even though the players and our medical experts warned you many times that increasing the season would increase the risk of player injury and shorten careers.
  • All of the other elements you offered in the mediation, which you claim the players should have been eager to accept, were conditioned on the players agreeing to a rollback of their traditional share of 50/50 of all revenues to what it was in the 1980′s, which would have given up the successes the players fought for and won by asserting their rights in court, including the financial benefits of free agency the players won in the Freeman McNeil and Reggie White litigations more than 20 years ago.
  • The cap system for the past twenty years has always been one in which the players were guaranteed to share in revenue growth as partners.  Your proposal would have shifted to a system in which players are told how much they will get, instead of knowing their share will grow with revenues, and end the partnership.

You had ample time over the last two years to make a proposal that would be fair to both sides, but you failed to do so.  During the last week of the mediation, we waited the entire week for the NFL to make a new economic proposal.  That proposal did not come until 12:30 on Friday, and, when we examined it, we found it was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week when we agreed to extend the mediation.  At that point it became clear to everyone that the NFL had no intention to make a good faith effort to resolve these issues in collective bargaining and the owners were determined to carry out the lockout strategy they decided on in 2007.

We thus had no choice except to conclude that it was in the best interests of all NFL players to renounce collective bargaining so the players could pursue their antitrust rights to stop the lockout. We no longer have the authority to collectively bargain on behalf of the NFL players, and are supporting the players who are asserting their antitrust rights in the Brady litigation. We have heard that you have offered to have discussions with representatives of the players.  As you know, the players are represented by class counsel in the Brady litigation, with the NFLPA and its Executive Committee serving as an advisor to any such settlement discussions. If you have any desire to discuss a settlement of the issues in that case, you should contact Class Counsel.


Kevin Mawae
Charlie Batch
Drew Brees
Brian Dawkins
Domonique Foxworth
Scott Fujita
Sean Morey
Tony Richardson
Jeff Saturday
Mike Vrabel

14 responses to “The NFLPA* response to Roger Goodell’s letter

  1. “we waited the entire week for the NFL to make a new economic proposal. That proposal did not come until 12:30 on Friday, and, when we examined it, we found it was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week when we agreed to extend the mediation. ”

    That is a telling statement.

  2. As usual Goodell is completely full of BS. The owners have not given an inch after two years of negotiations and and any claim that they met the NFLPA “halfway” is an outright lie.

    The popularity and revenues of NFL football are at a staggering all time high yet the owners claim they are losing money and want drastic cutbacks in compensation to the players while refusing to open their books.

    BILLIONS of dollars in TV revenues, usury ticket prices and PSL practices, jerseys selling for $500 and millions in revenue for naming rights for stadiums built with taxpayer money.

    Even a complete dumbass like myself could make money running an NFL team.

  3. The worse part of all this is the unwillingness to accept a couple of critical facts by the NFLPA*.

    (1) As it currently stands, if a team increases it’s revenue by $100, then all teams have to pay $50m more in salaries between them. This is anti-progressive. You are making the poorer more poor.

    Stated simply for the fans of the NFLPA*, if the Patriots, Redkins and Cowboys all find a way to generate $110m more a year, then the salary cap for the Packers, Colts, Jaguars and Raiders all increases by a little more than $5m. Yet their revenue hasn’t increased.

    Is that fair?

    And if you expect teams to share more revenue then there is little reason to find new revenue streams.

    Why try to make more money if you had to give 63/64 of it away? You get a half of 1/32 share as the players get the other half of your share.

    Is that fair?

    (2) Most clubs want and desire to have fixed costs looking forward. As wages is the biggest element in that, why shouldn’t they?

    Yet the players want it to keep fluctuating. That is not economic sense.

    And if the revenue for a club falls and the wages increase, who ultimately pays? Yes, you, the fan. Many other revenues like TV deals are fixed long-term. The only non-fixed amounts are those paid by the fans.

    For instance, if a club wanted to improve attendance by not increasing season-ticket prices, it needs a sound financial basis to do so. If the majority of it’s costs are fixed, you can make a sound economic judgement on whether to do so. But if your salary costs could change you are taking more risks.

    And this is not pie-in-the-sky. Several English Premiership soccer clubs either reduced prices or held them firm because they had fixed wage structures.

    By hoping the players win in a similar deal to last time, you’re going to pay. And I’ve explained already in (1) how the smaller clubs are already getting squeezed.

  4. The first step is finding out how much the league is paying Ted Danson. How can the players live knowing how much more Ted Danson is making than them?

  5. There is never a mention of the fans in these negotiations. Seeing that the revenue will be going up 8% every year really makes me look forward to paying 8% more every year.

    I think the fans should do something about this as well. It would be hard to split up revenue that doesn’t get generated.

    I think that spending on sports is getting completely out of hand considering the state of the country’s economy.

    I have always loved football and will for the rest of my life. The fans are the ones who suffer when the players and owners go at it.

  6. Seems to me neither side is motivated to sign a deal right now. The players believe they can do better in court, which may be correct. They know the NFL is not going to budge much on taking more of the revenue split. Players haven’t lost money yet and don’t feel it.

    The owners know the players won’t agree to certain terms. The owners are in no real rush to get this done. For one thing, while the lockout will hurt them more in terms of actual dollars, they have the resources to weather the storm.

    In the end the Union* knows that if this thing drags on, they lose. Players will be going broke and fan anger will likely turn on them. Their best shot is to have the courts settle it. Incidentally, I think the former NFLPA sucks for taking this position. I once put more of the blame on the owners, but not anymore. I blame the NFLPA* far more now.

  7. mike–
    this is one of the (few) things i bet that you DO miss about practicing law: what an awesome “f-you” letter. and released publicly. this is getting testy now. the players have a pretty good case, but way less leverage than they’d like. we need more voices of reason (like mcnair) acknowledging the possibility of damaging the long-term interests of the game. how about the fact that x% of nothing is nothing?!

  8. I’m tired of the whole mess.
    Talkin about millions when there are plenty of people who can’t afford food.

    I will not go to a game again or buy anything from the nfl or having to do with players, every one is too greedy.

    Maybe I’ll still watch football it on tv, i don’t know depends on how long this drags out.

    Its a shame.

    Its all about greed

  9. Why are the players complaining about a 50/50 split? What is the point for these owners to spend 100’s of millions of dollars to buy a team when their employee’s want to make more than them?

    Please tell me ONE business in the entire world where the workers make more $$$ than the owner of the company.

    Why can’t they take ever $1 that is earned by the league/players and split it right down the middle? Which means players have to give up their endorsement $$$ into the league pot and share that as well.

    The fans need to start their own union and let both sides know that we are sick and tired of both sides and if they can’t get something worked out then us as fans need to group together and stop going to games, quit purchasing NFL merchandise, and quit putting ARE MONEY into this league which they are fighting over.

    It’s are damn money that buys these guys their fancy cars, yachts, and private jets. If they can’t figure out a way to give us what we pay for then us as fans should tell them to F-OFF.

  10. It’s hard to say who’s right, because we are hearing each side’s “spin”. There are 2 sides and then there is the truth. I am not going to try and side one way or the other because I am not at the meetings, so I am sure I do not have all the facts.

    What I will say is this….we are the losers in this.
    Not the players, they are doing just fine. The owners aren’t exactly in the poor house either. We are the losers, because we may now lose games this year, thanks to greed.

    Thanks NFL, Thanks NFL players, for letting your greed tarnish the game I love.

  11. “Even if revenues increased at a slower rate of only 5%, the players would still have lost over 2 BILLION over the next four years.”

    “Your proposal did not offer to return the 320M taken from players by the elimination of certain benefits in 2010.”
    When a business owner has a “loss,” it means spending money on something that does not produce a return.

    How is getting a lower percent of a revenue deal a loss or reduced benefit a loss? It still is a gain.

    Anyone else out there had forced furlough or a paycut in this economy? Pay more for health benefits?

    The NFLPA’s letter is completely reactive & divisive. The players look very negative right now.

  12. I’m really sad to read this letter, because it strongly suggests that the whole thing really isn’t about money, at least from the players’ perspective.

    Like a messy divorce, the letter’s frequent use of CAPS and emotionally-laden terms (“unreasonably low”, “massive givebacks”, etc.) are signs that the people who signed the letter are already convinced that any deal presented to them is unfair. To their way of thinking, every number is “yet another indication” of injustice, instead of a number to be negotiated.

    I guarantee you, like LeBron James, these guys are out there taking notes of who’s on their side and who isn’t. It appears the only thing that is going to appease the NFLPA* is an ugly victory, even if it means burning the whole damn thing down if it helps them prove their point.

    To be direct: the NFLPA*’s efforts to undermine the basis for the antitrust exemption for broadcast TV may end up being the killing stroke for the entire sport, not just the owners. De Smith has called the exemption “another gift lawmakers have given to the league”, not noticing that TV broadcast fees are the one and only thing that has allowed player salaries to increase to heights unimaginable to past NFL alumni.

    If TV revenues go away, nothing will ever take its place. Period. And if this happens, and the whole league unravels, DeMaurice Smith will have his legacy: not as the conquering hero, but as the most-hated man in NFL history.

  13. Someone isn’t telling the truth here. The giveback was supposed to be $640M then they were to split the diff making it $320M was the NFL’s final offer.

    The NFLPA I read wanted to giveback ~$157M only. Now the players are saying it is $576M?

    They then multiply this by the # of contract yrs to magnify the # to 3.6B which is kind of misleading and changing the channel.

    Usually the union wins when the stakes are high like a teachers strike. Mgmt / govt doesn’t want to be the one responsible for depriving kids of a school yr so they usually cave.

    Looks like the same story here. Glad the NFL took a stance. If it is unaffordable, don’t cave and eventually it will get through to the PA.

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