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Opening the books could be the key to closing a deal

Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pauses while speaking with the media after football labor negotiations, Friday, March 4, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC explained in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column that the NFL may be prepared to partially open the books in the hopes of getting a new labor deal done this week, with the urging of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In a visit to ProFootballTalk Live, King elaborated on the possibility, strongly suggesting that his prediction is rooted in things he knows but can’t yet officially report.

King’s best point? If the NFLPA disbands and sues, the owners eventually would have to give up financial information. So why not give it up now?

He’s right on the money. Some employers flatly refuse to give a disgruntled employee a copy of his or her personnel file. (In some states, access to the file is required by law.) But since the employee can simply file a lawsuit and ask for the file as part of the discovery process, giving the employee the file before pulling the cord on legal action, legal action could still be avoided. Once the proverbial litigation lawnmower has been engaged, the employer could quickly learn that its ass is indeed the grass.

Today, Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reports that, with the gap between the players and owners now at $750 million, the players believe that the gap won’t be closed until the owners open the books. “The players really think that the NFL opening their financials has become the key to getting a deal done,” an unnamed source tells Mullen.

So while the owners have consistently refused to give the players financial information and people like Goodell have pointed out that the books have been opened to no avail in labor disputes involving other sports leagues, the NFLPA needs something tangible on which to make further financial concessions, especially after last week’s “lockout insurance” ruling. Even without a judicial finding that the NFL failed to try to max out the revenues in lieu of lining up ongoing TV payments during a work stoppage, the union shouldn’t accept the league’s claim of unacceptable profit margins at face value.

Trust and verify is the proper approach in matters of this nature, and without verification the players should not be willing to trust what the owners are saying about profitability.