Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as well as a half-dozen team representatives, joined commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL labor negotiations just one day before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
New York Giants owner John Mara, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner and Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen also attended the session.
The twice-extended collective bargaining agreement is due to expire Friday.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was accompanied by several current and former players, as well as outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler who is making his first appearance at the mediator’s office this week.
On Wednesday, the NFL Players Association insisted that 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.
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, 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.
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;
-an independent auditor to examine the data.
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.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York, and AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington contributed to this report.
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