According to the NFL’s lead labor negotiator, the league offered to give the players’ union important financial information that it doesn’t provide to the 32 NFL teams.
On his way into Wednesday’s mediation session, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the issue of financial transparency – a key sticking point in labor talks this week – “really should be behind us.”
“We’ve made more information available in the course of this negotiation than has ever been made available in decades of collective bargaining with the NFLPA,” Pash said. “Far more information. And we’ve offered to make even more information (available), including information that we do not disclose to our own clubs.”
Pash did not reveal any specifics of the league’s offer and wouldn’t say what the union’s response was. But a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the NFL offered to turn over five years of profitability data to the players’ union – and the offer was rejected.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the mediator overseeing the labor talks has told participants to not discuss details publicly.
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, based on individual club statements;
-the number of teams that have seen a shift in profitability in that span;
-an independent auditor to examine the data.
Another person familiar with the negotiations – also speaking on condition of anonymity – told the AP the NFL Players Association rejected the league’s offer because an investment bank retained by the union advised it that the proposal was inadequate.
The NFLPA long has demanded that the league give it full access to financial data – including team-by-team information – and made that a central issue in contract talks.
The current collective bargaining agreement was set to expire last week, but two extensions now have pushed the cutoff to the end of Friday.
With various issues under discussion, the crux of the labor dispute is how to split more than $9 billion in annual revenues. NFLPA executive committee member Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, said Tuesday that what the NFL has turned over to the union so far “hasn’t been sufficient.”
Another executive committee member, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, said as he left Tuesday’s 9 1/2-hour mediation session that the investment bank was helping “judge how helpful the material they were offering to give us” would be.
One key question is what cut team owners should get up front to help cover costs such as stadium construction and improvement. Under the old deal, owners received more than $1 billion off the top. They entered these negotiations seeking to add another $1 billion to that amount, before other revenues are divided with players.
Although progress has been made, both sides have stuck to their stances when it comes to two key matters: The NFLPA has not agreed to any major economic concessions; the NFL has not agreed to completely open its books.
“I don’t think there should be any issue of disclosure, I don’t think there should be any issue of transparency,” Pash said. “I don’t think there should be any issue of who knows what.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell was joined by three members of the owners’ 10-person labor committee: Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Mara of the New York Giants, and Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs. More owners are expected to attend mediation Thursday, when once again the sides will be nearing the expiration of the CBA.
“We’ve got a long ways to go, but as long as we stay at it, we’ve got a chance of getting an agreement done,” Pash said.
If a deal isn’t reached by Friday, the sides could agree to another extension. Or talks could break off, leading to, possibly, a lockout by owners or antitrust lawsuits by players.
“The commissioner said ‘talking is better than litigating.’ Talking is better than, you know, going to DEFCON 3 or whatever term I’ve heard thrown around,” Pash said. “So let’s keep at it.”
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