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Issue of stadium credits hovers over CBA talks

According to Mike Florio, the NFL and NFLPA are hoping to have a new CBA in place before next March, but will the 'nitty-gritty' details slow down the process?

At least three rounds of Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions have been held, and the process (we’re told) will continue in mid-July. Although there has been, and will be, plenty of discussion regarding specific issues that may or may not be resolved or changed in the next labor deal, the primary issue between the NFL and the NFL Players Association will continue to be money.

More specifically in this context, how the money will be divided.

Prior to 2011, the players got 60 percent of the split -- but only after management took plenty of money off the top. As of 2011, the players focused on getting more of the gross, with the amount the players receive currently in the range of 47 percent. Now, owners hope to push the pendulum toward getting more off the top, before the split happens.

The buzzwords for the current negotiations will be “stadium credits.” In a nutshell, and per a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the league wants to divert a significant amount of the money that currently is shared between owners and players to stadium construction and renovation projects.

The issue has prompted the NFLPA to scoff at the notion that the current talks relate to an “extension” of the 2011 agreement. “Extension” implies that the current deal will proceed without major tweaks. The stadium-credits issue would, in the view of the players, constitute a major tweak.

Details regarding the amount of the desired credits or the manner in which they would be applied are not yet available. The first hurdle for the NFLPA becomes a philosophical one: Do the players want to essentially be in the business of partially paying for the stadiums in which the players play their games?

It’s easy to say that management is responsible for providing the workplace, and that the players are responsible for the work. That becomes an oversimplification, however, if it’s a subject on which the NFL would implement a lockout.

So the question becomes whether the NFLPA can or will justify sacrificing some of its overall revenue, and what the players would get in exchange? As it relates to the issue of stadium credits, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the players to have a voice in how the money is used. Really, why should the players blindly contribute to a fund that will exclusively controlled by others?

If things unfold in this manner, it would create a new wrinkle in the broader business considerations that drive the decision-making process when it comes to building new stadiums. If, for example, the NFLPA were partially funding the new Rams stadium in Inglewood (via enhanced stadium credits), the NFLPA should have had some say over whether Rams owner Stan Kroenke should have taken the deal to stay in St. Louis, where plenty of public money was available -- and where the team/league (and players) contribution would have been less.

Spinning it forward to cities that currently have stadium issues, the NFLPA would/should/could have influence over the stadium solution in Buffalo. What if, collectively, the NFL’s workforce deems it prudent to have its own money spent in a different market? A market where the return on the investment could be greater? A market where more NFL players would prefer to live and to work?

For decades, the issue of team relocation has been driven by the preferences of the owners of the teams, as guided (most of the time) by the league. If the NFL gets what it wants by way of player contributions for stadium construction, the long-overdue question of whether players want a team to be in one market over another market may finally become relevant to the broader question of where NFL teams will be headquartered.