NFLPA Chief Smith on Goodell: 'I Was at Last Meeting, He Was Not'
"When they're ready to give us a proposal, and they're ready to sit down and negotiate, we'll do it," Smith said. "I've been ready to do that since the day I was elected. I was at the last negotiating meeting and he wasn't. That's not to say I didn't enjoy watching a man read a memo. But why don't we get to the point where we're actually negotiating instead of just talking in the press?"
Owners and players have had two negotiating sessions on the new CBA. The last one was on July 14, and Goodell did not attend it. His absence angered the players' side, and that anger seems to still be simmering, especially in the wake of Goodell's revelation that he and Smith had lunch together last Tuesday in Washington, D.C. and the commissioner's characterization of their conversation. Goodell called Smith's calls for the owners to provide audited financial statements a "distraction" and said he delivered the message that it was time to cut out the rhetoric and begin negotiating.
Smith made a clearly irritated face when that was brought up.
"We're still waiting for a proposal," Smith said.
Smith told FanHouse months ago, and has said several times since, that he believes the owners intend to lock out the players in 2011 and that the owners could actually make money by doing so. Goodell last week called such an idea "foolish," but Smith didn't back down, once again citing the new TV contracts that pay off even if no games are played and the fact that the owners have hired Bob Batterman (the attorney who engineered the NHL lockout) to represent them as proof that they're gearing for a lockout.
"The NFL has taken significant steps to prepare themselves for a lockout," Smith said. "Despite what they said last week, it does seem to me that their actions speak louder than their words."
The union also took issue with the league's assertion in Thursday's meeting that players have received 75 percent of new revenue generated by the league since 2006 while owners have received only 25 percent (all of which has been absorbed by costs) and actually paid an additional six percent on top of that. The league is basically saying that, when it comes to new revenue generated since 2006, the players have made 75 cents on the dollar while the owners have lost six.
"I think the best way to demonstrate that that's true is to give us a 10-year look at your audited financial statements," Smith said. "And we will find out whether that's true or not. We'll also find out the exact rate of return on their franchises as well as profit."
Smith has repeatedly called on the league's franchises to provide the union with audited financial statements as proof of the financial hardship they cited as their reason for opting out of the current CBA. The league has not indicated a desire to provide those. Last week, Goodell reasserted his belief that the union has plenty of information, including a right to audit franchises. Smith responded by saying the union's audit rights only extend to revenue, and not to costs, and that both are needed in order to determine profit.
"The league has never turned over audited financial statements which deal with profits," Smith said.
Smith declined to address comments made by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last week regarding revenue-sharing among owners. Specifically, Jones described the Minnesota market as one he and larger-market owners are "subsidizing," and said of the current revenue-sharing system, "That's on its way out."
Some people on the union side have theorized that the real reason the owners want changes to the current CBA is that they're seeking a system that fixes the perceived revenue-sharing inequities among small-market and large-market teams. But again, Smith would not address that as it pertains to the current negotiations. He seemed fixed instead on the idea that Goodell had painted him as the one unwilling to negotiate. He pointed out that he and Goodell will both be in Pittsburgh for Thursday night's regular-season opener between the Titans and Steelers.
"If the goal is to sit down and get a deal done," Smith said, wryly, "then let's just sit down and get this thing knocked out in Pittsburgh."
In case you couldn't tell from the earlier comments, and the general tone of the current relationship between the two sides ... don't hold your breath on that one.