What a mess the NFL has created for the fans. I can't believe it came down to this. Now is the time of the year when we should be rejoicing in the new signings of key free agents that could help our team get to the next level. Instead, we are resolved to watching the ugly mugs of Demaurice Smith and Roger Goodell pointing fingers at each other on ESPN. Maybe they should have a no-shirts, no-shoes cage match, where the looser concedes to give in to the others demands for a new CBA.
When will this end?
We all know the core issues that prevented a new CBA of being reached by the March 11th deadline:
- Revenue sharing
- 18 game season
- Player benefits
- Rookie wage scale
Some of these seemed to be agreed upon during the last week, but it ultimately came down to how the money was going to be split, and the owners reluctance to provide more detailed financial records from the past 10 years.
So lets look at who's to blame in this whole mess, and why an agreement couldn't be reached.
The Leagues Defense:
The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).
The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.
The transition for players from playing in the NFL to finding another career and establishing themselves is very difficult, and I really wonder, sometimes, if we do too much for the players," Murphy told the Times. "They've got severance pay and a 401(k) plan. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes it's not all bad, and going back and talking to some of the players who played for Lombardi in the '60s -- you know, they worked in the offseasons, and they made a very smooth transition into their second careers because they had to.
And so I'm a little worried that if we do too much for players in terms of compensation after their careers end, and health insurance -- it's not all bad to have an incentive to get a job.
The NFL asks why should it make a better offer when the union (1) threatens decertification; (2) parades through the halls of Congress and (3) challenges ownership on its negotiation of its broadcast contracts and accuses them of collusion.
The Players Defense:
As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that's a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.
The NFLPA asks itself why it should make a better offer when the owners (1)talk down to the players, (2) threaten to lock them out and cut off their benefits and (2) refuse to show them detailed accounting from each team to back up their claims of financial challenges.