Transparency key to NFL money fight

After a few days of good feelings and weeks of relative quiet, we’re starting to see the divide between NFL owners and players open up again in public.

The issue that has risen to the top of the negotiations, and that prompted a new set of public sparring Tuesday and Wednesday, is transparency: the players say they don’t have enough information on what the owners are making, the owners say they’ve offered plenty of detail.

It might sound procedural, but it’s not. The issue is central to the argument over how to split the league’s revenue and, as in any business dispute, the money fight is the linchpin of these negotiations. NFL owners want more of the $9 billion the league brings in. The players say they’re not willing to concede any until they see proof that the owners really need it.

Money, and the way it is split, is the reason we’re seeing this spat in the first place: the owners opted out of the current CBA after realizing it gave away too much for their tastes; they didn’t go through all this trouble to walk away without getting something back. It’s a question now of how much they can extract. The union, though, has made clear it’s not going to give up any of its share unless it sees real evidence that the owners actually need a bigger slice of the pie.

The debate has grown contentious enough that it has spilled into public view, a change from recent days when both sides kept the talks behind closed doors. Today in Washington NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the issue should be behind the two sides by now.

“I don't think there should be any issue of disclosure, I don't think there should be any issue of transparency," Pash said, according to the Associated Press. The league offered to give the players five years of data on profitability, according to a report today from the AP, which cited an anonymous source familiar with the negotiations. UPDATE: The NFL Network later reported that the league offered aggregated profit data, not team-by-team information. The NFLPA wants team-by-team financials, including details on overhead costs, such as stadiums, according to the network's Albert Breer.

Pash’s comments and the leak arrive a day after the union took its argument public, with NFLPA executive committee member Scott Fujita telling AP and the NFL Network that the league’s offer so far “hasn’t been sufficient.”

“We’re being asked to give back almost a billion dollars, so it’s important for us to adequately analyze and interpret the little bit of information that’s been provided,” Fujita said.

The players hired an unnamed bank to help them analyze whatever data they get. The league and players still have three days before their CBA extension ends, so there is time for this to get worked out. We have already seen how a deadline can spur action – or at least an extension. But at the moment, the rhetoric is going in the wrong direction for fans who want to see a deal.

Eagles president Joe Banner has been in Washington all week as well, we've confirmed. He's part of a league sub-committee that deals with some of the issues key to the labor fight. Banner is helping work on the NFL's proposals for a rookie wage scale, among other issues.