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NFL Owners Still Saying 'Trust Us,' Players Not Buying It

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As the minutes tick down before the current 7-day CBA extension expires on Friday afternoon, it appears that both sides still have a sizable gap in their individual demands. That gap is estimated to be around $750 million. Chump change, right? Surely they can figure something out. What's that you say? Fat chance and don't call you Shirley? It'll be interesting to see which side flinches first either before or after the CBA expires. My guess is the situation will get much worse before it gets better.

Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports posted a very informative piece on this ongoing saga yesterday afternoon.

Simply put, to avoid pro football’s version of Armageddon – union decertification, the NFLPA’s filing of an antitrust lawsuit and an attempted lockout by owners, all of which would be subject to judicial intervention – the owners need to move beyond "Trust Us" as a negotiating strategy.

It’s time for the owners to open their books, or to acknowledge that doing so is not an option and lower their financial demands accordingly.

The players, who since May 2009 have formally insisted that the owners provide them with financial information justifying such a shift (of league revenue), have made concessions thus far that helped narrow that annual divide by approximately 25 percent. But on Tuesday, Y! Sports has learned, the situation reached a stalemate that threatens to derail the push for a new deal.

The owners yesterday finally agreed to partially open their books to the players.

Last week, according to a well-placed source, the NFLPA’s executive committee informed the owners’ negotiating committee that it would not consider less than a 50-50 split of revenues (including those taken off the top under the current formula) unless the owners agreed to provide them with the full audited financial statements of all 32 clubs for the past decade. (The NFLPA received slightly more than the 50 percent figure during the final year of the expiring CBA and made the "50-50" offer last month.)

On Tuesday, the source said, the owners’ committee said it would provide only aggregate profit figures for the 32 teams collectively spanning the 2005-09 seasons – one number per year. No individual-club profits would be revealed, even if the name of the club in question was withheld. The league also said it would provide the union with the total number of teams that experienced a decline in profit from the previous year.

But the players declined that offer because they deemed it to be not nearly enough.

The union consulted a professional auditor and the investment-banking firm it has retained for the potential review of the owners’ statements and was told the information being offered by the NFL wasn’t nearly enough to justify the significant financial concessions sought by the league. Among the information to which the union wouldn’t have access was each team’s list of non-player costs; how much each particular franchise’s profits might have declined; whether overall-profit decreases on the league level were the result of one or multiple teams; and documentation of each team’s cash flow, balance sheets and expenses.

The union’s executive committee then voted to reject the offer by the owners’ committee and renewed its request for 10 years of complete audited statements.

An unnamed player added this:

"It’s really the same argument we’ve been making for the better part of two years," one player active in union affairs told Y! Sports. "We’ve conceded a lot already, and we can’t go any further just because they’re asking us to ‘trust’ them. We saw how trustworthy they are with the TV case."

 

I highly recommend Silver's article to anyone who isn't already bored to tears with this struggle between billionaires and millionaires at a time when many in the country are just struggling to get by. It's an informative read and very little can happen in the NFL until this gets resolved.

For more, check out Albert Breer's NFL.com article:

According to a league source, the NFL's feeling was that it had made a major concession to reveal information on profitability that isn't even available to its clubs. The union's feeling, according to a players association source, was that it was important not to accept any offer to see additional information until it felt the information was sufficient to make decisions on how the $9.3 billion in revenue will be split up going forward, which remains the biggest issue in these labor talks.

and Mike Florio's post (I know. Just hold your nose when you read it) on why he thinks the union is asking for more than it needs.

The league needs to offer to provide per-team profit information, along with some way of determine whether the profit is "enough" profit, either by comparing the per-team profit to per-team revenue.

And that’s all the union needs.  Detailed reports regarding team-specific expenses aren’t necessary, unless the union hopes to micromanage team-level business decisions — or to cause trouble by finding a way to leak certain aspects of the expense information to the media.

The question becomes whether the league is being truthful when the league claims that profits are dropping, and that profit levels aren’t acceptable.  The union doesn’t need to be able to scour the entire books to verify the league’s position.

So if the union persists in its demand for audited financial statements, it could be that the union has decided that it will get a better deal via the decertification/litigation strategy.  And maybe they will.  But if that’s the strategy, the union should quit wasting everyone’s time and decertify.

This just in: Florio reports that tempers on both sides are flaring today and the situation is spiraling out of control.

....circumstances have triggered concern that the union is shifting from a strategy of negotiation to a strategy of litigation, and that the flat demand for audited financial statements provides cover for an eventual decision to decertify as a union and to pursue a cocktail of legal proceedings, presumably in the hopes of getting a better deal via the courts than the union can get at the bargaining table.

Sit back, folks. There's no way this is getting resolved by Friday.