The NFL has gone from losing close cases to the NFL Players Association to getting blown out. And a blowout is precisely what happened in connection with the league’s attempt to remove revenues from the pool of money shared by the league and its players.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that arbitrator Stephen Burbank issued a short and clear ruling find that the league improperly had treated “waived gate” revenue as stadium credit, necessarily reducing the salary cap by funneling cash away from it.
The question was so clear that Burbank made his initial ruling at the hearing on the case, held on February 12. He thereafter decided that the NFL will be required to rectify the situation for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 league years, rejecting arguments from the NFL based on the notion that the NFLPA waited too long to make the claim or otherwise waived it.
As the source explained it to PFT, some teams that intended to make stadium renovations or upgrades unilaterally began to remove amounts from general admission tickets sales, dubbing the amounts “Incremental Gate VTS” (whatever that means). The union discovered the practice during a routine audit, raised it, and thereafter filed for an arbitration ruling under the labor deal.
Because the CBA contains no provision that would penalize the league for getting caught pulling a fast one (whether it was nefarious or not), there’s no clear incentive for the league to not use fuzzy accounting. If the union catches it, the league pays what it already would have paid. If the union doesn’t catch it, the league gets free money.
In this case, the NFLPA caught it — and the outcome is a bad look for the league, justifying any and all suspicions the union would ever have regarding the NFL’s positions and practices and making it harder for two parties that should be working in complete symbiosis to ever have the kind of trust they need to maximize the sport.
In that regard, the league’s behavior fairly could be called conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. Where have we heard that term before?