Some of life’s finest achievements are written on a napkin, feats that usually involve a night of gyrating and droll.
DeMaurice Smith thinks the amount of financial information the NFL is willing to share with the NFLPA could fit on a document roughly the size of man’s favourite business card. Despite claims by lead NFL negotiator Jeff Pash that the information disclosed to the union is the most that’s been shared over decades of negotiating, Smith says the NFL’s generosity could be written on a Post-It note.
Remember that vow of media silence both sides agreed to way back when mediation and the 14-day vigil in Washington began? The union sure doesn’t, especially its leader. The Post-It note analogy was one of the more entertaining moments of candid speech Smith offered during a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan.
The union has until 5 p.m. ET Friday to decertify, starting the chain of events officially leading to an NFL deep freeze, and transparency continues to be the main sticking point. The union seeks financial information from the league as the squabble over how to divided $9 billion in revenue continues, and Smith said they’ve received very little. In fact, he said the information the league is willing to share is extremely minimal, and is actually less than the information disclosed on a yearly basis by Forbes Magazine.
For the players, the NFL asking to reduce their share of the league revenue by $1 billion without disclosing information is an insulting ploy. Smith summarized it by saying a looming boss is demanding a major financial sacrifice while offering little incentive or improved working conditions.
Imagine if 10 or 20 teams were losing money, and for whatever reason we believed that no one as going to buy our product, and nobody wanted to play the game. The look on my face would be somewhat different, because you are looking at the end of a business model. When you turn that around and show that the trajectory of a business is going to be absolutely fantastic, it’s in that paradigm that [the league] comes to you and says that for the guys who play for 3.4 years, we don’t want to increase your health care, we don’t want to make it better for you to play, and we don’t want to make it easier to walk when you’re 50, but we want every one of you to give us $800 million a year.
He said the league offer was a series of numbers on a piece of paper. There were no line items, and a team-by-team breakdown wasn’t an option. There was just a number showing the total profits of all the teams each year, a number that would simply have to be trusted.
The most interesting question of the interview came when Smith was asked to reverse roles and assess the league’s motivation behind its stance.
What would their motivation be behind the deal they’re looking for?
“We think we can break you, and we think we can break your union…Put it this way: if someone slid a piece of paper to you and said ‘take it’ what would you do?”
An even split of the revenue has always been just fine for the players, an agreement that was in place when the current CBA was negotiated in 2006. Smith said he’s still more than agreeable to that 50/50 divide.
“We have been happy with 2006, and we think that 50/50 is good. Until they show us audited financials that tell us what their costs are, we’re going to stick with 50/50.”
At root of the ongoing tug-of-war is the NFL’s financial position in the current economic climate. At a time when the North American economy as a whole has struggled along with the other major sports leagues, the NFL has done just fine.
“The economy is one of the toughest we’ve seen in our lifetime, and in that tough economy the NFL generated $9 billion,” said Smith. “No one can make an economic argument that the players who play the least should give $800 million back to the owners who hold the teams for their lives.”
Maybe the league is gradually starting to see the light after reports that some owners are willing to crack open their books. We can only hope common sense finally prevails.