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League finally provides its version of the union’s 50-50 proposal, sort of

Last week, during the first day of a two-day bargaining session between the NFL and the players’ union, the league reportedly walked out after the NFLPA proposed a 50-50 split of all revenues.

The league previously declined to provide a specific rebuttal of the report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. “Despite the inaccurate characterizations of yesterday’s meeting, out of respect to the collective bargaining process and our negotiating partner, we are going to continue to conduct negotiations with the union in private and not engage in a point-counterpoint on the specifics of either side’s proposals or the meeting process,” the league said a day after the talks collapsed.

Now, a full week later, the league has decided to engage in a point-counterpoint of the specifics.

“Any interpretation that this was a new proposal and a move toward the clubs is not accurate,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told NFLLabor.com, the labor-only website the league launched last year. “This was an offer to keep things where they are, to simply extend the status quo. It is consistent with what the Union has been saying for two years -- just keep the current deal in place. As Kevin Mawae has acknowledged, the players got a great deal in 2006.

“The CBA defines what ‘total revenue’ is in detail and gives the Union roughly 60 percent of that amount. The Union has created a new measure of revenue, which it calls ‘All Revenue,’ and says that the players get 50 percent of that,” Aiello said. “Saying they want 50 percent of this new revenue base, is the same as saying they want 60 percent of the existing revenue base. It is a status quo deal. That is exactly where we are today, and we have been clear that is unacceptable. This reported offer by the Union last week is just one more offer to ‘just kick the can down the road,’ as Jeff Pash says, and keep things where they are. There was no change in the Union’s position or movement off of their earlier proposals.”

Aiello’s statement omits one key fact -- whether the proposal to take 50 cents of every dollar generated was an opening offer from the union oe a bottom line/take-it-or-leave-it position.

The distinction is critical. If the union said, “We’ll take 50 cents on every dollar and not a penny less,” then it made sense for the NFL to abandon the process. If the union couched its proposal as an opener, then it was more than reasonable for the union to essentially say, “We’ll start the bidding by taking what we currently get.” As an opener, an offer to take 50 cents of every dollar implied that the union will move toward a position entailing less money than the players currently get.

Aiello’s adroit failure to address that point makes us inclined to think that it was an opener, not a bottom-line position. Since the caretakers of the league-owned labor website didn’t ask the natural follow-up question, we will. We’ll let you know what he says.