THE NFL'S 2011 labor war will always have its high-profile heroes: Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, and negotiators Domonique Foxworth (players) and Bob Kraft (owners). But there's an unsung hero too.
NFL treasurer Joe Siclare deserves his own football card for what he did in May, when the negotiating momentum halted. The court-ordered mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, addressed league officials. "Look," Boylan told them, according to the one of the execs in the room, "you've got to come up with some new idea. You guys keep talking past each other instead of to each other."
Without seeing detailed, audited financial statements, the players were chafing at exempting $1 billion from the revenue pool, which the owners demanded as reimbursement for going into their own pockets to build new stadiums. After Boylan's warning, Siclare huddled with NFL counsel Jeff Pash and suggested they go back and study a common tactic in many businesses: Why not give the workers a larger percentage of the income that requires no owner funding and let ownership keep a larger cut of the income derived from its investments?
That was the breakthrough the talks needed. After weeks of discussion the two sides finally settled on a three-pronged deal: Players would get 55% of the league's broadcast revenue (about $4.3 billion in 2011), 45% of all revenue from NFL Ventures (merchandise, promotions) and 40% of local team revenue (tickets, stadium enhancements). "It wasn't like inventing cold fusion in the sink," said Siclare, 51, a 19-year veteran of the league office, on Sunday while attending his son's baseball travel-team tournament in Utica, N.Y. "It's just common sense. For the owners, it recognizes the revenue areas that will require the additional investment to grow the game."
"I thought it was an incredible idea," says Clark Hunt, the owner of the Chiefs. "The beauty of it for the players is, if the national TV revenue grows faster, they're the ones who benefit."
Siclare's nickname around the NFL offices is Upton, for Upton Sinclair, author of the muckraking book The Jungle. Siclare is always hearing his name mispronounced Sinclair. Maybe people will know his name now, after he helped lead the league through (pun intended) the jungle that was these 38 months of negotiations.