Former Jets guard Pete Kendall only needed two words to describe what he considered the crux of the disagreement that led to last week’s dramatic labor showdown between the NFL and the NFL Players Association: true up.
The phrase refers to a revenue sharing model that Kendall said would have allowed the players to share in monies that exceeded the league’s revenue projections for the 2013-2014 seasons. The “true up” is the actual money the league would earn in those years; if that figure was above the 2.5 percent the NFL projected for each year, then the players could have shared in much of that extra revenue if the owners had agreed to the plan.
But Kendall said there was never an offer by the NFL to use the “true up” in 2013-14. He accused the league of essentially playing a shell game with a last-ditch offer to players on March 11, the final day of negotiations before the NFLPA decertified and the league locked out the players. Kendall said if the players had accepted the deal offered by the NFL, they would have forfeited a chance to share in “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“Now it becomes clear all along that [NFL negotiators] were stringing players all along, and they were going to flip the script,” Kendall said yesterday by phone from NFLPA meetings in Marco Island, Fla. “They don’t believe they’re going to grow 2 ½ percent [in 2013-14]. I don’t know anyone who believes they believe that, especially not when they’re going to be doing television contracts.”
Kendall, who also played for the Seahawks, Cardinals and Redskins, said the NFL instead offered to increase the salary cap amounts from $141 million in 2011, up to $161 million in 2014, but without a provision to add revenues over and above the 2.5 percent projection figures in the final two years of the deal. He said that was the deal-breaker.
“If they were to perform near their historic average of around seven percent growth a year,” said Kendall, “the players would have been watching hundreds of millions of dollars go away.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had discussions with the union about a “true up” beginning in 2015 “to reflect revenue growth generated from new stadiums, new television contracts, a possible shift to an 18-game season, and other potential opportunities.”
Kendall said, however, there was nothing in the NFL’s final written proposal about the “true up,” but added there was some “vague chatter” about 2015.
The two sides remain at loggerheads, with no quick resolution on the horizon. On April 6, a judge in Minnesota will hear arguments from both sides on an injunction request by 10 players, including quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, that would end the lockout.