Monday, February 21, 2011

Combine is here, but no one knows if the NFL season will happen this fall

The NFL combine is starting this week.  College players lucky enough to receive an invitation will be in Indianapolis for a four-day intense interview starting on Wednesday.  Usually, at this time, all of the talk is about how the players will perform at the Combine.   This year things are a little different because the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and NFLPA (NFL Players Association) is expiring next week at the end of the day on March 3.  As a result, the negotiation on a new deal is overshadowing the Combine and leaving a lot of fans wondering if the NFL season will actually happen this fall.

The NFL led by its Commissioner, Roger Goodell and the NFLPA headed by Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith spent the entire weekend in federally mediated negotiations.  Since Friday, representatives from both sides were in a room for at least six hours negotiating in front of George Cohen, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, DC.  Surprisingly, everyone has adhered to Cohen’s request that no one comment publicly on the negotiations.  So, we do not have any information on the outcome of the negotiations. 

Here are some important points on the negotiation as I see it.
1. Perception that players get a bigger piece of the profit than owners is inaccurate.  60% of revenue is after owners get their money for operating expenses ($1B); so players are not getting more money than the owners now.  Both sides get about 50%.
2. Owners want to increase their expense credit to $2B and give the players less money.
3. NFL and its owners claim a decrease in profits, but won't share evidence to support this.  However, we know sponsorship is up and they were able to secure higher media deals.  With higher prices, Super Bowls ads for this year's game were completely sold out last October.  That’s three months prior to the game!  Plus, there is more ad time.  Ads during the Super Bowl have increased from 40 minutes to over 48 minutes.  The NFL is making money.
4. Players contracts are not guaranteed.  They make money only when they play.  Amount of pay during an injury depends on several factors including how many games were played prior to the injury.
5. Owners want to add two more games to the regular season while the players take a decrease in pay and increase their chances of injury.

The element that confuses me the most is that the NFL will not show financial information to validate their claim that profits are down.  In a special letter to, Greg Aiello, the NFL's Senior Vice President of Public Relations, wrote: “NFL players have an extremely favorable revenue-sharing deal and full access to all information on revenue and a great deal of information on costs, including the largest cost, which is for players.”

A “great deal”?  I think that this is very telling.  Why not share the entire story?

Let me explain it this way.  If I told my mortgage company that I needed to modify my loan because of financial hardship, they would require ALL of my financial information and expenses to make a decision.  A “great deal” would not be enough to even get my request considered.

This leads me to a deeper issue that I don’t think a lot of people observe and discuss.  The NFL and its club owners do not regard the players as equal business partners.  Their actions toward them illustrate a superior attitude.  They feel as if they don’t have to prove anything.  Players should just believe what they say simply because they said it.  In any other business negotiation, the partner would show the evidence of their claims and move forward with the negotiations.  No one makes a good business decision without ALL of the facts. 

Smith is law man, not a football man like his predecessor Gene Upshaw.  He does not know football, but he does know the law and how to negotiate.  With a background in litigation, he wants the best for his members and that is not just money.  With less than two years on the job, he is still new to sports; but he is not going to be bullied.  It’s a good thing for players that he isn’t afraid to stand up to “the shield” and demand facts to make a sound decision.

In short, it appears to me that the NFL is asking the players to work more for less money.  So, I propose this question that I feel is at the crux of this negotiation: 
Would you be willing to work more hours for less money while your partner reports record sales?

Heels & Helmets®


  1. This is very informative. I'm sure most people reading this appreciate the information.

  2. I agree 90% of this article. First, the CBA is the only thing protecting players rights to fair compensation, long term care benefits related in work place injury, their work schedule (sticking to 16 regular season games vs 18 games), and their overall benefits in general.

    Second, I agree players should have all relevant information related to revenue available to them. How are the owners going to ask them to make an informed decision related to profit sharing when players havent a true picture of what it is they're trying to share?

    But I disagree with one of your statements about working more hours, while your partner makes record sales. The notion owners and players are partners is why they are in this mess today. Nothing says "I own you and the rights to you" like being called The Owners! :-) If the owners could get away with increasing their profit share, while reducing the players, their benefits, compensation, etc, they would! Warren Sapp said it best a few years ago: We are forced to keep our helmets on on the field, not for safety reasons, but for individual marketing reasons. Players in other sports can use their likeness to win endorsement deals, while only the big name players the NFL promote get to do that.

    I see Sapps point, we are partners, they OWN us, buy us, trade us. Get where I'm going?


  3. Esplendido Heels & Helmets! Regarding your first point, players could NEVER get more than the owners. For example, have you ever seen a pharmacy tech make more money than a pharmacist? Do nurses make more than doctors? Do paralegals bill at a higher hourly rate than attorneys? I'm with the players on this one.