This afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and lead negotiator for the NFL, Jeff Pash, held a conference call with many of the SB Nation football writers, including me. We asked Goodell and Pash questions about the labor mess, among other subjects. Needless to say, Pash was a fierce defender of the NFL and the owner's position in the labor impasse, basically saying that the NFLPA was only interested in talking about the money. Not a real surprise, most fans realized this negotiation wasn't going anywhere until the "expense credit" for the owners was figured out, where they were initially asking for $1 billion more off the top, a number they later compromised on.
Shortly after the negotiations broke down and the whole thing moved to the courts, Cincinnati Bengals owner made a statement to the effect that the player's were only interested in talking money. Jeff Pash shares that view.
On Mike Brown's statement after the lockout began that players are only concerned about money:
Jeff Pash: I don't know if that's what many owners around the league feel, but I think Mike was reflecting what he heard in the mediation session late Friday afternoon where in responding to the comprehensive proposal we had made to them, they didn't want to talk about anything other than what the cap numbers were. They didn't want to talk about the health and safety improvements, they didn't want to talk about benefits, they didn't want to talk about improved pensions for retired players, they didn't want to talk about the drug program or the steroid program, they didn't want to talk about disciplinary matters. The only thing they wanted to talk about was the cap number. I think Mike was reflecting what he heard from the players.
We then pressed Pash on the issue of not opening the books to the players, and how that also affects the fan's view on the situation. One point Pash tried to make is that the even though the CBA model worked in the past, it doesn't work today, in spite of the NFL brand being more popular than ever.
How can you expect fans to believe the financial model is broken if you won't open the books?
JP: There's been a tremendous amount of financial information disclosed to the union in the course of bargaining. And the union knows, as do people like you who follow the game, when stadiums were built in the last couple of decades they were largely being built with public money. Now they are being built heavily with private money. Here in the Meadowlands, for example, the Jets and the Giants each have about $650 million debt to service, plus $45 million a year in operating costs, plus they have all the costs of upkeep, capital improvements, and things like that. If a stadium gets built out in the Bay Area or in Minnesota, there are going to be very substantial costs imposed and the current structure of the collective bargaining agreement doesn't recognize those costs nearly to the extent it needs to be to encourage the investments to be made. It's not a question of popularity or of revenue. It's a question of having enough of a return and enough of a proportionate sharing of the financial risk in the sport that the game can continue to grow and benefit fans and players.
Over the next day, I'll have more of our interview, including some answers from Commissioner Goodell.
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