NFL owners, players can't agree on anything

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

National Football League owners and players have less than a month to figure out how to carve up their nine-billion dollar industry.

So far they can’t even agree to sit down in the same room and talk.

The sides were supposed to get together Thursday but never got through Wednesday’s opening session before the league walked out in a huff. Roger Goodell, commissioner in charge of mayhem, says the owners don’t want a lockout but a lockout is exactly what it looks like they want when they don’t even bother to give the union a counter-offer.

The basic disagreement is similar to disputes in major league baseball and the NHL — how to split revenue.

It’s complicated. The two sides can’t even agree on whether the players‚ percentage of revenue has been going up. Thursday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith insisted the players‚ percentage has declined over the past five years while on Friday Goodell claimed precisely the opposite. You get the feeling these guys shouldn’t be allowed to count to 10 without consulting a bookkeeper.

Listening to either of them talk will make your head hurt. So, here’s this bunfight in simple form: The owners want 60% of revenue while the players want to maintain closer to a 50/50 split.

There’s disagreement between players and owners (and even between owners and other owners) on what should be included in league revenues — for instance naming rights to stadiums and corporate suite income is considered individual owners’ revenue and isn’t included in the pot shared by the players. So, even though the league has revenue sharing, owners in big markets have larger income streams (see Jerry Jones) than owners in smaller (see Buffalo) markets.

Owners don’t want to open their books so it’s difficult to guage the true disparity. Some newer owners face debt loads. Others with existing stadiums and franchises that have been around for years (see anyone named Rooney) are livin’ large. Or rather, this being the NFL, larger.

Nobody can cry poor. It’s the NFL. Everyone’s in the money. But the owners who don’t have quite so much want more and since Jones or the Rooney family isn’t keen on giving up any of their personal income streams they’re going to try to find a way to get it a different way.

So the owners are demanding as much as an 18% rollback in player salaries. The players offer that sent the lawyers representing the owners into a tizzy basically offered the status quo.

Smith said last week that a 40%-42% share of all revenue would represent the smallest percentage of a players’ share by any professional sports union. So, that — coupled with the reality that the NFL is the most successful of all major pro leagues in North America — explains the players‚ reluctance to accept the owners’ argument that they are in dire need of concessions.

But it doesn’t explain why the two sides can’t at least sit down and discuss their differences if they’re serious about negotiating a solution. The owners might not have liked the union’s initial offer but packing up their legal pads and going home solves nothing. Worse, it makes them look as if they don’t care.

QUICK HITS

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