New players' union head begins posturing
A "meet and greet" is how new NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith described what will be his first introduction to team owners Tuesday at the league's spring meeting in nearby Fort Lauderdale.
Assuredly, the "joust and parry" will soon follow as Smith tries negotiating a new labor deal before a potential work stoppage in 2011.
Although the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFLPA doesn't expire for another 21 months, both sides are already drawing lines in the sand for upcoming negotiations. In May 2008, NFL owners unanimously voted to end the CBA two years early because of what they believed were lopsided monetary gains being made by the players.
The first obstacle entering talks is a stalemate over financial records for all 32 NFL teams. During a meeting with reporters Monday in South Florida, Smith remained insistent that the NFL "turn over audited financial statements (and) profit-loss information" to the NFLPA.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell already has said such data isn't forthcoming, claiming in March that the union "knows our revenue down to almost a penny" because of revenue figures used to compute the league's salary cap. The Green Bay Packers are the only team with open financial records because they are a publicly owned entity. The NFL generates $8 billion in revenue annually, with roughly $4.5 billion going toward player salaries and benefits.
"Would you buy a car with only half the information about base price? The answer is no," Smith said.
"It seems to me that (the owners) are the ones who opted out of the agreement and are preparing for a lockout. They are the ones who have said the agreement needs fixing because it doesn't adequately respond to [their] core issues. If that is true, show us."
Smith said the same principles apply to whether the NFLPA would support the NFL's potential expansion to a 17- or 18-game regular-season schedule. That topic will be discussed extensively among team owners at this week's league meeting.
"It seems to me the best way to talk about whether or not this issue is good for us given [players'] exposure to injury and the extension of an already grueling season [is] how much does the average team make per game?" Smith said.