Less than 24 hours after SB Nation got an exclusive interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFPLA* (not a union, but rather a trade association now) representative DeMaurice Smith and NFL player Takeo Spikes wanted to have their shot at us and spoke to us early Friday morning about their version of the events that have occurred leading to the current lockout and litigation by the players.
What did he have to say?
As expected, Smith was very critical of the message that the commissioner has been sending. Referring to the letter that Goodell sent to the players, he said, "in that short letter, Roger said more words than he said throughout the entire mediation process." Those are fighting words.
The one thing that I have to agree with is Smith's assertion that the owners "had intent to lock our players out since at least early 2009, and probably 2008." An internal document not meant for public eye shows that cash flow in a lockout was one of the key points for negotiating or not.
As for decertifying and litigating as the players are now doing, you have to support the players for doing that, if you believe that the owners were intent on a lockout. It was really the only recourse they had, aside from agreeing to a deal that they did not feel was fair.
Decertifying as a union, though, appears to be a sham by many. That is why the league locked out the players even after decertification. According to law, you cannot lock out workers not under a union. The owners view this as nothing but a move in idea and not in practice. Why does it seem this way? Well, if the NFLPA is no longer a union, they have power in collective bargaining. They can continue negotiations as "class council" and Smith said that continued negotiating is "absolutely not" off the table before the April 6 court hearing.
The big thing is whether the deal that the owners offered was fair. Takeo Spikes described in the interview as "the worst deal probably of the lifetime that was offered to any union." At least in the letter that Goodell sent, the things the NFL was offering to players was reasonable and fair. We all could probably agree with that. However, if we are to believe either side, "the NFL's deal was an all-or-nothing deal," meaning that to get those things, the players had to also accept the financial part.
Money, in the end, was the sticking point. Here is how Smith put the revenue numbers into perspective:
"The NFL's deal would have been a 10-year deal...I just want to run through the economic effects of the first two years of the deal alone. Not the last eight, just the first two.
"In 2011, if we would have stuck with basically the same fifth-fifty split of all revenue, in 2011, revenue would be projected at $10.2 billion. Keeping that fifty-fifty split of all revenue, the cap would be approximately $155 million. That's assuming only a five percent growth of all revenue. Let's not get too technical; he league has been averaging about eight to nine percent growth per year, but for the sake of argument, let's just assume that football going forward isn't as popular as it's been for the last 50 years. Let's just assume only a five growth instead of an eight percent growth. The cap in 2011 would be $155 million. The cap under the league's proposal would be $141 million. That's a decrease of $14 million. Times 32 teams. I think you come up with $448 million in year one. Again, remember the three things we started with: the first year check that the players are writing to the richest men in the world is $448 million in year one. Does that sound like a good deal?
"Under year one of the league's deal, the players are writing a check to the owners of $448 million. Our share of all revenue before the ink is dry on that deal now drops to 45% of all revenue. Last year we were at 48.9%. We've had a fifty-fifty split of all revenue with the NFL since approximately 1991. 60% is after they take their billion off the top. Once you include all revenue, it's been a fifty-fifty split since about 1991.
"Year two of the NFL's fantastic (that is sarcastic) deal, the cap would have been approximately $163 million in 2012. The cap under their proposal would be $147 million. That's $16 million per team, times 32. That's an additional $512 million that the players are writing to the owners. The share of all revenue would drop to approximately 45.3% in year two. So we've got two sets of numbers that we need to look at and make sure that everybody understands right away. 448, 512, and then a drop immediately to 45% of all revenue."
Here's the main issue. Smith is assuming that every team will spend all the way to the salary cap. Almost no teams do that. On average, teams were almost $19 million under the cap. The projected $155 million cap would then have actually been on average $136 million per team spending on salary, which is less than the owners' proposed $141 million.
Obviously, teams would stay under that, but supposedly under the owners' offer, it stipulated that the salary "floor," or minimum team salary required, would be 90 percent of the cap for those first two years, bringing the minimum to $127 million. Yes, they players would be leaving money on the table, but at the same time, the language about rookie salaries and first-round picks shift more money to more players, especially veterans who often get pushed out because of the pricey rookies.
What do they think about whether or not games will be missed? "To be honest with you," said Takeo Spikes. "The people who can answer that are the owners, or the decision makers, who will allow us to play."
As it looks now, this could get ugly. It is up to the courts.