Money matters: NFL, union wrangle publicly on CBA

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By HOWARD FENDRICH
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 10:03 PM

WASHINGTON -- The NFL's willingness to reduce the amount of extra money owners want up front - from $1 billion to $800 million - isn't enough to produce a new labor deal, the head of the players' union said Wednesday, insisting that the league hasn't offered to turn over enough financial data.

Both sides spoke much more openly about money matters Wednesday than they have since they entered mediation Feb. 18. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Friday, they clearly are far apart on how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues.

On his way into the 14th session at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said the issue of financial transparency - a key sticking point - "really should be behind us."

"We've made more information available in the course of this negotiation than has ever been made available in decades of collective bargaining with the NFLPA," Pash said. "Far more information. And we've offered to make even more information (available), including information that we do not disclose to our own clubs."

But when NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith left for the day after about eight hours of talks, he called the data the NFL offered to provide "utterly meaningless." It was rejected, the union said, because it didn't include material requested nearly two years ago by Smith in a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"Has it gotten everything it wants? Evidently not. Have we offered to provide more? Absolutely," Pash said Wednesday evening. "And is it a subject that we're prepared to discuss? Absolutely."

Under the old CBA, owners received an immediate $1 billion for operating expenses before splitting remaining revenues with players; at the outset of negotiations, the NFL sought an additional $1 billion off the top.

"Just to be absolutely clear, the information that was offered wasn't what we asked for," Smith said, "and, according to our investment bankers and advisers, they told us that information would be utterly meaningless in determining whether to write an $800 million check to the National Football League" in each year of a new CBA.

"We have requested access to fully audited financial statements since May 2009," Smith said. "We believe that is the appropriate information to analyze the league's request to write a multibillion check to the owners."

In a letter dated May 18, 2009 - a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press - Smith asked Goodell to "provide audited financial statements concerning the operations of the 32 clubs and the league."

Smith attached a list of 10 categories of information he sought, including:

- total operating income;


CONTINUED     1        >

Mark Maske, NFL News Feed

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