Money matters: NFL, union wrangle publicly on CBA

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 10 2011 12:00 a.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

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Not nearly enough.

That, essentially, was the NFL Players Association's stance on two vital issues Wednesday as the deadline for a new labor deal approaches. The owners' willingness to reduce the amount of extra money they want up front — from $1 billion to $800 million — isn't a sufficient drop. And the financial data the league is willing to reveal isn't what the union seeks.

Both sides spoke much more openly about money matters Wednesday than they have since they entered mediation Feb. 18. The twice-extended deadline for expiration of the collective bargaining agreement is at the end of Friday.

Under the old CBA, owners received an immediate $1 billion for operating expenses before splitting remaining revenues with players. Owners initially sought to double that, and while they have lowered the up-front figure they want, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith tied that to the full financial transparency he's sought for nearly two years in what is a $9 billion business.

"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 utterly 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 said. "We believe that is the appropriate information to analyze the league's request to write a multibillion check to the owners."

NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said the union has received unprecedented financial data, including some information the league doesn't give to its clubs.

"No one is asking anyone to write any checks, I think we've been quite clear on that," Pash said. "It is a fact that the players association in the course of these negotiations has received more and more detailed financial information than it has ever had before. Has it gotten everything it wants? Evidently not. Have we offered to provide more? Absolutely.

"And is it a subject that we're prepared to discuss? Absolutely."

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."

Pash didn't reveal any specifics of the league's offer of financial information. But a person familiar with the negotiations told the AP that the NFL offered to turn over five years of league-wide profitability data to the union.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because mediator George Cohen told participants not to publicly discuss details.

According to the person who spoke to the AP, the NFL's proposal to the union included:

—audited league-wide profitability data with dollar figures from 2005-09 that wouldn't show information on a club-by-club basis;

—the number of teams that have seen a shift in profitability in that span;

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