ATLANTA – NFL owners voted unanimously Tuesday to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement, opening the door for negotiations on an extension and creating the possibility of a work stoppage for the 2011 season.
Several of the owners, who are meeting collectively here to discuss a variety of issues in a one-day meeting, have complained in recent months about the terms of the agreement. Under the current CBA, NFL players receive 59 percent of the revenue raised in football.
In a release, the NFL said: “The NFL earns very substantial revenues. But the clubs are obligated by the CBA to spend substantially more than half their revenues…on player costs. In addition, as we have explained to the union, the clubs must spend significant and growing amounts on stadium construction, operations and improvements to respond to the interests and demands of our fans. The current labor agreement does not adequately recognize the costs of generating the revenues of which the players receive the largest share; nor does the agreement recognize that those costs have increased substantially – and at an ever-increasing rate – in recent years during a difficult economic climate in our country. As a result, under the terms of the current agreement, the clubs’ incentive to invest in the game is threatened.”
The league estimated that it spends approximately $4.5 billion on player costs.
The league also argued that the structure of the deal does not work for lower-revenue clubs. Finally, the league is upset with the inability of clubs to recoup signing bonus money from players who breach their contracts, such as imprisoned Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw responded to the announcement with no surprise during an interveiw on Sirius Radio: “My response to his e-mail was very simple: ‘What a surprise,' " Upshaw said. "Obviously the owners have decided to take this termination early. We expected it. But it means that there is football through 2010, not through 2012. And it also means that, as they say during the draft, we’re on the clock. That’s basically what it means.”
Upshaw said he received an e-mail from league commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday morning.