Mediation between the NFLPA and the NFL is in a very fragile place. Is a lockout coming?
The NFLPA emphatically rejected the 18-game season proposal yesterday as mediation between the union and NFL owners continued. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told fans and the media last night at an appearance the union will not accept an extended season. How this will impact labor talks remains to be seen. Owners had been pretty stedfast in their desire to have a longer season.
For players and fans, the longer season has been anathema from the beginning. Players don't want the added injury risks; fans don't want to watch street free agents finish out the season. It's pretty simple really. Still, negotiations are a fluid process, so nothing is completely off the table, yet.
Another sticking point that surfaced yesterday, er, continued to bubble above the surface is the union's request to see financial statements - profit, loss, debt, etc. - for all 32 teams. The league provided some more financial information than they had previously, but the NFLPA wanted data for all 32 teams.
It's an understandable request the PA is making. Owners want an additional $800 million off the top of the league's total revenue for their expenses, things like stadium leases, even though most stadiums have a decent sized contribution from taxpayers. Without the financial data, the union is unwilling to negotiate on the additional $800 million the owners want.
"How much financial information would you want before you write a $5 billion check?" That was the rhetorical question Smith asked the press yesterday. And it's a good point. Arguing over the financials is a huge risk, enough to make you wonder if it can't scuttle the talks itself.
Opening the books could also create problems among the owners. There's already an unspoken tension between small and large market teams. Opening the books just might be too glaring of a reminder for owners like Jerry Jones of just how much money teams like the Cowboys are losing to profit sharing.
The thing about the books to remember is that if talks break down, the union will decertify and the whole thing will end up in federal court. In court, there's a pretty good chance that owners will have to open their books.
Don't lose hope. High stakes negotiations are supposed to be tense. (Though the amount of a haggling being done in the press again is troubling).