Curran's mailbag: Players take their lumps


By Tom E. Curran

The players-owners mudwrestle continues. And the longer it goes, the more stupid each side gets. It took just four days for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to take a commanding lead in the most asininedamaging comment category when he said playing in the NFL is like "modern day slavery."These are Adrian's slave quarters.My leaning? I get the owners' point - player costs have risen sharply during an economic downturn, and the 2006 extension was a "let's see how this works" proposition - but their insistence on shaving the players' pay without more transparency, their dirty dealing in their TV deals when they secured payments for themselves in the event of a lockout, and their insistence that they were ready to negotiate all along when they barely showed up at negotiations has turned me off. But judging from the e-mails that have been hitting my inbox, the players are not coming off well in this mess.


To me the union are money grubbers . . . they have it better than they ever have . . . they are employees of a business and are holding the business owners and us the fans hostage . . . maybe they should start paying their own airfair, their own food expenses, their own health care, etc., etc.

I dont have a problem with them getting paid well or negotiating, but now they are suing because they arent going to get what they want and DONT DESERVE . . . they act like there is an entitlement now or that THEY are the business owners . . . I have experience with unions . . . and what do they actually do for you . . . Well, they take your money and are supposed to advocate your cause with management . . . thats a joke . . .I dont feel for them at all . . . and I am a working-class man.JamesSorry, James. The owners are the ones who want to change the model. Since it's a "partnership" (owners' words), the owners need to show why. And as for the airfare, etc., that's what the owners are trying to wring from the players in the form of the next 1 billion in credits. The players already kick money back to the owners for many expenses.
Mr. Curran,

If the players are feeling so put upon, why dont they just form a new league and pay themselves everything? I am just tired of hearing how bad they are being treated when even those making the league minimum of 300,000 per year over an average career of four years pocket 1.2 million. That is the equivalent of someone with a four-year degree getting a job at 50,000 working for 24 years. Additionally, if the players are on the ball they can develop a network of contacts so that when their careers are done they can move into a job that pays what the rest of us make.

Bottom line for me is that they make a ton on money because they happen to have the talent and size to play a game for a living. I think they have lost sight of the fact that they are getting paid to do something that most adult males would do for free.

I hope there is no settlement and the players form their own league and the NFL signs new players and those of us who pay the bill can choose which to support. I will support the Patriots and the new group of overpaid guys.


I went round-and-round with former Patriot Heath Evans on this last week. For players to protest they aren't "millionaires" and bristle at the "millionaires-vs.-billionaires" portrayal is weak. The average NFL salary is 1.9 million. If the average player's NFL career ends and he doesn't have 1 million in cash andor assets, he messed up. Still, I don't begrudge them making that money. They have a unique skill, the market bears it, imagine how much the guy that pays them all is making, blah, blah, blah. And I don't think you'd like a league with the next 1,800 best players in the world in it.

One question I wished you had asked Pete Kendall. He claims that the non-starter for the players was the owners wanting a fixed projection on the players' salary cap and that if revenue exceeded these numbers the owners would keep the difference during the life of the contract. The question I wanted you to ask is:

What is the incentive is there for the owners to continue to market and grow the game - take risk - if they do not get the majority of those profits? From reading Kendall's comments, the players were adamant that real dollar contributions to them had to stay around or above 52 percemt. Why would an owner agree to that, knowing there was never going to be a way to reduce labor expenses?


Always great to hear from you Kent and really good question. I think you're referring to the piece in which the owners wanted to "peg" the salary cap number at a fixed amount and not have it be a year-to-year amount based on the previous year'srevenue, even if league revenue projections were exceeded. To revisit,if the cap was pegged at 145 million per team and the projected revenue was 10 billion league-wide, the owners wanted to pocket all the money when the revenue was higher than they projected. Players were okay with the first 1.5 percent going to them and then splitting the overrun 50-50. For a league that ultimately wants to be a 25 billion-per-year financial leviathan with new TV contracts looming in 2014, they lowballed the projections so they could screw the players on the backside. I don't know if that answers your question.

Tom E,I would like to point out two points in the labor story I believe cry out for more journalistic exploration.1) Are the owners united in this lockout? My point is this . . . no one could paint the economic realities of the 31 owners with anything close to the same brush. Some seem to really need more money. Some don't seem to need more money at all. Some treat their team as the ultimate toy. Some as a business . . . will owners be able to stay united?2) I have not read a really good explanation of why the owners won't allow the books to be opened. What is inside that is so secret? I am very curious. Is there more money in the game than we were led to believe? Less money? Secret payouts to sons and daughters? What's the hidden scandal? it's hard for me to believe the owners' refusal is purely based on principle.Sam in Peabody

Thanks for checking in, Sam. You're right, there's a wide-range of motivational factors. But they all share the belief that player payroll is cutting too deeply into their profits. Whether that's because they're having a hard time competing for free agents and making ends meet with ease, or because they want more money to buy another plane, is moot. They all want those salaries down.

As for "2," you haven't read a good explanation because they haven't given one. Robert Kraft's explanation at the Super Bowl was that he didn't want somebody telling him he wasn't paying some marketing executive enough money. There is more money in the game than we know about. And the players know about. And the fellow owners know about. The owners are probably just as worried about their brethren seeing their books as they are the players.

Tom E. You guys at CSNNE are missing Business 101 and the American way in all of your NFL arguments against the owners. Let me break it down to basics and you can take this to the billion dollar level I hope.Lets say you saved 50,000 and you decide to open a corner store. You hire your 20-year-old daughter and pay her 25,000 a year to run the store. But you need say five other "people" to run your store as well. Let's call these other people - players.They play their part in YOUR business and you pay them as little as possible to do the job, but enough to make them show up for work. Because, guess what, their pay cuts into how much you make when the day is done. If your business is really good you might make, say, 100,000 a year. You are entitled to make as much as you can because YOU invested 50,000 to buy the business. You have taken a financial risk with your hard-earned money. The players that you hired to run the cash register and stock shelves did not invest a dime. If your business goes down the toilet, they just walk away and get another job. But you lose your 50,000 investment. These people you hire have ABSOLUTELY NO LEGAL RIGHT TO SEE YOUR BOOKS. They are not legal partners. They have made no investment in your business and have taken no risk.It is the same with the NFL, man. The players have invested no money in the ownership and risks of running these teams. The owners have. The players have no right to know how much the owners make. If the person running the register wants a pay raise, does that person have any right to see your books? No.Frank from Natick, a small business owner for 30 years.

Appreciate the passion, Frank. Here's where your analogy breaks down. Those shelf-stockers aren't in a collectively bargained agreement in which the store owner agrees to pay the group of them a percentage of the revenue each year. NFL players are. The players and owners agreed that the players will receive 59.5 of total revenues. And that the players will - before those revenues are divided - allow the owners to take 1 billion to spend on things like stadium building and upkeep, digital media, etc. If the owners want to change that agreement and give the players less than that 59.5 percent, the players are entitled to know why, They aren't merely the workers, but also the product. By trying to simplify it, you make it more complicated.

Hi Tom,I really wanted to vent to you. I have been a season-ticket hold for 18 years. I have four seats in the lower level and my bill is nearly 7,000 a year. The Patriots are the FIRST team to send out their season-ticket bills, and I think with the uncertainty they should extend the deadline.My colleague is actually a Jets season ticket holder and he doesn't get his bill until May. I don't want to hear they need the lead time to get them printed, etc., because they don't give them to you until late summer anyway.The Krafts ALWAYS want the float on your money. I am incensed by this. I am jammed up here. If I don't pay up by the 31st, there are people waiting to take my place. It's just wrong and I think its abusing the fans.Thanks for letting me vent. I really hope you will do a short piece interviewing the team and some fans to get the different perspectives. It really is a hot topic within the season-ticket-holder circle.Chris

I spoke Tuesday night to a 10-year club seat holder - four seats - who expressed the same level of dismay. It's rampant right now.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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