The Time Has Come To Make A Deal

(This is an op-ed piece released by the NFL league office on Tuesday. It likely was not written by the Commissioner, but certainly reflects his views. We add our comments at the end.)

By Roger Goodell

One of the best NFL seasons in history is now over. We salute NFL players for their extraordinary talent and we deeply appreciate the tremendous support of the fans.

The hard work to secure the next NFL season must now accelerate in earnest. We are just weeks from the expiration of our collective bargaining agreement. There has been enough rhetoric, litigation and other efforts beyond the negotiating table. It is time for serious negotiations.

The current agreement expires on March 4, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reaching agreement by then. If we as a league — the teams and players’ union — fail to fulfill our shared responsibility to the fans and game, everyone will be worse off — players, teams and fans — starting in March.

This is an opportunity to create a better future for the NFL, to improve the game for our fans, and to expand the economic benefits for the players and teams. Staying with the status quo is not an option. The world has changed for everyone, including the NFL and our fans. We must get better in everything we do.

The union has repeatedly said that it hasn’t asked for anything more and literally wants to continue playing under the existing agreement. That clearly indicates the deal has moved too far in favor of one side. Even the union’s president knows this — as he said on national radio on January 27: “I think what really happened is in 2006 we got such a great deal. I mean, the players got a good deal and the owners felt they got it handed to them.”

We need an agreement that both sides can live with and obtain what they need, not simply what they want.

Today’s collective bargain agreement does not work as it should from the standpoint of the teams. If needed adjustments are made, the NFL will be better for everyone. The first step is making sure a new collective bargaining agreement is more balanced and supports innovation and growth.

The NFL clubs want to move forward, improve the system, and secure the future of the game for the benefit of players, fans and teams.

The status quo means no rookie wage scale and the continuation of outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies. In 2009, for example, NFL clubs contracted $1.2 billion to 256 drafted rookies with $585 million guaranteed before they had stepped on an NFL field. Instead, we will shift significant parts of that money to proven veterans and retired players.

The status quo means 16 regular-season and four preseason games — even though fans have rejected and dismissed four preseason games at every opportunity. We need to deliver more value to our fans by giving them more of what they want at responsible prices. This can be achieved if we work together and focus on more ways to make the game safer and reduce unnecessary contact during the season and in the off-season.

The status quo means failing to recognize the many costs of financing, building, maintaining and operating stadiums. We need new stadiums in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego; and the ability for more league investment in new technology to improve service to fans in stadiums and at home.

The status quo means players continuing to keep 60 percent of available revenue, in good years or bad, no matter how the national economy or the economics of the league have changed. From 2001 to 2009, player compensation doubled and the teams committed a total of $34 billion to player costs. The NFL is healthy in many respects, but we do not have a healthy business model that can sustain growth.

Companies with far more revenue than the NFL have gone bankrupt because they mismanaged their costs and failed to address their problems before they became a crisis. The NFL has a track record over many decades of making good decisions that have led to unprecedented popularity. Negotiating a fair agreement will result in billions in pay and benefits to current players, improved benefits for retired players, and a sustainable business model for our teams.

The current deal does not secure the best possible future for the game, players, clubs and fans. The next few weeks must be used to negotiate with intensity and purpose so we can reach a fair agreement by March 4. If both sides compromise and give a little, everyone will get a lot, especially the fans.


There’s no new ground broken in Goodell’s piece. At various times, he’s said all of this before in various forums.

What drives the average fan and media crazy are comments like it’s “time for serious negotiations” and it was the owners who walked away from the talks last week.  He also writes that if “both sides compromise and give a little, everyone will get a lot …” Throughout the piece, he mentions where the players need to compromise, by giving in on the rookie wage scale, 18-game stadium and the percentage of revenue they receive each year. Nowhere does he indicate any area where the owners would be willing to compromise. Right now, both sides are spending time and energy on trying to make the other side the bad guy.

This is the first labor negotiations where Goodell is out in front and his job is not to get a deal done with the players. His job is to get the owners to the table and get a deal done with the players. Always remember that Goodell is but an employee of the NFL owners. His job of keeping those 32 entities together is a lot like trying to herd a pack of cats. There are hard-line owners that want to break the union and feel like the future of their business is at stake. Goodell will have to keep those owners out of the negotiations, because nothing will get done if they are in the room.

Goodell’s is laying out all sorts of ammunition on what’s wrong with the players approach in maintaining the status quo. His argument that for the future of the game and the league’s business changes need to be made is certainly understandable.  Maybe the next time he takes pen to paper he can give us some idea of what the owners want to do to make that happen from their end.

3 Responses to “The Time Has Come To Make A Deal”

  • February 16, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    The owners are somewhat right. If you go to a negotiating table and the other party doesn’t want to change anything then somethings probably not right. That being said, I’m totally with you in that the owners need to do a much better job of making a case for what they want.

    What are the players going to get for the extra two games?
    How will they protect the players?
    Will they let more of them on a team?
    Will they force you to sit players throughout the year?

    I think in all of these high power negotiations both sides forget who pays the bills.
    What are they all going to do to make attending and watching games on TV easier/cheaper?

    I live in the UK now and last year I had to pay 300ish USD for the regular season streamed over the internet, except for the few games that were on the satellite provider exclusively, man was this crap. The playoffs were extra and not available in the UK over the internet so I had to subscribe to satellite to get the Chiefs game only to watch them lose to the Ravens. (This wasn’t so bad really… I mean we did make the playoffs AND had a home game).

    In the US, When are they going to stop signing exclusivity agreements with DirecTV and EA and let the market decide what the best delivery method for NFL is (how about Cable and of course internet delivery?) and if Madden really is/was better than NFL2K.

  • February 16, 2011  - Justin D says:

    I must say that I am usually in the owners camp on this. I feel the reason you own a business is to make money, not to give away the majority of your profits. However, Bob is right when he says they need to outline their goals for growing the game and their areas for investment. Can’t be all one sided.

  • February 16, 2011  - Dan says:

    2 thoughts:
    At one point Bob says that Goodell’s job is ‘to get the Owners to the table’ but in the same paragraph he says ‘Goodell will have to keep those owners out of the negotiations’.

    Why think that the Owners need to show what they are willing to give up? Both parties agreed to an agreement with ‘Opt Out’ opportunities if determined that the agreement wasn’t working out. The Owners may have felt compelled to agree to promising almost 60 percent of ‘all available revenues’ to the players. They apparently have determined that Expenses, Investments, and other costs were making their 40% insufficient. They ARE business people. They didn’t become Billionaires by trying to cover all costs on only 40% of revenues.
    They made deal (with opt out clauses), they determined that the deal wasn’t working, they opted out, and the players and some media are thinking that the owners must give up something. The Owners have already decided that they were giving up too much as it was. Now they want something Back!

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