Talks between negotiators for the National Football League Players Association and the NFL Management Council broke off tonight after the league rejected a proposal in which the union abandoned its key demand for a percentage of gross income in favor of 50 percent of the income from the league's new five-year, $2.1 billion television contract.
No new negotiating sessions were scheduled before the union's Tuesday strike deadline.
The union's proposal quickly was rejected by the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm. "What I have to do is go back and tell my players it's the current system or nothing," said Mark Murphy, the Washington Redskins player representative who arrived in time for this evening's negotiations. "They (the management council) want a strike."
The total package proposed by the NFLPA would have cost the NFL's 28 teams $1.6 billion over four years, an amount that Jack Donlan, the league's chief negotiator, had said was the cost of management's Sept. 8 proposal. It offered cash bonuses and benefits over a five-year period.
Today's proposal would cost the NFL more per year than would have the union's first demands, since NFLPA figures placed the value of a five-year contract based on percentage of gross at $1.925 billion.
Donlan said today's union proposal would have cost the league 60 percent of its projected gross revenue for 1982. The union had been seeking 55 percent of gross income under its previous proposal. Pro-rating a projected gross income of $3.5 billion over the five years of the new television contract, the players would get $1.6 billion, or 57 percent of gross income, and the owners $1.2 billion over four years.
Under today's proposal, the average NFL veteran would have earned twice as much this year as in 1981, up to $333,333 for a 12-year veteran. A rookie's salary would have almost quadrupled, from $22,000 in 1981, to $81,000.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, said the union abandoned the percentage-of-gross concept, which it had fought for since negotiations began seven months ago, in hopes of avoiding a strike that, based on today's negotiations, likely will be called for Tuesday.
NFL teams are scheduled to complete the second week of a 16-game regular season on Monday night.
The NFLPA's executive committee is to meet here at 2 p.m. that day to set the strike date. Garvey had said the strike would come Tuesday, unless there was significant movement in negotiations this weekend. In making today's proposal, Garvey said it should overcome most of the key objections the owners have made to the percentage-of-gross demand, including the need for the players to see the clubs' financial records.
But, after studying the proposal for two hours, Donlan rejected it, calling it "extremely disappointing." He rejected the premise that the union had abandoned the percentage-of-gross demand. "We don't see this as an improvement," he said.
"This proposal is essentially for 100 percent of the TV revenues. In fact, over the four-year life of the plan it would cost $18 million more than the clubs would get from television. They haven't moved off a percentage of the gross at all."
Donlan also said management remains opposed to the union plan for a wage scale and a trust fund. "We don't want to give up the player's right to individually negotiate his own salary," Donlan said.
The negotiators reconvened early this evening but broke off an hour later. Before going into the meeting, Donlan said the league did not have a counterproposal to offer.
The union's president, Gene Upshaw, a guard with the Los Angeles Raiders, said the demand for 50 percent of the television income was nonnegotiable. The proposal also would give the union 50 percent of television income above and beyond the current contracts with the three major networks.posal, D9 About the only point on which Donlan and Garvey agreed was that the annual cost to the league would be higher.
Garvey said the dollar figure was based on public statements by Donlan, that the clubs were willing to spend that amount on player salaries and benefits the next five years.
He said the union proposal would cost the league $325 million this year, $400 million next year, $425 million in 1984 and $450 million in 1985.
Of the $325 million cost to the league this year, $165 million would come from television income, the other $160 million from other team revenues.
"We are not talking about 1,500 partners. We will just have a percentage of the television money," Garvey said.
But Garvey said before management rejected the proposal that he hoped negotiators could bargain on the proposal throughout the weekend in an attempt to avert a strike.
Garvey said the union moved away from its percentage-of-gross demand to demonstrate that it was serious about bargaining. He is seeking a percentage of the television revenue to "guarantee the players will be protected in the future in case of windfall television contracts."
The union proposal would have diverted the television money to a trust fund that would pay players' salaries on a seniority-based scale with performance incentive bonuses, a plan similar to the one outlined in a June 8 proposal.
As in the June proposal, the new union plan would have diverted 70 percent of the money in the proposed trust fund to base salaries. Another 20 percent would have gone for performance bonuses, such as participating in the Pro Bowl, being chosen one of the league's top players by a vote of the members of opposing clubs or playing on a Super Bowl team. Ten percent would cover severance pay and administrative costs.