WASHINGTON -- The NFL and the NFL Players Association ended their 14th mediation session Wednesday, one day after the union rejected the league's offer for more financial information as the sides try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
The dispute comes down to the sides' inability to agree on what should and shouldn't be available to the union, putting the ongoing talks in peril with Friday's expiration of the twice-extended CBA fast approaching.
While leaving the meeting at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith indicated that the league has lowered from $1 billion to $800 million the amount of additional revenues they want to take off the top of the $9.3 billion business. But Smith said he still considers that lower figure too high because the league isn't offering to turn over enough financial information.
"Just to be absolutely clear, the information that was offered wasn't what we asked for," Smith said, "and, according to our investment bankers and advisers, they told us that information would be meaningless in determining whether to write an $800 million check to the National Football League (in each year of a new CBA).
"We have requested access to fully audited financial statements since May 2009," Smith continued, referencing a letter he wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (NFL Network obtained a copy Wednesday). "We believe that is the appropriate information to analyze the league's request to write a multibillion check to the owners."
In the 2009 letter, the contents of which were confirmed by a league source, the union asked for each team's total operating income, total operating expenses, profit from operations, other income/expenses, income before provision for income taxes, provision for income taxes, net income, cash and investment assets, dividends and other distributions to owners and their families, and financial statement notes.
According to league and union sources, the NFL recently offered the NFLPA top-line info -- an aggregate of profitability over a five-year period at the league level. The union pushed for more information at the individual team level, and union officials believe possessing the numbers for each of the 32 franchises is vital to justifying the additional cost credit the NFL is seeking, because that data contains very specific financial information, such as stadium and overhead costs.
The NFL offered to illustrate the effect of economic conditions, the number of teams that have experienced a shift in profitability over the aforementioned five-year period (2005-2009) and a third-party auditor to assess all information. The union declined the offer to view that information.
"Has it gotten everything it wants? Evidently not," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said after Wednesday's meeting. "Have we offered to provide more? Absolutely. And is it a subject that we're prepared to discuss? Absolutely."
According to a league source, the NFL believes it made a major concession to reveal information on profitability that isn't even available to its teams. Union officials believe, according to an NFLPA source, that it was important not to accept any offer to see additional information until they deemed it sufficient.
The union had an auditor in Washington on Tuesday to evaluate the NFL's offer of additional financial information, which it subsequently rejected. The NFLPA also has retained an investment bank to advise it in this process.
Goodell was joined at Wednesday's meeting by Pash, league outside counsel Bob Batterman, Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II, New York Giants owner John Mara and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt. The NFLPA team included Smith and president Kevin Mawae.
The entire labor committee -- minus New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is in Israel on a prior commitment -- is expected to attend Thursday's mediation session, the second-to-last before the collective bargaining agreement expires. Included on that committee are owners Hunt, Mara, Rooney, Jerry Richardson (Carolina Panthers), Pat Bowlen (Denver Broncos), Dean Spanos (San Diego Chargers), Jerry Jones (San Diego Chargers) and Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals), as well as Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy.
"When we're talking, we have a chance at making progress," Pash said before Wednesday's meeting. "Every day, even days that have been difficult, we have good discussions on important issues.
"There is a long way to go, but as long as we stay at it, we have a chance to get an agreement done."
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the union asked the federal judge who ruled in its favor in a case involving television contracts to release information that is under seal. U.S. District Court judge David Doty sided with the players last week, saying the league illegally set up $4 billion in payments from networks -- money the union argued was collected to fund a lockout.
The NFLPA said in Wednesday's filing that the NFL hasn't explained why material should remain under seal and that the league hasn't cooperated with the union's attempt to propose limited redactions to protect third-party information only.
"The NFL cannot be permitted to comment publicly about these proceedings and then turn around to embrace a cloak of confidentiality that thwarts the public's right to know," union lawyers wrote.
Asked to comment, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press: "We will respond to that filing in due course."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.