George Atallah is the assistant executive director of external affairs for the N.F.L. Players Association, which means that he and his boss, DeMaurice Smith, are the top representatives for perhaps the most prominent labor union in history: NFL players.
If you care even a little bit about the NFL — and this week, many people do — you know that there’s a potential lockout looming on March 4, when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players expires.
There are many issues behind the standoff between league and union, most of them economic (revenue share, guaranteed payments, etc.) but also psychic — i.e., this standoff has more the feel of a classic labor war than the typical pro-sport standoff, in part because of the tone with which Smith and Atallah have made their case to the public. Here, for instance, is Atallah writing at ESPN.com:
According to the NFL and team owners, however, the “economic model in the NFL doesn’t work.” What’s more, they have prepared for and are openly threatening a lockout if it’s not “fixed.” What is their proposal to fix it? They’ve asked the players for more than a $1 billion reduction in the players’ portion of revenues in the first year alone of a future CBA. By the way, in a league with no guaranteed contracts, revealed dangers of the game and injury concerns at their peak, they want players to play two extra regular-season games.
The players maintain that one fundamental question needs to be answered in earnest if there is to be an agreement before a lockout: Why is the current deal so bad? If owners had decided to make this a direct business transaction between partners, the players are confident a deal would’ve been struck a long time ago. Business partners get together, sign confidentiality agreements, exchange financials and negotiate. Our repeated requests for detailed financial information that would help us answer the quintessential question have been denied.
As a result, players and fans have to go by what we do know. I recently sent a letter to all sports editors to set the record straight on the economics and revenue breakdown between players and owners because the phrase most frequently seen is that “players get 60 percent of revenues.” This is not an accurate depiction. Players receive approximately 50 percent of all revenues in the NFL. Or, players receive approximately 60 percent of total revenue in the NFL after the owners take a number of expense credits that add up to more than $1 billion a year.
So here’s your chance to ask questions directly to Atallah. Please leave them in the comments section below. He did a Q&A on this blog last year as well, but I’m guessing that with a potential lockout around the corner, your questions will be of a different intensity. As always, we’ll post his answers in short course. We are trying to line up someone prominent from the league side to take a Q&A next week, so we’ll post that as well if it works out.