EDITOR'S NOTE: Last week, ESPN.com published a guest commentary from an executive of the NFLPA about the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Read it here. Today, the league presents its point of view.
The NFL players' union says, "The players haven't asked for anything more and literally don't want anything more. They have simply asked to play under the existing agreement."
That ought to tell you something. If a collective bargaining agreement particularly favors one side, that side naturally won't want to change anything. That's how the players saw it in the '70s and '80s. The players believed the system favored the teams because there was no free agency. The players went on strike several times and then to court to change it.
Now the system does not work as well as it could from the standpoint of the teams. The time has arrived for adjustments that create an opportunity to make the game and league better.
The crux of the difference is this: The union accepts the status quo, while the NFL wants to improve and secure the future of the game for the benefit of fans and players.
The status quo means no rookie wage scale and the continuation of outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies instead of shifting significant portions of that money to proven veterans and retired players.
The status quo means four preseason games in spite of the overwhelming rejection of it that by both fans and players.
The status quo means no league investment in new stadium development in Los Angeles and other cities, in international games, or in new technology to improve our service to fans in stadiums and at home.
The status quo means players continue to keep 60 percent of available revenue, in good years or bad, in a good economy or one with 10 percent unemployment, and no matter how much costs have risen for the teams. Player compensation has doubled in the past decade, and the union says NFL team payrolls rose 6 percent this year. Meanwhile, other costs for teams have risen dramatically.
NFL players have an extremely favorable revenue-sharing deal and full access to all information on revenue and a great deal of information on costs, including the largest cost, which is for players. The union has audit rights to all league and team revenue. The problem, however, is not revenue. It is costs. The union knows the problem. Costs must be properly balanced against revenue so that the league and the game can continue to grow. Companies with far more revenue than the NFL have gone bankrupt because they did not properly manage their costs. Our goal is to fix the problem now before it becomes a crisis. That means negotiating a fair agreement that continues to provide billions to the players while also giving the teams a sustainable business model and improving the quality of everything we do.
Why is the current deal so bad, asks the union? Because it does not secure the best possible future for the game, players, clubs and fans. The union has said its "internal deadline" for reaching an agreement has passed. Does that mean the union has abandoned negotiations in favor of de-certification and litigation? We hope not. Rather than litigating and firing misguided salvos about the "shame" of the situation, it would be far more productive and much more in keeping with the interests of teams and fans if the union returned to the bargaining table and made a good-faith effort to reach an agreement before March 4. After that, it is going to become much more difficult.
The new CBA is about the future of the game and doing what's necessary to improve the quality of the game. That means addressing player safety, retired players, preseason, the way we pay rookies and making sure the league's business model works for the future. If we do that, players, teams and fans can continue share in the benefits of growth. The status quo is not acceptable because it will not allow us to build the game with the players as we have done so successfully in the past.
As commissioner Roger Goodell has said, if both sides give a little, everyone will get a lot.
Greg Aiello is the NFL's Senior Vice President of Public Relations. For more information on NFL collective bargaining issues, go to www.nfllabor.com.