Former Bears linebacker and union rep Hunter Hillenmeyer (left) has been writing columns for NBCChicago.com regarding the players’ perspective on the current labor dispute.
In his latest, Hillenmeyer, who was involved in the negotiations that fell apart 22 days ago, admits that the players refused the league’s offer of limited financial information for one reason only — P.R.
“It’s true, the NFL did offer some financial info towards the end of mediation,” Hillenmeyer writes. “We rejected it, not because nothing is better than something, which it is not, but because the perception would then be that we got what we needed.”
Sorry, but that’s not a good enough reason. With an affirmative P.R. campaign, the players could have gotten in front of the league’s spin and explained that, even though much more information is ultimately needed, the players decided to take a look at what the NFL was offering. At a minimum, looking at the limited information could have made it easier to explain why the limited information wasn’t nearly enough.
And, frankly, it wasn’t nearly enough. Listing the total profits for five years across all 32 teams and then identifying the raw number of teams that experienced a dip in profits doesn’t cut it. The players need to be able to scrutinize profits listed as profits and profits that may be masquerading as expenses, such as salary paid to the owner or his family members, and payments to companies owned by the owner’s family.
Though Hillenmeyer suggests near the end of his column that a middle ground possibly exists between what the owners offered and the 10 years of audited financial statements that the players have consistently requested since May 2009, Hillenmeyer pooh-poohs the impact of making reduced profits.
“I doubt the data would have provided much justification for anything,” Hillenmeyer says. “They already told us they weren’t losing money; I’m not a finance genius, but I know that’s a good thing.”
I’m not a finance genius either, but I also know that a business that is paying all of its bill without a dime of profit isn’t losing money, either — and that that’s not a good thing.
Profitability is a key factor in maintaining and building franchise value. Reduced profits are still profits, but the drop signals a troubling trend that could result in the short term in reduced franchise value. In the long term, it could lead to actually losing money.
In our view, it’s all P.R., on both sides. The heart of the problem, we believe, is that the owners have decided that the dollars have grown too big to justify paying the players 50 cents of each one. And with the money expected to mushroom as the current decade unfolds, the owners have decided to stand firm now in the hopes of avoiding the possibility of generating $20 billion in revenue and being required to pay the players $10 billion of it.
The players still want 50 cents on the dollar, and they want justification before they’ll ever agree to take less than that.
We’ve suggested some possible solutions and we’re currently honing one of them a bit more. There may be some merit to it, but that probably won’t stop it from being completely ignored.
Regardless, folks not directly involved in the process shouldn’t be the ones trying to come up with ideas for solving this problem. The two sides should be working together to devise their own solutions. If they’d spend half the time negotiating that they are on pointing fingers at each other, they’d already have this mess resolved.