against the grain
There's a nice article in the Boston Globe this morning with the first inside look I've seen at the negotiations between the owners leading to the revenue-sharing agreement. Some quotes:
Only minutes into the day, ''It started to get confrontational because that was a ridiculous number," said a league source who was in the room at the time. ''It wasn't a productive way to start off unless you wanted to blow up the deal."
More than a few owners wanted just that. They had no interest in expanding revenue sharing or increasing the players' take. They didn't want to see nearly 60 percent of their revenues go to their employees. Some wanted no salary cap so they could be free spenders. Others wanted no cap so there would be no restrictions on how little pay and benefits they could offer. The wealthiest teams had no interest in writing ''welfare checks" to profitable but indolent owners such as Arizona's Bill Bidwell or Cincinnati's Mike Brown. Frankly, they weren't at all happy to write one last year to Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in America who also owns a low-revenue team, the Seattle Seahawks, that had just entered a new stadium and played in the Super Bowl. For hard-working organizations such as the Patriots and Cowboys, it was bad business and insulting. The low-revenue teams felt they were getting squeezed by a financial model they could not control.
At one point during the often contentious negotiations, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mockingly offered to buy the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium from the Bengals for $5 million ''because I can double that in about five minutes, Mike."
''It's a lot easier to talk about sharing what you don't have yet than it is what you've already got," Jones said later. ''That was a major part of it. We took things from the future and basically shared that. We agreed to some things we're not sure how much will be involved financially. That was a brilliant stroke."
That stroke was Kraft's ..........
once a team financially qualified it could not be in a stadium fewer than two years old and no new owner could benefit from that shared money, under the theory that they knew what they were buying into.
''That delineates between someone like Bidwell and someone like [Jacksonville's] Wayne Weaver, who's working hard but is constricted by other factors like the size of his market and having too large a stadium," one NFC owner said.
This argument over who deserved the money was punctuated when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who controls one of the league's richest teams, said he was ready to help any team in a bad circumstance but then turned toward Brown and said, ''But if someone has a publicly funded stadium they pay $1 a year for with no operating costs, I'm not helping that person."
Snyder then looked at Michael Bidwell, son of the Cardinals' longtime owner, and snapped, ''If you have a publicly funded stadium in a great market and charge $10 a game for season tickets in the upper deck, I'm sorry sir, I'm not going to help you."
Eventually it was agreed that if enough teams didn't qualify to exhaust the pool in any year, the money would pay down league debt caused by stadium funding loans or to create a reserve for future problems, a sign to the low-revenue teams that this was not a charade.
''We wanted them to know we weren't looking to pull money back," Kraft said. ''We were willing to leave it in to benefit the league."
Despite some last-minute fussing by Cass and Michael Bidwell, the deal passed, 30-2, as did the approval of a CBA extension for six years. It is a deal that could cost high-revenue teams such as the Patriots, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Browns, and Texans from $3 million to $7.5 million a year in profits paid into the shared pool. Yet despite the vote, not a single owner seemed happy.
They had all agreed they needed to maintain labor peace but one who voted for it said Friday, ''This thing is a powder keg in the future. It puts player costs and revenue sharing to the edge. We handled this the way some teams handle their cap problems. We pushed them into the future but the problems are still there. They won't go away."