Owners hold bank statements, leverage as NFL lockout drags on


The last thing that I want to write about at the moment is the NFL lockout. Especially with the NCAA tournament wrapping up, baseball’s opening day basically here and some intriguing NBA playoff matchups a few weeks away.

Hopefully this column breaks down the real issues that are causing a divide between the owners and the players without getting caught up in the legal talk that will be prevalent in the next few months.

The number one issue, like it is in most cases, is money. The owners want more of it and the players don’t want to give up their share of the pie – and why would they? The players currently get a little under 60 percent of the $9 billion worth of revenue that the NFL makes during the year. In a perfect world for the owners, they would like to switch that figure to a little under 60 percent in their favor. The players proposed a 50-50 split and the owners walked away from the negotiating table.

Of the $9 billion that has to be split up, the owners take $1 billion off the top right away, so in reality, the player are getting about 60 percent of the remaining $8 billion. The owners now want to take $2 billion to $2.4 billion off the top and split the rest of the players, which would mean more for the owners and less for the players.

The owners are claiming they are losing money or not making as much as everyone would assume. The players have asked the owners to see their financial records to back up their claim, but the owners have said no. That may change in the courtroom.

The Green Bay Packers are the only team who has their books open to the public since they are a publicly owned team and made $20.1 million in the 2008 fiscal year and $9.8 million during the 2009 year. Their fiscal year ends at the end of March and the team has been on a slide since making $34 million five years ago. It has recently been reported that the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears are willing to open up their financial records.

Green Bay has the smallest population of any major professional sports team in America and still made nearly $10 million last season. Are the owners making as much as they did a few years ago? It doesn’t look like it. Are they making more than enough? I would say yes.

An 18 game season is also a sticking point and the players don’t want it. In place of two preseason games, there would be two games added to the regular season. Longer season, more games, more injuries, less safe for the player, and poorer quality of games would all be results of a lengthened season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been leading the charge in cleaning up the NFL and cracking down on hits leading with the helmet and other hits deemed unnecessary. I don’t know how two more competitive regular season games in place of two preseason games makes the NFL safer, but I don’t like to contradict myself like Goodell does.

Also, how do you expect the players to play two more games and take a pay cut?

The major leverage that the owners have is that they will still get paid the $4 billion annual TV contract they have signed with the networks. This may be the biggest factor of the lockout, because it means that the owners will keep making money, while the players won’t. The players have to budge at some point because the owners have no reason to. They get paid whether there are NFL games come September or not.

On top of all that, there will also be no player movement, which means no trades and no free agent signings. Usually a team can construct its needs for the draft based on which players they signed during free agency and which positions they have left to fill.

I see the owners winning. They get more of the revenue pie, they get the 18-game season and there will not be any games missed. When that will happen, however, remains the big question.