There’s been so much information (perhaps “misinformation” is a better word) thrown into the ethos by the NFL players and the owners that it’s hard to know how close they were to a new deal and who’s to blame that it didn’t happen.
The owners say the players walked away from the negotiating table. The players say they were insulted by what the owners had offered. Neither side has trust for their counterparts.
We’ve heard the inside scoop from people apparently inside the negotiating room, we’ve heard from the players themselves, and (in the form of letters and statements released by the teams) we’ve heard from the owners.
Now, we hear from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who told WFAN today (via Pro Football Talk) that if the trade association had accepted the owners’ offer, the deal would have gone down in history. And not in a good way.
“The NFL publicly projected by 2027, they want to have revenue numbers of approximately $25 billion,” Smith told the radio station. “If we would have taken the worst deal in the history of sports, by the time they are making $25 billion off the backs, fingers, and legs of our players, our share of all revenue would be somewhere around 25 percent.
“My simple question to you as a fan of this sport for a long time: Does that sound fair?”
Instead what Smith wants is a 50-50 split. That wouldn’t be possible if the players went along with what the owners offered (apparently).
Even so, he said the NFLPA offered a deal in which the players gave up more money than they would have wanted.
Said Smith: “I gave them two offers, where from an economic standpoint, someone could say the players of the NFL are going backwards. And they said no.”
Enter this statement from Jeff Pash, an NFL executive vice president, made to NFL Sirius radio (via nfllabor.com) :
“I think that is quite a surprising statement,” Pash said. “The deal we had on the table, which we did not put out there as a take it or leave it and didn’t set a deadline saying if you don’t accept it by this time we are going to lock you out, was meant to keep the negotiations going and keep the process going. It would have paid the players over the next four years, 2011-2014, somewhere between $19 and 20 billion. It would have increased pay from 2011-2014 by $640 million on a league-wide basis, $20 million per club. It would have reduced the amount of work that is required in the off-season.
“We got rid of five weeks of the offseason program. We cut OTAs from 14 to 10 days. We made changes in the preseason. We put limits on full-padded practices in the regular season. We increased days off. We increased retirement benefits so that more than 2,000 retired players would have gotten almost a 60 percent increase in their pension benefit. We offered players the opportunity to have lifetime coverage in our medical plan. We offered for the first time to revise our disciplinary system so that they get a third-party neutral arbitrator on all the drug and steroids cases. We offered improvements in the disability plan, the 88 Plan, the post-career benefits, not just for medical but for post-career education and career transition programs. There was a lot on the table that would have been significant improvements. To say it was the worst deal in the history of sports suggests a lack of familiarity with a number of professional sports deals, starting perhaps with the hockey deal in 2005 where players lost an entire season of pay and then went back to work with a 25 percent pay cut.”
Still, Pash doesn’t say what percentage the players would have received if they had taken the deal. He doesn't say what the NFL's revenue projections are. Hell, Pash doesn't even say that it was a good deal.
And so, the fans remain in the middle of what has turned into a nice, little PR battle. But again, the fans don’t care about the league releasing statements and Smith bringing heat on a radio show. They want a solution.
And they’re not getting one.
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