NFL's Batterman on CBA talks: "As far apart as I could imagine"
While we have heard some seemingly encouraging talk of late that the NFL can and will head off a work stoppage for the 2011 season, NFL attorney Bob Batterman had a sobering assessment about the current state of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
“At this point, we are as far apart as I could imagine,” Batterman told the Hofstra Chronicle in a recent interview.
Batterman, who is probably best known for representing the NHL during its lockout in 2004-05, has rarely been heard from during the often tense back-and-forth between the league and the NFL Players Association over the future of the collective bargaining agreement. But he opened up to the Chronicle and detailed some of the league's positions on the CBA. He doesn't break any new ground here, since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (pictured) and the league's lead attorney, Jeff Pash, have enunciated the NFL's stance. But the fact that Batterman goes on record is newsworthy. Good get here by Chronicle staff writer Michael Waxenberg.
"[NFL] owners do not feel there are incentives to invest in the business because they don’t believe they’re making enough out of it," said Batterman, who also represents Hofstra University in its upcoming labor negotiations with the school's faculty. "For the investments they make and the risks they take, owners feel there is a disconnect between what the players get and the owners get. An example of a way to deal with this is to install a rookie salary cap and tighten it up so less money is going to unproven players. Also, there is the issue of forfeitures. Currently, a player who receives a bonus and ends up in jail gets to keep that bonus. The owners would like to change that.”
As for the NFLPA's insistence that the league open its books to show its revenues, Batterman counters that this simply won't happen and that the union has sufficient financial information provided by the league.
“The union has received all the information it is required to see such as the revenue information and audit rights, but what they are asking for is something the law does not provide for," he said. "The net profit information never goes to a union. It is none of their business whether the owners make a one dollar profit or a 100 million dollar profit. The only way the union is required to see that information is if the owners are pleading poverty, which they are not. The owners are making money under the current CBA; just not what they deem is their fair share. The NBA recently and the NHL in 2004 provided the union with such financial numbers and the unions claimed to not believe the figures. This is why we feel providing our net profit information is useless and unnecessary.”
Batterman pointed to NFL owners increasingly funding their own stadium projects — including the new Jets/Giants stadium — as a major reason to change the CBA.
“In 1994, there was only one team with a privately financed stadium, Miami,” he said. “Now all the owners finance the stadiums themselves and have to eat all those costs. The players association has failed to come to grips with this change.”
Batterman explains the NFL's current proposal this way: “We want to get credited for 18% of costs we currently don’t get credit for, before giving the players their 60% share of revenue.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and other union officials have characterized this as the league asking players to take an 18 percent paycut. However, league officials have said that will not be the case, that it would be half that amount. The league also points out that the continued growth of the sport, combined with a rookie wage scale, would mean that most veteran players would not see any pay reduction.