Archive for December, 2010

Union numbers = Voodoo economics; Truth needs no clarification

NFL memo to sports editors nationwide:

The NFLPA’s letter to you attempts to rewrite the facts and rewrite history.

Beginning in March 2006, when the CBA was last extended, and continuing until earlier this year, the NFLPA repeatedly and publicly recognized — in fact, trumpeted — the fact that players receive 60 percent of NFL revenues. 

In January 2008, only seven months before he passed away, no less an authority than Gene Upshaw, who negotiated the 2006 CBA, told Bloomberg News, “We’re getting 60 percent of the revenues and when it’s all said and done, we’re not giving any of it back. I think they have to live with their 40 percent.”

On its own website in an August 2008 press release celebrating the legacy of Upshaw, the NFLPA wrote, “In 2006, during the most recent set of labor negotiations with franchise owners, Upshaw secured nearly 60 percent of total league revenues for the players.” Nothing has changed in the interim except the union’s rhetoric.

The NFLPA’s revisionist history relies on a sleight-of-hand. The NFLPA ignores the fact that certain monies, which they characterize as an “expense credit” or “gift” for the owners, are committed to revenue-generating costs and investments such as stadiums. Those are not dollars that the owners receive “off the top,” as the union claims.  They are not dollars that anyone — owners or players — can put in their pockets.

Of the dollars available for allocation, the players receive about 60 percent and the owners receive about 40 percent.  That is no less true today than it was in 2006 when the CBA was signed, in 2008 when Gene Upshaw made clear the union’s position, or before the union revised its rhetoric in an effort to secure political support for its negotiating position.   

Arguments over percentages and allocations — whether the players receive 60 percent of the revenues or “only” 52 percent — obscure the facts that really matter. Over the past 10 years, players have received $31 billion in compensation and benefits, including $4.5 billion last year alone.  The average player received over $2 million in compensation in 2009 with the minimum salary for an NFL player of $310,000 (U.S. median household income in 2009 was $51,425 according to the U.S. Census Bureau).  

Those numbers all continue to go up. NFL player compensation has doubled in the past decade. The NFLPA itself announced only two weeks ago in a Dec. 3 story by The Associated Press that NFL player compensation had increased by six percent this year.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest Employment Cost Index, the average salary and wages of a civilian worker increased 1.5 percent from September 2009 to September 2010.

We want your readers to know that our goal and commitment is to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement that is fair to players, teams, and fans.  That agreement will not be influenced by rhetoric, sleights-of-hand, or a propaganda effort that simply ignores the facts.

NFL’s Merton Hanks: “Health and safety of an individual player is more important than any game”

NFL director of football operations Merton Hanks (left) discussed player safety this afternoon on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

“Our job is to make sure that players have as safe an environment as possible to play in,” Hanks said.  “We need to make sure illegal techniques are taken out of the game. We want to continue to get the message across to players, coaches and the entire NFL community that illegal techniques will not be tolerated.”

Hanks noted that progress has been made in cutting down on illegal hits. “We have visual evidence on film of players making adjustments to make sure they play within the rules,” Hanks said.

“The culture is changing in the athletic community as a whole, not just in football,” Hanks continued. “Concussions are an issue in all sports.  We want to make sure that every athlete understands concussions.

“In today’s NFL, we have made the point that we are going to make player safety a priority. The health and safety of an individual player is more important than any game.”

FACT CHECK: How many plays?

According to a recent report by The Associated Press, “The medical director for the NFL players’ union says there could be about 250,000 additional plays – and therefore extra collisions and extra injuries – in the regular season if the league moves to an 18-game schedule.”

Said NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer, co-chairman of the Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, “It’s hard for me, as a physician advising the players, to say, ‘You’re not going to have more injuries, including concussions, with a quarter of a million more snaps.’”

However, the numbers cited in the story are inaccurate. In fact, they are off by a factor of 50.

This season, there have been 155 plays per game. Under the current 16-game format, that translates into a total of 39,680 plays vs. 44,640 plays in an 18-game regular season – a difference of 4,960 plays.

In addition, swapping two preseason games for two regular-season games in the current 20-game format means the total amount of snaps in those 20 games would be the same. Of course, the assumption is that starting players would play more in the regular season in an 18-2 format and that is why the NFL is emphasizing player safety as an ongoing priority.

For the complete story, click here.

Commissioner Goodell transcript

Following is the transcript of the Commissioner’s session with the media after today’s League meeting in Fort Worth:

 

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

December League Meetings

Ft. Worth, Texas – 12/15/10

 

We spent most of the day focused on the collective bargaining agreement and planning. We spent an awful lot of time on player safety. We got a report from the competition committee on that. And we had a variety of other reports. That was the bulk of the afternoon.

On report on player safety:

We just went through with the ownership, including a video, of how the game is changing in a positive way. The hits and techniques that we’ve identified and getting them out of the game and how players and coaches have adjusted. It’s been good for the game.

On whether the competition committee will look at making changes in the offseason re: player safety:

I think they will. We have. It’s been the number one priority for several years. We will always look at that.

Are there specific rules in mind?

We’ve identified a few things which I’m planning on looking at with Rich McKay in early January depending on how busy he is in identifying some of the areas. Plus we do a survey of all the clubs immediately after the season. We will also ask the players for any input of things we should be studying and looking at and we will meet with the players in February.

On the status of the labor talks:

I’m not going to characterize it. The reality of it is there are discussions going on but it takes productive dialogue. It means we have to get to a kind of place where we are making significant progress towards getting an agreement.  I think it is a positive sign that we’re having dialogue. It’s not just about meetings or dialogue. It is about getting real significant progress on the key issues.
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Forbes: NFL players with most to lose in a lockout

The following story was posted this afternoon on the Forbes.com website:

NFL Players With The Most To Lose In A Lockout

By Christian Wolan

With their collective bargaining agreement set to expire in March, the National Football League’s players and team owners are headed for a labor war. The players are demanding a bigger piece of the league’s $8 billion revenue pie while the owners want to maintain their current share.

If a new agreement can’t be reached, the owners might choose to cancel the 2011 season. In the event of a lockout, the owners could get by on television contracts worth $4 billion annually, which would continue to be paid out. Owners have a $900 million war chest on top of that to help pay the interest on stadium debt.

Players figure to have a tougher time surviving an extended lockout. The union has amassed a lockout fund of $200 million, but collectively the NFL’s 1,700 players stand to lose roughly $4.5 billion in salary and bonuses if the whole season is flushed away.

The players with the most to lose are those with the highest base salaries for the 2011 season. Our list doesn’t include some of the biggest NFL stars because their contracts usually feature hefty signing bonuses that are paid up front, though the money gets allocated over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes. Players fight for big money up front since yearly salaries usually are not guaranteed in the case of an injury–or a lockout.

The player with the highest base salary for 2011, and therefore the most to lose from a full-season lockout, is Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil, who is due $14 million in 2011. The outside linebacker signed a six-year, $61.5 million contract extension in July after leading the league with 17 sacks in 2009. The contract includes $43 million in guaranteed money and runs through 2015. A lockout would be doubly painful for Dumervil, who is sidelined for the entire 2010 season after tearing a pectoral muscle in training camp. He still gets paid in full this year despite the injury.

Many of the players with the most to lose are recent draft picks who signed deals with high annual base salaries, such as New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who ranks third on our list. The first-round draft pick out of USC became the highest-paid player in Jets history before playing a single NFL down when he signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2009 that included $28 million guaranteed. The Jets’ investment paid off early as the team made it to the AFC Championship game in Sanchez’s first year. Sanchez would lose $13.5 million next year from a lockout.

Miami Dolphins tackle Jake Long, currently in his third year, is due $10.7 million next season, putting him eighth on our list. Fourth-year pros Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings (ninth) and Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions (10th) would lose $10.7 million and $10.5 million, respectively.

The one issue the NFL Players Association and the owners seem to agree on is that rookie contracts have grown excessive. Owners would like to pay less for unproven players after dozens of expensive draft day busts like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf. The union proposed that rookie contracts be shortened from a maximum of six years to three or four years. This would free up $200 million, which the union wants split between veterans and benefits for retired players.

The NFL could also institute a rookie pay scale similar to the National Basketball Association, where the first overall pick is awarded a pre-determined amount and each successive pick gets paid slightly less. In theory, the system would reduce the number of rookie holdouts and free up money (it would also reduce the need for player agents). Don’t expect Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the current favorite to be the 2011 top pick, to see a contract close to Sam Bradford’s six-year, $78 million deal this year with the St. Louis Rams.

For the complete story and slideshow, click here.

Report: $3 billion in lost TV ad revenue in NFL work stoppage

Networks televising NFL games face the potential loss of $3 billion in ad revenue if there is a work stoppage, according to a report today by Marisa Guthrie in The Hollywood Reporter.

“Last season, the NFL generated nearly $3 billion in ad revenue among CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC, according to estimates provided by Kantar Media,” Guthrie wrote.

Guthrie noted that the impact of a work stoppage on the NFL television and advertising markets begins this spring.

“If a work stoppage does occur, it could throw sand in the networks’ upfront negotiations this spring while also complicating lucrative sponsorship arrangements,” she wrote. “And if a deal is not reached by the time players are due to report to summer training camp, the networks could see significant ad revenue losses, say analysts.”

Said Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research at Kantar Media, “There’s an enormous amount of money on the table for both sides. The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more pressure it puts on advertisers to determine whether they wait and keep their fingers crossed or whether they begin to make alternate plans.”
 
The impact, Guthrie wrote, “would go beyond the ad revenue generated during the games. There is also the unrivaled promotional platform the games provide for networks’ entertainment fare. The pre- and post-game shows are also significant ad-revenue generators. And fantasy leagues are a burgeoning business for network sports divisions that cater to fantasy sports league players on their web sites.”

“The void would be impossible to fill,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media. “There are a lot of dominos that could fall. Financially, there are so many different platforms that stand to lose a lot of money.”
 
For the complete story, click here.

Kraft Family Israel Football League to start high school division in January

The Kraft Family Israel Football League, an eight-team league supported by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (left) and wife Myra, will launch a high school division, according to league Commissioner Uriel Storm.

“We have five schools that will take part in the first ever Kraft IFL high school league, which will be kicking off in January,” Storm said.  “This is about the future of the sport.  It’s about bringing football to Israeli youth.”

The Kraft Family IFL, which is in its fourth season, has been praised by players for bringing together people with different backgrounds and beliefs.

“We are trying to pioneer a new path in the world and create a coexistence for Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank,” said Shlomo Schachter, who plays for the first-place Judean Rebels. “We have people playing together.”

Added Rebels teammate Musa Elayyan, “It’s a team where Israelis and Palestinians can get along and work as a team unit.  [If] we can create a model on the field, we can create one off the field.”

For more on the Kraft Family IFL, click here.

Week 14 features 13 Sunday games

Week 14 of the 2010 NFL season kicked off Thursday with Indianapolis’ 30-28 victory over Tennessee. The action continues today with 13 games.

Following is today’s game schedule (all times ET):

Cleveland at Buffalo 1:00 PM
Atlanta at Carolina 1:00 PM
Green Bay at Detroit 1:00 PM
Oakland at Jacksonville 1:00 PM
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
Tampa Bay at Washington 1:00 PM
St. Louis at New Orleans 1:00 PM
Seattle at San Francisco 4:05 PM
Denver at Arizona 4:15 PM
New England at Chicago 4:15 PM
Miami at N.Y. Jets 4:15 PM
Kansas City at San Diego 4:15 PM
Philadelphia at Dallas 8:20 PM

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross takes players to see “Lombardi” on Broadway

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) brought his team north on Friday — a day earlier than usual for a Sunday game against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium.

After practicing in New Jersey, Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald reported, the team boarded buses for Manhattan where Ross hosted the team for dinner and then took the players and football staff to see the show “Lombardi” on Broadway.

“Most of these guys never heard of Vince Lombardi,” said Ross, who saw the play earlier this fall. “They weren’t alive when he died, and they’re all playing for the Lombardi Trophy. It’s part of the NFL.

“I think it’s nice to know what they’re playing for and how the National Football League became what it is today,” Ross continued. “I think it’s good for the players. It’s inspirational.”

For the complete story, click here.

Transcript from Jeff Pash interview with The Associated Press

Following is a transcript from Jeff Pash’s recent interview with Howard Fendrich of The Associated Press.

NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF
LABOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL JEFF PASH
WITH HOWARD FENDRICH OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 9, 2010 

On progress toward terms of a new CBA:

It is a mistake to characterize negotiations on sort of a day-by-day basis, whether you are making progress or whether you or not making progress.  The reality is we have got a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do.  The only way we are going to make progress and get to an agreement that works for fans, players and clubs is to just have a relentless focus on meetings, on discussions and on analysis. 

From our perspective, we are fully committed to getting that done and we are fully engaged in that process.

On both parties being fully engaged in that process:

I can’t speak for the NFLPA.  I know what the NFL’s view is, I know what our owners have instructed us to do and I know the amount of time and focus that this is getting throughout our organization.

On his perception of the NFLPA’s commitment:

I don’t characterize what is going on at the other side.  I just know that it is going to take a shared commitment to accomplish this.  One side can’t do it alone.  The Players Association should speak for themselves.  I shouldn’t speak for them.
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