Oy. Jerry Jones has again offered some unsolicited perspective on the NFL labor talks. This time the subject is the refusal of NFL owners to open the books as part of the negotiations. It's kind of a sore point, as you know, mediation broke up when owners made a last minute offer while balking at the players' request to see the complete audited version of the books for all 32 NFL teams.
And what did Mr. Jones have to say today? To paraphrase: no. The Cowboys owner said that the players' request was excessive. The information turned over by the league, a general accounting of profitability for the entire league and of course the Packers' books, was more than enough for the NFLPA to reach an agreement...and agreement that would have unhitched the salary cap (and salary floor) from league revenues and refigured it as a predetermined, fixed number. Sayeth Jones:
That information [offered by the NFL], with what other is available [Green Bay financials, etc.], can be reconciled and you can easily ascertain where you are financially. So there's no issue on our part relative to the financial information that was offered. It exceeds anything that we've ever done in any negotiation.
More importantly there's information they'd see that I haven't seen about the other clubs, and won't see. We don't share that information among the clubs.
That information is essentially why the NFLPA decertified and sued the league. Why are the players chasing this windmill?
Essentially, what the owners want to do with the new CBA is, like I said above, replace a salary cap that rises as a percentage of the league's revenues with a fixed number that is not determined as part of the revenue and one that increases at a much smaller rate than the current cap system. Revenue sharing isn't just for the 32 teams, remember. The salary cap is a part of the general theory of revenue sharing in that players share a percentage of the revenue for their labors.
And why are owners so reluctant just to open the damn books? There's really no simpler answer other than to say it would reaffirm the current system. Changing the CBA allows owners to extract more costs for an orgy of stadium building that began when credit was had by the bushel with a down payment of nothing more that the flimsy belief of unlimited, unending economic growth.
But those big stadiums aren't exactly a mortgage owners can't afford, because the league's continued profitability and nature of the corporation that grows around those stadiums generates some sweet profits from things like naming rights and additional events while at the same time increasing the valuation of those franchises. Opening the books would reveal to the players and some of those less fortunate teams a whole lot of money that isn't going into the league's profit pool for revenue sharing. It's telling that Jones mentioned other teams seeing the all that financial information, because there's a rift that could easily reopen among owners.
Though slim, there's even a chance it could get politicians or regulators sniffing around the NFL antitrust exemption. Those books are going to get opened in court, when a judge will most definitely be sniffing around that antitrust exemption.
I don't think the players were necessarily unwilling to give back a little based on the investment made by owners and the league for growing the market. That's the flip side of revenue sharing and collective bargaining. It is impossible to make an agreement like that, though, when both sides can't see the books. Without the taxpayers footing the bill for stadiums in recent years (at least to a lesser extent) owners are looking to the player salaries to make up that cost. And that's where we are now...headed for court, which is probably the only thing that can stop the stalemate.