As the expiration of the current bargaining agreement approaches—March 3 is D day—the two sides remain far apart on the major issues
At his State of the League address in Dallas before the Super Bowl, commissioner Roger Goodell said of the NFL's labor arrangement, "the status quo is unacceptable." In 2010 the $9.3 billion revenue pie was sliced like this: $1.3 billion to the league for expenses associated with growing the game (i.e., stadium construction, the NFL Network, overseas initiatives); $4.65 billion (or 57% of remaining revenues) to the players; and approximately $3.35 billion to the owners. In simple math: the owners received about $4.75 billion, the players $4.65 billion. These are the key issues in the negotiation.
Revenue distribution Owners say they want to balance financial risks and rewards by taking an additional $1 billion in expense credits out of the revenue pool. Players have proposed a straight 50-50 split of all monies; the union also want the owners to show the risks by opening their books, a concession owners have steadfastly refused.
18-game season To grow revenues, the league wants to eliminate two exhibition games and add two regular-season games. Players contend that 16 games is enough; if the season were longer, they'd want to address the added toll on their bodies by limiting hitting in off-season workouts and in-season practices and improving postcareer health care.
Rookie wage scale The sides agree on the idea of a new rookie pay system, but the union believes the owners' recent proposal, which includes lower minimum salaries and more years of service before filing for free agency, amounts to a veteran wage scale.
Forfeiture language If players violate the law or the personal-conduct policy, owners want to be able to recoup bonus monies more easily. The NFLPA contends that signing bonuses represent the players' only real guaranteed money, and therefore should be theirs to keep.
Both sides say the biggest loser in any work stoppage would be the fans, and that they will work feverishly to reach an agreement before the CBA expires. Yet at week's end, prospects for a deal seemed as dim as ever.