Bob Batterman on CBA negotiations: “It is usually deadline bargaining”

NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman (left) said in a radio interview this morning on 790-The Sports Zone in Atlanta that negotiating up to a deadline is not unusual.

“Unfortunately, it is in the nature of collective bargaining,” he said. “It is a process in which it is usually deadline bargaining.  Sometimes you do go over the edge.  It is not usual when there are difficult, contentious issues that you have an early resolution.”

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union expires on March 4.

Batterman added that the NFL’s focus is to create an agreement that works well for everyone.

“The deal last time, Kevin Mawae, the president of the union and a terrific guy and a terrific football player who had a great career, said just a few weeks ago that the deal in ’06 was a great deal for the players.  I don’t remember if those were his words but the pendulum had really swung too far.  We are saying that in part,” Batterman explained.  “We are talking about righting this sport so that we can have the kind of growth for the next 15 years that we had for the past 15 years.  We are not looking to turn this back in time for purposes of sticking it to the players. We don’t want the players to be unhappy going forward.   We are trying to strike a balance.”

Batterman also addressed sharing financial records with the union.

“They have 100 percent of revenue information and they audit it annually.  They have, obviously, 60 percent of our expense is player cost, so they have every tidbit of information about player cost.  They also have total information about all of the other expense items for which we get credit under the salary cap system,” he said.

“Basically, the only thing left is profitability, which no league has ever been able to get a union to deal with in a legitimate context.  If it shows the Green Bay Packers are making $9 million a year and they used to make $34 million a year, it shows they are making fewer profits and less money, but what does it show in terms of whether $9 million is too much, too little or just the right number?  It doesn’t show anything.”

Following is the transcript:

BOB BATTERMAN

on 790 THE SPORTS ZONE – ATLANTA, GA

February 17, 2011

 

On DeMaurice Smith referring to Batterman as ‘the strategic piece’ for the NFL in negotiations:

BB:  I know that De has so referred to me.  I told De the other day that some of my partners asked whether I was paying him a commission for all the free advertising he is giving me.

On NFLPA having all financial data outside of individual team profit margins:

BB:  That is essentially accurate.  They have 100 percent of revenue information and they audit it annually.  They have, obviously, 60 percent of our expense is player cost, so they have every tidbit of information about player cost.  They also have total information about all of the other expense items for which we get credit under the salary cap system.  With regard to the credits we have asked them to give us additionally, we’ve said you can have full audit rights as to those.

Basically, the only thing left is profitability, which no league has ever been able to get a union to deal with in a legitimate context.  If it shows the Green Bay Packers are making $9 million a year and they used to make $34 million a year, it shows they are making fewer profits and less money, but what does it show in terms of whether $9 million is too much, too little or just the right number?  It doesn’t show anything. 

On potential ‘cooked books’:

BB:  It is the first time I have heard a proposal or suggestion that we had cooked books.  There has never been a suggestion from the union that we had cooked books.  We have been sharing data with the union since 1993 when the salary cap system was devised, this modern salary cap system.  There has never been an issue in terms of the integrity of the numbers. 

On NFLPA financial transparency requests referring to profit margins:

BB:  That is absolutely correct.

On fans only caring about playing football in 2011:

BB: Understood.  Understood.  The issues are complicated, financial and operational issues.  From the fans’ viewpoint, I understand the ‘plague on both your houses.’  We ought to get this done and we are trying.  We will be trying and we are trying.

On disputes close to the deadline as a part of the collective bargaining process:

BB:  Unfortunately, it is in the nature of collective bargaining.  It is a process in which it is usually deadline bargaining.  Sometimes you do go over the edge.  It is not usual when there are difficult, contentious issues that you have an early resolution.

On players asking for the status quo and if the owners lost the last CBA negotiation:

BB:  First, let me deal with the statement by the union ‘all we want is what we have.’  The party that doesn’t want to give more, give back or increase expense, whatever it may be – it could be the employer or the union – is going to say, ‘We just want to continue what we have.’  In typical collective bargaining negotiations, the union is looking for more, whether it is more benefits, another dollar an hour or whatever it may be in normal collective bargaining, and the employer is sitting there saying, ‘We are happy with where we are.’  But the world doesn’t work that way.  There are changes.  Every once in awhile you have to recognize that collective bargaining is a two-way street and the balance has to be re-struck.  That’s what we are saying here.

The deal last time, Kevin Mawae, the president of the union and a terrific guy and a terrific football player who had a great career, said just a few weeks ago that the deal in ’06 was a great deal for the players.  I don’t remember if this was his words but the pendulum had really swung too far.  We are saying that in part.  The deal in ’06 gave the players a great deal.  We analyzed it.  The owners have analyzed it.  They are sophisticated businessmen.  With the growth in expenses over the past decade or so with the number of privately financed stadiums that didn’t exist at the time this deal was originally structured in 1993, there are expenses that are not properly taken into account that need to be taken into account.

We are talking about righting this sport so that we can have the kind of growth for the next 15 years that we had for the past 15 years.  We are not looking to turn this back in time for purposes of sticking it to the players. We don’t want the players to be unhappy going forward.  We don’t want them to be in the position we are in today saying that the deal has now swung too far back the other way.  We are trying to strike a balance.  That is all we want.

On owners receiving $4 billion from TV networks even if games are not played:

BB:  This is an issue which has been so misreported.  The owners have the right under circumstances to draw down payments from some of the broadcasters even if there is a work stoppage but it is not a cash payment which they get to keep.  It is like a line of credit.  It is like a home equity loan.  They have to pay it back the following year with interest, with significant interest.  All it is the equivalent of another bank line of credit.  That is all.  It is not something where if they draw down the money it is a gift from the network.

On employing replacement players:

BB:  I’m not going to get into our strategy should we reach the point where games are threatened in the fall.

On the accuracy of $9 billion in annual NFL revenue:

BB:  It is close, but that is revenue not profits.  That is revenue.

On desired money ‘off the top’ in addition to the current $1 billion:

BB:  First of all, off the top, that is not money going into the pockets of owners.  Understand what that is.  That is a system under which the union and the League have agreed that before we get to the point where we decide how much money is going to players and how much money the clubs are going to keep certain expenses which are incurred in order to generate the revenue gets taken out of that calculation.  It is like when you do your tax return.  A business does a tax return and goes from gross income to adjusted gross income before you then get to look at other expenses and figure out your tax.  That is what that is.  That is that first essentially $1 billion.

We made a proposal to take additional cost credits because of the change in the business.  We are now looking at a totally different approach at the union’s request.  The negotiations have moved to a different place.

On which side is at fault for currently having no scheduled meetings:

BB:  I don’t think it is a question of fault.  There is a process.  There are always conversations that are taking place.  There is no fault.  When there are no meetings, it is because there is a reason for no meetings.  When there are meetings, it is because there is a reason to have meetings.  We still have several weeks and the parties are in communication. 

On attempting to reach a deal:

BB:  I’m sure that both parties are going to try to do that. 

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