NFL: Players want more financial data

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 9 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman, left, Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general counsel, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, talk to the media as they arrive for negotiations with the NFL Players Association involving a federal mediator in Washington, Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Players' union leader DeMaurice Smith indicated Wednesday that NFL owners have lowered from $1 billion to $800 million the amount of additional revenues they want to take off the top of their $9 billion business.

He also was clear he considers the lower figure still too high, because the league is not offering to turn over enough financial information.

Leaving the 14th day of mediated talks — and with the labor contract set to expire Friday — Smith called the information the NFL proposed to provide "utterly meaningless." The union rejected what the league offered to give; that financial information doesn't include data requested nearly two years ago by Smith in a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"Has it gotten everything it wants? Evidently not. Have we offered to provide more? Absolutely," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said. "And is it a subject that we're prepared to discuss? Absolutely."

At the outset of talks, the NFL sought an additional $1 billion before splitting remaining revenues with the players; the NFL already gets an immediate $1 billion for operating expenses under the old collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL Players Association insists it wants full financial disclosure.

"Just to be absolutely clear, the information that was offered wasn't what we asked for," Smith said, "and, according to our investment bankers and advisers, they told us that information would be meaningless in determining whether to write an $800 million check to the National Football League" in each year of a new CBA.

"We have requested access to fully audited financial statements since May 2009," Smith continued. "We believe that is the appropriate information to analyze the league's request to write a multibillion check to the owners."

In a letter dated May 18, 2009 — a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press — Smith asked Goodell to "provide audited financial statements concerning the operations of the 32 clubs and the league."

Smith attached a list of 10 categories of information he sought, including:

total operating income;

total operating expenses, such as player costs, team expenses, sales and marketing expenses, game expenses, salaries/payments to owners;

profit from operations;

net income;

cash and investment assets

In the letter, Smith noted the owners' push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 as one reason "this information is critical in understanding the fair 'cost/compensation' model for players and teams."

In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the NFLPA asked the federal judge who ruled in its favor in a case involving TV contracts to release information that the NFL wants kept confidential. U.S. District Court judge David Doty sided with the players last week, saying the league illegally set up $4 billion in payments from networks — money the union argued was collected to fund a lockout.

The NFLPA said in Wednesday's filing that the NFL hasn't explained why material should be sealed and that the league hasn't cooperated with the union's attempt to propose limited redactions to protect third-party information only.

"The NFL cannot be permitted to comment publicly about these proceedings and then turn around to embrace a cloak of confidentiality that thwarts the public's right to know," union lawyers wrote.

The league did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the filing.

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