The $29 Million "Tip" by Sean Gilbert - Read Online
The $29 Million "Tip"
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In July 2011, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the league had the NFL Players Association on the ropes. Five years of careful planning by Goodell and NFL owners, combined with the unfortunate death of NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw in 2008, had put the players in a tough spot.
The players were going to have to take a cut in pay. They were going to have to hand over part of their share of football revenue to the owners. The question was down to two simple words.
How much?
In the end, Goodell was able to shift approximately $4.5 billion over a 10-year period from the players to the owners. Creating a deal that was not only lopsided, but historic in length. It was a shift of nearly 13 percent of all revenue from one side to the other, a cascade of cash.
But Goodell and his men, such as NFL VPs Jeff Pash and Peter Ruocco, weren’t done yet. Not only was there a shift of money, the league put clamps on just about every way that players had to make money in the short-term. Rookie salaries were cut in half for top picks. Salaries for top players (known as the “franchise tag”) were kept almost completely in check, even as revenue for the league grew by 25 percent.
This negotiation wasn’t just a victory for the owners, it was a rout. By 2012, the NFL made the lopsided nature of this victory known to the public when it rewarded Goodell for a job well done. A job thoroughly done. The NFL owners awarded Goodell a bonus that brought his total income to $29.49 million for 2011, nearly three times more than what he had ever made in any prior year. It was staggering.
It was a $29 million tip, as it were.
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ISBN: 9781483507859
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The $29 Million "Tip" - Sean Gilbert

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Consider this: You have a room of 32 people and the goal is to get all of those people to agree. If this was a group of ordinary folks, it would be hard enough.

Instead, we’re talking 32 highly successful people. People who have reached the top of their profession, made millions or even billions of dollars along the way and now want to compete with each other in America’s favorite sport.

This is the ultimate game of fantasy football because it’s the real thing. Those 32 people own NFL teams. In truth, it’s 31 owners and the publicly owned Green Bay Packers. But you get the point.

The owners are very confident, competitive and extremely wealthy. They trust each other, but only so much. They have spent their lives competing for money. Now, these wealthy, successful owners are competing for titles on the biggest stage in American sports. Talk about cutthroat competition.

I understand this only too well. NFL teams have 53 players on the roster. We are talking about 53 of the roughest, toughest people in the world. At least we all think we’re like that. It’s an extreme Alpha male environment. Rarely do you get everybody to agree on everything. Some players believe the offense should be run one way. Other players think it should be run a different way.

That kind of group has the ability to fracture. You see it happen with NFL teams all the time. The owners aren’t much different. My observation is that’s what happened late in the tenure of former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. In 2006, the late Gene Upshaw, who was the head of the NFL Players Association, was very effective in splitting the owners into factions. Upshaw would pit them against each other by repeatedly telling them that the players weren’t the problem.

Upshaw basically told the owners that the problem with sharing revenue was their issue and had nothing to do with the players. Upshaw convinced the owners that one of the problems is they weren’t on the same page as far as making money.

For instance, Cincinnati owner Mike Brown preferred to keep his famous father Paul Brown’s name on the stadium rather than selling the naming rights. I’ve heard that at one point during an owner’s meeting, Dallas owner Jerry Jones offered to buy the naming rights from Brown. Jones was trying to prove a point. Jones believed he could re-sell the rights for much more than he would have paid for them. My understanding is the offer didn’t go over well with Brown.

Talk about dissension in the ranks. Upshaw was able to feed on that tension for a long time.

When the owners voted to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2006, there were some owners who complained loudly. Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson famously said after agreeing to the deal: I'm upset about the whole deal and the way it was presented. Wilson and Brown both voted against the deal.

But then look at the years leading up to the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2011. The owners were practically in lock step. That started with Goodell taking over from Tagliabue in September 2006, after the unpopular Collective Bargaining Agreement extension was done earlier that year. By May 2008 in Atlanta, the owners voted unanimously to opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was allowed under the terms of the deal at that