The likelihood that the NFL will lock out its players on March 4 now stands at an all-time high after Thursday's scheduled negotiating session between the league and the players' union was canceled. Multiple sources familiar with the talks said the owners' side walked out of Wednesday's meeting due to a disagreement over the talks' most fundamental issue -- the manner in which the players and owners will split the NFL
's approximately $9 billion revenue pie.
The union has been demanding that the owners open their books to demonstrate the financial hardship they've been citing in an effort to get the players to accept a smaller share of revenue. But according to two of the sources, the players said Wednesday that they would drop that demand in exchange for a 50 percent cut of "all revenue," meaning the total $9 billion pot.
The reason this is a non-starter for the NFL is that it doesn't currently share "all revenue" with the players but rather a smaller pool it calls "total revenue." The league and the owners take $1 billion off the top for operating costs before splitting any revenue with the players.When they say the players get roughly 60 percent of revenue under the current deal, they're talking about 60 percent of "total revenue," meaning after that first $1 billion comes off the top.
The owners, seeking in this deal to increase their share of the revenue, would like to take an additional $1 billion off the top, meaning the portion of revenue they'd share with the players would drop to roughly $7 billion. The players have said they'd like to see audited financial statements to justify such a hit, but the sources said Wednesday that they'd stop asking for that if the owners would agree simply to split the whole (roughly $9 billion) pot evenly. The owners apparently walked out after hearing that proposal.