By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Owners join talks as deadline nears
Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general counsel, arrives at the Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for contract negotiations with the NFL Players Association Thursday. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire tonight. - photo by Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was among a half-dozen team representatives who joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at labor negotiations Thursday.

New York Giants owner John Mara, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner and Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen also attended the session.

The twice-extended collective bargaining agreement is due to expire Friday.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was accompanied by several current and former players, as well as outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler who is making his first appearance at the mediator's office this week.

On Wednesday, the NFL Players Association insisted that the owners' willingness to reduce the amount of extra money they want up front — from $1 billion to $800 million — isn't a sufficient drop. And the financial data the league is willing to reveal isn't what the union seeks.

Under the old CBA, owners received an immediate $1 billion for operating expenses before splitting remaining revenues with players. Owners initially sought to double that, and while they have lowered the up-front figure they want, Smith tied that to the full financial transparency he's sought for nearly two years in what is a $9 billion business.

"Just to be absolutely clear, the information that was offered wasn't what we asked for," Smith said, "and, according to our investment bankers and advisers, they told us that information would be meaningless in determining whether to write an $800 million check to the NFL" in each year of a new CBA.

"We have requested access to fully audited financial statements since May 2009," Smith said. "We believe that is the appropriate information to analyze the league's request to write a multibillion check."

NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said the union has received unprecedented financial data, including some information the league doesn't give to its clubs.

"No one is asking anyone to write any checks, I think we've been quite clear on that," Pash said. "It is a fact that the players association in the course of these negotiations has received more and more detailed financial information than it has ever had before."

In a letter dated May 18, 2009 — a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press — Smith asked Goodell to "provide audited financial statements concerning the operations of the 32 clubs and the league."

Smith attached a list of 10 categories of information he sought, including:

— total operating income;

— total operating expenses, such as player costs, team expenses, sales and marketing expenses, game expenses, salaries/payments to owners;

— profit from operations;

— net income;

— cash and investment assets.

Pash didn't reveal any specifics of the league's offer of financial information. But a person familiar with the negotiations told the AP that the NFL offered to turn over five years of league-wide profitability data to the union.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because mediator George Cohen told participants not to publicly discuss details.

According to the person who spoke to the AP, the NFL's proposal to the union included:

—audited league-wide profitability data with dollar figures from 2005-09 that wouldn't show information on a club-by-club basis;

—the number of teams that have seen a shift in profitability in that span;

—an independent auditor to examine the data.

If a deal isn't reached by Friday, the sides could agree to another extension. Or talks could break off, leading to, possibly, a lockout by owners or antitrust lawsuits by players.