Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 6:39 pm

NFLPA hires investment bank for potential audit

Posted by Will Brinson

Earlier Tuesday, we mentioned that the NFLPA is unlikely to continue dropping their percentage of shared revenue in CBA negotiations without seeing what the owners have under the proverbial hood.

Or, if you prefer, in the books.

So serious is the NFLPA about that request that, according to multiple reports, they've hired an international investment bank to help audit the owners' financial records.

"The players are serious about getting a deal done, and we need an accurate understanding of what the numbers actually mean," says executive committee member Scott Fujita, via Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated. "More importantly, if we don't get the full audited financial statements, we need to know what other information we need to make an informed decision. That's where this investment bank has been hired to help us out."

Again, we covered this earlier -- the NFLPA wouldn't be prudent to keep negotiating without actually understanding what they're negotiating against.

Additionally, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the NFLPA brought "an auditor who the union has used for years" to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building at about 3:00 PM EST.

What does this all mean? Well, Trotter reports that the NFL has opened up its books (some) and "released summary financial statements from the past two years." Unfortunately, that doesn't take into account what the NFL owners were making before they started getting the original $1 billion credit off the top.

NFL Labor

Clearly, knowing the disparity between the numbers before and after that credit are pretty important for the players in determining whether or not the additional $1 billion is a fair request or not.

So, what it seems like is this: the owners gave up some of their financials, and the NFLPA used their go-to auditor to look at those documents. But, that auditor, just like any other normal person, can't accurately enough discern what the difference is pre- and post-credit without seeing more information.

The NFLPA has presumably hired a big-time firm to look over that additional information, but also made it clear -- by publicly announcing the hire -- just how important looking at those financial documents actually is; which is to say, very.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 7:41 pm

'Not $1 more' from NFLPA without books opened?

Posted by Will Brinson

One of the biggest complaints throughout the labor disagreement between the NFL and NFLPA is that the owners won't "open their books" for the players. In case that term isn't clear, the players want to scrutinize the financial records of the owners to see if the owners are making as much (or as "little," if you will) money as they claim they are.

This opening of the books may turn into a dealbreaker. In fact, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal reports that it might become a dealbreaker beginning almost immediately.

According to one of Mullen's sources, the union has decided that they will give "not 1 dollar more [without] financial transparency."

This is in reference to the fact that there's been movement on the issue of revenue sharing between the two sides -- once $1 billion apart, they were reportedly just $750-800 million apart by the time mediation ended on Monday night.

NFL Labor

"The players really think that the NFL opening their financials has become the key to getting a deal done," Mullen's source told her early Tuesday.

The players are probably correct. As of right now, the owners keep claiming "We're making only $XX,XXX,XXX.XX." This is a problematic claim, however, because they refuse to provide any evidence to prove that this claim is true.

Given what the NFLPA was able to uncover in the most recent momentum victory -- Judge Doty's ruling on the NFL's television "war chest" contracts -- it's difficult to blame them for completely and inherently trusting that whatever the owners tell them is 100 percent true.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 10:10 am

Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt at Tuesday mediation

Posted by Will Brinson

Monday's mediation between the NFL and NFLPA took an optimistic turn -- despite the two sides only actually working for about five hours -- because of John Mara joining the ownership group at the bargaining table.

Tuesday's mediation, the 13th day of such talks, saw a similar spike of hope, as Chiefs owner Clark Hunt pulled up a chair to the league's side, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

This is good news for a number of reasons. First of all, Hunt's family isn't exactly known for being stubborn in NFL-related negotiations (his late father, Lamar Hunt, did a few important things with the NFL, like merging it and whatnot) and every reasonable observer considers Hunt's presence a good thing in terms of seeking a compromise.

Additionally, Hunt is the owner of two Major League Soccer teams. That seems irrelevant until you remember, via Peter King's Monday column, that the mediator in these negotiations recently handled the MLS labor talks.

NFL Labor

Ergo, it seems safe to assume that at some point, George Cohen has dealt with Hunt on the league/ownership side of a professional sports labor negotiation (Hunt was actually an MLS founding investor as well as an owner, as was his his father).

That's not to pain Hunt as Superman or anything. Because he's not.

But Hunt joining the mediation talks on Tuesday means that the NFL ownership group is exploring all its options, and, hopefully, trying to make progress before the CBA set to expire on Friday night/Saturday morning.

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:56 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 11:46 am

Union was within '5 minutes' of decertifying?

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a week-long extension of the CBA on Friday. That week is actually five days, however, because of the weekend. Which means Monday (aka today) is one of five days left on the calendar -- barring an additional extension -- to save football.

And it nearly never happened. According to Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated, an anonymous member of the NFLPA Executive Committee walked into the mediation workroom and informed union president Kevin Mawae -- in the presence of Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash and DeMaurice Smith -- that the union was decertifying.

"We're done! We're decertifying," the anonymous player said, according to Trotter.

Oh yes, and that player added a throat slash while doing so, which is a pretty aggressive negotiation tactic, to say the least.

Matt Jones and I covered this extensively in the labor podcast that dropped earlier today -- decertification would have some serious implications in terms of how it could harm the owners' pockets if things ended in the NFL's worst-case scenario. (As Matt put it, it would basically become like European soccer.)

NFL Labor

Whether or not the throat slash/declaration combo actually caused the owners to blink and sign off on the 7-day extension would be fun to find out, but it won't guarantee a labor deal getting done this week. The only thing that will guarantee it is if the two parties get down to business Monday and crank through every issue. 

So, naturally, the CBA mediation between the two sides will begin at ... 3 PM EST?

Apparently so -- Albert Breer of the NFL Network said the because "folks [are] traveling in the AM to get" to Washington, D.C., things aren't getting kicked off as promptly as they could.

This is rather odd -- both sides took a weekend break from these very negotiations knowing they'd need to be back at the bargaining table for a hard week's worth of figuring out the future of America's most popular sport.

Everyone involved knew they'd need to be in the nation's capital today for the talks. Which means that everyone involved could have likely figured out a way to align their travel plans in such a manner as to make sure that mediation was able to start at least by noon.

That being said, a 3 PM start time can always equate to an all-night mediation session. But given how much is at stake over the next week (again, barring an additional extension), everyone who cares about the NFL would probably prefer seeing the two sides maximizing their ability and time to negotiate.

UPDATE 11:45 a.m. EST: Judy Batista of the New York Times says negotiations will go into the evening hours Monday night. Both sides will take a dinner break and then resume talking. Batista also says that it was NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler who delivered the decertification threat.

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 8:06 am

Podcast: What happens if NFL mediation fails?

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA are set to begin a week's worth of mediation on the heels of Friday's seven-day extension. This series of non-binding negotiations could very well decide the future of professional sports in America, so I hopped on the horn with Matt Jones (of CBSSports.com's Eye on College Basketball Blog, but, more importantly, a lawyer who specializes in labor negotiations) to talk about the current labor climate.

Matt's the one who inked our lockout primer, so he knows a thing or two about how things will go down. We break legal aspects of a potential lockout into layman's terms, discuss what would happen under the "nuclear" option of a lockout, debate whether or not this mediation is working, hypothesize about the possibility of an NFL world with no salary cap or draft, and criticize the current political landscape for NFL owners.

Just hit the play button below and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .
Posted on: March 4, 2011 1:58 pm

Report: NFL, NFLPA agree to 7-day extension

Posted by Will Brinson

On Thursday, the NFL and NFLPA ran up to the deadline, but eventually walked out of CBA negotiations with a 24-hour extension of the agreement's expiration. It was widely believed those 24 hours would be used to negotiate a new extension, and it appears that's what has happened, with the owners and union agreeing to extend the CBA for an additional seven days.

That's according to both Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and Adam Schefter of ESPN, the latter of whom has it "confirmed" that the two sides will extend the deadline to next Friday, with "talks" continuing through 5 PM EST.

Mediation is expected to resume Monday, however, which means that the 7-day extension is technically only one "work week," which is the equivalent of five days, because both sides will adjourn talks during the weekend.

That's not a guarantee, of course, and it's not necessarily negative, as it gives each side the chance to really evaluate their willingness to face a work stoppage and prepare for the coming week of mediation.

All of it remains in the realm of "cautious optimism," because mediation isn't binding, reports are still lingering that the two sides aren't necessarily close to an agreement, and according to Trotter, the union executive committee still needs to approve the extension.

But both sides -- and, more importantly, the fans -- find themselves in a better place Friday than they were Thursday at the same time.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 12:45 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 1:12 am

Union already agreed to 7-10 day extension?

Posted by Will Brinson

It's widely believed that Thursday's 24-hour extension in CBA negotiations is merely the first step for a longer extension (both Clark Judge and I wrote that very notion earlier on Thursday).

And, reportedly, the union has already hopped on board with such an extension -- Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that George Cohen, the Director of the Federal Mediation Counseling Services, has already convinced the union to agree to a 7-to-10-day extension.

Provided that's true, the league only needs to consent, and then the two sides can stop bargaining about how long they should extend the talks, and get down to the nitty gritty.

That's not a given, of course, but the recent momentum swing seems to favor the players -- particularly given Judge Doty's decision on television contracts. And with the risk of a late-afternoon Friday decertification play by the union forcing things to a head, it certainly seems prudent for both sides to push the deadline back even further.

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Posted on: March 3, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 6:04 pm

CBA negotiations extended 24 hours

Posted by Will Brinson

The CBA was set to expire at 11:59 EST Thursday but the NFL and NFLPA reached a 24-hour extension to keep their negotiating window open.

That's according to Jeff Saturday, Colts center and one of the members of the NFLPA present at the negotiating session. Kara Henderson of the NFL Network first reported the news.

This is good news, and as our own Mike Freeman wrote, reason for hope. But it's not salvation for football fans, and right now, it's only a very small step towards some sort of resolution.

"For all those that dig our game, we appreciate your patience as we work through this," DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFLPA, said. "We're going to keep working we want to play football."

That doesn't necessarily mean anyone should take an optimistic approach towards the labor situation, because things are still very much in a tenuous stage. There's 30-some odd hours for the two sides to decide between a number of choices: 1) hammering out their issues and getting a new deal done; 2) going to war in the courtroom because no deal can be reached; or 3) negotiating a new deadline for the expiration of the CBA.

The third option is the biggest reason for optimism right now -- if the NFL and NFLPA can continue to extend the expiration date, they'll continue to be pressed up against a deadline and therefor be more likely to concede certain bargaining positions. Indeed, similar thing happened in 2006 -- in terms of a short extension -- and the result of that was a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That doesn't guarantee such an occurrence in 2011, but the simple fact that the talks are continuing means that the two sides are at least trying to make something happen. And that's better news than we had earlier Thursday.

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Category: NFL
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