The NFL labor talks are hung up on one issue: Financial disclosure. The players' association is demanding full financial data from all 32 NFL teams if it is to give the owners all or part of the $700 million annually that they are asking for. That $700 million is in addition to the one billion dollars the owners already take off the top of all league revenues, and the 43% of all remaining revenue that goes to the owners. The owners claim they are not profitable enough, but refuse to provide documentation. "Trust us," they're saying, "we swear we're not making enough money. Yes, we run the most profitable league in the history of sports, and yes the NFL brought in nine billion dollars last year of which we got roughly half; but 4.5 billion split 32 ways just isn't what it used to be."
What kind of gall does it take to plead poverty and demand $700 million dollars without providing any proof or justification? The league claims it needs the money to pay for expenses and finance new stadiums. Commissioner Roger Goodell claims the league needs (not wants, needs) new stadiums in Buffalo, Minnesota, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Savvy readers will note that the NFL doesn't even have a franchise in L.A. It needs a new stadium there so it can lure an existing franchise to move to the country's second biggest market. Where would that franchise come from? Buffalo, Minnesota, or San Diego, the other markets that so desperately need new stadiums. So, the owners are asking for an extra $700 million annually in part so that they can build four stadiums for three franchises.
The NFL owners aren't asking for this extra money because they're not profitable. It's accepted fact that every NFL team makes money. They're asking for this extra money to build stadiums for teams that don't exist because they're not profitable enough. Despite the blatant greed and logical fallacies of the owners' demands, the union has shown a willingness to cede to at least portions of those demands given just the one aforementioned caveat: Financial disclosure. Actually prove to us that you're not making enough money, the union is saying, and we'll give you more. And yet, the owners refuse. So, instead of free agency and mini-camps, we're approaching the players' union decertifying, the owners locking out the players, the players filing a class-action antitrust lawsuit, and months, if not years, of litigation.
The absurdity of the owners' position leads to one obvious question: What are they trying to hide? Why are they so dead set against opening their books? Are they crooked? Are they using Enron/Madoff accounting? Are they paying family members tens of millions of dollars? Or, more likely, are they just wildly profitable? Are they afraid that if the players or the public realize just how much money these 32 men make from pro football that their negotiating position will be irreparably damaged? If there's another possible reason for their refusal to open the books, I'm not seeing it. The owners clearly have something to hide; they're either crooks or extravagantly, unfathomably greedy.
Every NFL team makes money. Teams stay in families for decades, generations, raking in untold millions, year after year. The average NFL player will play, and get paid, for three years. When he retires he will get health insurance for five years, after which time, he will be all but uninsurable. If he is lucky, his back and knees will ache, he will get early arthritis, and he will have trouble with stairs. If he is unlucky, he will have post concussion syndrome, chronic headaches, memory loss, dizziness, depression, suicidal tendencies, and any number of mental ailments resulting from repeated blows to the head. His life expectancy will drop by 25 years. But he is getting too big a slice of the nine billion dollar pie. You know who is really getting screwed here? It's the guys wearing white collar shirts, sipping drinks in the luxury boxes. They say they need more money, they're not making enough. It's never enough. When asked to prove it, their only response seems to be, "Trust us, we need it, we know what's best."