If fans of the NFL haven’t been paying attention, here’s where matters stand in this off-season for the league: You’re on the very real edge of the owners locking out the players. Commissioner Goodell hammered on that drum just after the Super Bow.
"My focus is on the next three or four weeks," Goodell said. "I've often said, our agreement expires on March 4th. We have to use that period of time to reach an agreement that's fair for the players, fair for the clubs, and allows our great game to grow for our fans."
That, “it’s time to stop the rhetoric in the press and sit down and negotiate” has happened and what was the result? The owners walked out of a bargaining session on Weds.
The players came forward with concessions, a change for the NFLPA after sticking decidedly to the “all we want is the status quo” stance over several months. The proposal offered a cut that would have seen 50 percent of all revenues go to the players as opposed to approx. 57 percent now.
The owners rejected the offer, and cancelled the bargaining session set for Thursday.
“We wish we were negotiating today,’’ NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said shortly thereafter. “That’s all I can say.’’
The NFL’s view was much different.
“Despite the inaccurate characterizations of [Wednesday’s] meeting, out of respect to the collective bargaining process and our negotiating partner, we are going to continue to conduct negotiations with the union in private,’’ league spokesman Greg Aiellotold the Associated Press via e-mail, “and not engage in a point-counterpoint on the specifics of either side’s proposals or the meeting process. Instead, we will work as hard as possible to reach a fair agreement by March 4. We are fully focused on that goal.’’
But, according to Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal, a memo from the NFLPA said that what owners are seeking is much more. Mullen wrote via Twitter that the NFL, in a "Rookie Wage Scale" proposal, is looking to lower the minimum salary for all players with 4 or 5 years of experience. The proposal moves far beyond rookie wages and into a larger chunk of player payroll. Instead of just seeing cuts to first round Draft picks, it would move into players that already have shown some level of NFL experience.
The proposal outlined in the NFLPA memo set the industry on fire via social networking on Saturday. Super agent Drew Rosenhaus wrote in this tweet and one other that, “The owners saved a billion dollars last year by restricting 4th & 5th yr free agents and limiting contract extensions for young players. At some point the owners have to accept the fact that the NFL is a cash cow and just step up and pay the players who make this game!”
ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Text from plugged-in NFL person: ‘This CBA has no chance. The owners don't a deal. Take a break - a month off. You won't miss anything.’"
Commissioner Roger Goodell said in 2008, after Jake Long’s five-year, $57.75 million deal that saw $30 million of it guaranteed, "There's something wrong about the system. The money should go to people who perform.”
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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